Essay, Research Paper: Antigone Tragism

Literature: Sophocles

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Antigone, which was written by Sophocles, is possibly the first written play
that still exists today (www.imagi… 1). There is much controversy between who
the ‘tragic hero’ is in the play. Some people say Antigone, some say Creon,
others even say Heamon. I believe Creon displays all of the characteristics of a
‘tragic hero’. He receives compassion through the audience, yet recognizes
his weaknesses, and his downfalls from his own self-pride, stubbornness, and
controlling demands. He is the true protagonist. Though the audience notices how
villainous Creon is, they still express sympathy towards him. They realize that
he has brought all of his problems on himself and should have been more
open-minded, but think no one should have to go through what he has. They
understand how the warrior king Creon felt when he notices his son is love
struck. The audience also expresses pity towards him because Antigone is a
murderer and understands why he is upset. Creon’s noble quality is his caring
for Antigone and Ismene when their father was persecuted. Creon is a very
authoritative person and demands control of others. When talking to the Chorus,
Creon does not ask them to agree with the decree but demands that they follow
it. Creon expects loyalty from others. It is apparent that Creon is very
dominating and wants to be in control. “The man the city sets up in authority
must be obeyed in small things and in just but also in their
opposites”(717-719). Through this quote the reader realizes that Creon wants
obedience in everything he decides even if he is at fault. “There is nothing
worse than disobedience to authority” (723-724). Further supporting Creon’s
belief that everyone shall remain faithful to him even if he rules unfairly.
This is proved true when Creon says, “Should the city tell me how I am to rule
them?” (790). Creon has forgotten that the ruler is supposed to do what is
best for the city and its citizens. Creon is under the impression that he is
always correct in his judgments and his beliefs. Before the sentry even explains
the event that has occurred, the sentry states that he is only a messenger and
has not committed the crime. Yet Creon still accuses the sentry of receiving
money to do the crime and threatens to punish him. “That will teach you in the
days to come from what you may draw profit […], ill-gotten gains ruin more
than they save” (342-346). Consequently, the Chorus suggests that the Gods may
have committed the act. Creon stops this “nonsense” conversation immediately
and remarks that Zeus and the Gods would not honor criminals. Creon seems to
believe he knows everything and stubbornly refuses to listen to others. He does
not even believe Haemon his son. Haemon informs his father of the reputation he
has created for himself. Creon thinks, “It seems this boy (Haemon) is on the
woman’s side (Antigone)” (798). Creon refuses to believe what Haemon says
and gets into an argument with him for siding with Antigone. Creon presumes that
he is the one and only perfect ruler for Thebes. He believes that he can create
a better city with his presence: “I would not be silent if I saw ruin […]. I
would not count any enemy of my country as a friend […],”(202-206). Creon
further continues by stating “I will make her greater still” (210). In this
quote Creon declares that he will improve the city (she) by his rulings. Creon
describes how his qualities make him a good ruler. Furthermore, Creon views
himself as a good leader because he believes he has the best attributes and no
one can compare to him. He feels he has no time for ordinary people because he
is of higher standards. When Creon says “I will not comfort you with hope that
the sentence will not be accomplished” (982-983), this shows his absolute lack
of compassion when he is talking with Antigone. King Creon noticed that he had a
weakness in which he tries to correct but is too late. His weakness is impulsive
with his decision-making. He never really sits down and thinks about things;
instead he just says what comes to mind. Creon says “you will never marry her
while she lives”(807), right after his first discussion about Antigone. Creon
summarizes his plans for Antigone, which comes to his mind after talking with
Haemon (833-841). These two decisions decided the lives of two young people, but
the impulsive Creon never thought about that. Creon’s stubbornness brings
about his own downfall when he chooses not to believe Teiresias, the blind
prophet. Instead, Creon falsely accuses Teiresias of making “profit from
silver-gold” (1088). Insulted by the false remark of trying to make money,
Teiresias tells Creon of his dangerous future ahead of him. Creon tries to
correct his impulsiveness with, “I will go, just as I am. Come, servants, all
of you; take axes in your hands; away with you to place you see, there. For my
part, since my intention is so changed, as I bound her myself, myself will free
her”(1175-1180). These lines show how he changed his impulsive decision, but
unfortunately was too late. He is forced to live, knowing that three people are
dead because of his ignorance. Self-pride is the tragic flaw that Creon faces in
this story. Creon is stubborn and does not want to compromise. Due to his
overwhelming power of pride, he makes destruction fall upon him. His downfall
comes from attempting to be just and right by enforcing the law. Since he acted
the way he thought was right, he ultimately suffered a tragedy. Creon displays
the image of a ‘tragic hero’ on account of the errors he has made. According
to Aristotle, quoted in McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama, Creon fits the
image of a ‘tragic hero’ “A man who is not eminently good and just, yet
whose misfortune is brought about not by purpose, but by some error or frailty.
He must be one who is highly renowned and prosperous” (Hochman v4 1274).
Creon’s tragic flaw causes the deaths of both his wife and son. This is
because he shows so much ignorance in every decision he makes. Even if his
decisions are wrong he will not correct them, because he is the king, and the
king is never wrong. By Creon’s self-pride deciding to never let his son marry
Antigone, ends up killing his son also. In closing Creon is not entirely good,
he does make mistakes, however the mistakes he made are simply and error of
judgment, and completely understandable. His greatest error was that he truly
believed that Polynices was a traitor, which consequently forced him to issue a
decree, forbidding Polynices a proper burial. Polynices “sought to taste the
blood he shared with us, and lead the rest of us to slavery; […] shall no one
honor with a grave and none shall mourn”(220-224). Creon loses all that he
lives for “I do not know where to turn my eyes to look to, for support.
Everything in my hands is crossed. A most unwelcome fate has leaped upon me”
(1405-1408). After the death of his wife he acknowledges his great mistakes in
being prideful and realizes how his pride has caused suffering. “Lead me away,
a vain silly man who killed you, son, and you, too, lady”(1402-1403). He
blunders and pays drastically for his frailty, but in the end he realizes what
he has done wrong accepting the guilt and responsibilities for his actions. As
the editor in chief Stanley Hochman stated in McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World
Drama “a ‘tragic hero’ learns, although too late, from their experiences,
as when Creon cries in the end of the play: Yes, I have learned it to my
bitterness. At this moment God has sprung on my head with a vast weight and
struck me down. He shook me in my savage ways; he has overturned my joy, has
trampled it, underfoot. The pains men suffer are pains indeed” (1337-1342). To
be a good leader you must have the rock solid principals to fall back on in
times of stress. Creon lost grasp of these, and that contributed to his failure
as a leader. By tragically losing all, one is forced to feel sympathy toward
him, by doing what he always thought was right, and what he thought would
further protect his kingdom, he is regarded as a hero. These elements combine
his stubbornness, controlling demands, and self-pride made Creon a true ancient
Greek 'tragic hero'.
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