The Problem Of Tragic Hero In The Play Antigone, By Sophocles
In the play Antigone, by Sophocles, the two sons of Oedipus, Eteocles and Polyneices die fighting for the position of King. Their uncle, Creon, then turns to take the throne. Creon rules that Eteocles has a proper burial and since Polynices was fighting on the opposing side, he considered him a traitor, so he left him unburied. Antigone and Ismene, Oedipus’s daughters, grieved the loss of their brothers. Antigone then turns out to be uncooperative with Creon’s ruling. She buries the unburied corpse of her brother. Creon gets furious when he finds out someone disobeyed him. He soon found out it was Antigone and sentences her to death. Creon’s son, Haemon who also happens to be Antigone’s fiancé, proposes to Creon that he should rethink his decision.
Creon thinks that Haemon is taking Antigone’s side, Haemon leaves saying he will never come back. Then, the blind prophet, Tiresias notifies Creon that the gods aren’t happy with his decision of not burying Polyneices. Creon curses Tiresias and calls him a false prophet. Tiresias turns angry at Creon for being stubborn and not taking his advice. When Tiresias leaves, the chorus leader tells Creon to listen to the wise prophet. Being disturbed by Tiresias’s prophecy, Creon listens to the chorus leader. Before Creon can change anything, Antigone commits suicide in her cell causing Haemon to also commit suicide. When Creon’s wife, Eurydice, finds out about her son, she as well commits suicide.
Creon realizes he did wrong too late for being selfish, stubborn, and prideful. Creon’s downfall as a tragic hero occurs when his laws compete with the Gods’ fate.Antigone is a strong, defiant woman who strongly believes and is motivated by the Gods and her loyalty to her family. In their interactions, Creon is motivated by his pride in ruling as king. Antigone believes Hades the God of the dead, “still desires equal rites for both” (line 592), meaning she believes the Gods wanted the same for both brothers, no matter what side they were on. Creon believed that Antigone should be punished for going against his laws. He said if she wants to “go down to the dead… no woman is going to govern me… not while i’m still alive” (lines 559- 600). He firmly believes in his ruling and to punish those who do wrong and break his laws. In his interactions with Antigone, creon’s pride as a ruler takes over, that “if she gets her way and goes unpunished, then she’s the man here not me” (lines 549-550).
It was Creon’s free choice, the decision to sentence Antigone to death, that developed him as a tragic hero. The conversation that Creon has with Haemon highlights certain characteristics that Creon has: how he only cares about his judgment and doesn’t consider others’; how defensive he is because he doesn’t take his son’s criticism, and is stubborn because can’t realize that maybe Haemon has a point. In Creon’s interactions with his son Haemon, Creon shows how selfish, stubborn and defensive he really is. In their conversation, Creon appears to be selfish when it came to his ruling. Haemon says, “no not when I see you making a mistake and being unjust,” Creon responds with, “is it a mistake to honor my own rule” (lines 846-849). Haemon shows how Creon only agrees with what he thinks and his laws. Creon’s selfishness about his laws is undoubtedly reflected upon him throughout their conversation.
Creon also shows how stubborn he is during his during their interaction. In lines (855-858), Creon says, “but your words all speak on her behalf,” Haemon responds with, “and yours and mines and the Gods below.” Creon is trying saying that Haemon is on Antigone’s side and not his. Then Haemon explains he is not only speaking on her behalf, but also his, Creon’s, and the Gods. But Creon doesn’t understand and is being reluctant towards Haemon’s response. This shows how Creon is being stubborn for being inflexible towards Haemon’s response. Another characteristic of Creon that is highlighted during the conversation is defensive when it came to the uncertainty of his ruling. In lines (831-833) Haemon says, “the people here in Thebes all say the same- they deny she is”, and Creon responds with,” so the city will instruct me how I am to govern.” Haemon explains all the citizens of Thebes think Antigone performed a heroic act by burying her brother, and they think she shouldn’t be considered guilty. Creon becomes over sensitive and foolishly says the city will tell him how to govern. This shows how defensive Creon is when it comes to the uncertainty of his ruling and him not listening to Haemon develops the belief of creon’s downfall of a tragic hero.