Essay, Research Paper: Antigone The Tragic Hero

Literature: Sophocles

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There has always been a bit of confusion as to the tragic hero of the Greek
Drama Antigone. Many assume that simply because the play is named for Antigone,
that she is the tragic hero. However, evidence supports that Creon, and not
Antigone, is the tragic hero of the play. Examining the factors that create a
Greek Tragedy, and a tragic character, it is clear that the tragic hero is in
fact Creon. First, take into account the timeframe in which Antigone was
written. During the time of Sophocles, women were considered second class
citizens. They would not even be permitted to act in the drama Antigone. It
seems unlikely that Sophocles would choose a woman as the tragic hero of the
play. There are certain qualities that a character must posses in order to
qualify as a tragic hero. Ideally, the tragic hero is a person of some status,
usually king. Although the fact that Antigone was part of the royal lineage,
being a descendent of Oedipus, Creon’s position of King of Thebes suits a
tragic character much more effectively. Also, at the end of the play it is
customary for the tragic hero to have lost everything, to be reduced to nothing.
At the end of Antigone, Creon had lost his kingdom, his son, his wife, and his
will to live, but is doomed to live on in his pain. Antigone loses her life, but
it was not a loss in vain, for she did accomplish what she set out to do. It is
questionable as to whether Antigone was seeking martyrdom, but she certainly did
become one, dying for her beliefs. The most important characteristic of the
tragic hero is the tragic flaw, the one attribute that causes the inevitable
downfall of the character. It is argued that Antigone’s tragic flaw was
stubbornness. She is called stubborn in the play by Creon and also by the
chorus. Yet, some would call her steadfast, rather than stubborn. A stubborn
person would continue to argue even after he or she realized they were wrong.
For Antigone, no such realization was made. In her own eyes, the eyes of the
people, and even the eyes of the gods, Antigone was certainly in the right.
Creon, on the other hand, possessed a classic flaw, hubris, or excessive pride.
Because of his pride, Creon could not hear the sense spoken by his son, or the
blind prophet Teresius. He could not let Antigone go unpunished for her crime
for fear of looking weak to his kingdom. Thus his own bad decisions mixed with
fate caused his downfall. This is an exact description of a tragic hero.
Finally, the tragic hero of a Greek Drama realizes too late his bad decision.
This moment of realization, called anagnorisus, never occurred for Antigone, who
died righteously. However, Creon does realize his tragic flaw at the end of the
play, laments, and but for the good grace of the Chorogus, would have committed
suicide, (something tragic heroes are known to do). All things considered, Creon
must be the tragic hero of Antigone. He was the only character who met the
criteria. The other characters, like the messenger, or Teriseus, or Creon’s
son Haimon are minor characters and are clearly not the tragic heroes of the
play. Creon suffered the most, his losses were the greatest, and he was the only
character to posses a tragic flaw. It is safe to assume that the only reason for
Antigone ever being considered a tragic hero, is the misleading title of the
play.
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