Antigone vs Creon as Tragic Hero in Sophocles’s “Antigone”
- Pages: 3
- Word count: 737
- Category: Antigone Hero Law Tragedy Tragic Hero
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According to Aristotle, a tragic hero in a Greek drama must meet certain requirements. The tragic hero must be of noble birth, be basically good, must have a tragic flaw, and must have a moment of realization at some point in the work. Although Antigone is the namesake of the Sophocles play and is a hero in her own right, she is not a tragic hero. Creon is the true tragic hero of Antigone in the traditional sense of the term.
Both Antigone and Creon were born of noble blood as they are members of the same family. However, Antigone’s birth is corrupted as she is the child of a brother and sister. This almost immediately disqualifies her as the tragic hero. Antigone is more than basically good; she never waivers from her position because she knows that she is right, whereas Creon stands somewhere in the middle of the road. He is basically good, but he can easily be lead astray by his own flaws as the reader sees immediately. Antigone never has a moment of recognition. From the beginning of the play she knows and accepts her fate for upholding her moral beliefs. This is not a consequence of a flaw, rather it is a virtuous trait.
Creon’s unknown fate becomes increasingly apparent throughout the play and is clearly a product of his dynamic character flaws. Antigone is a knowing victim of Creon’s tyranny and mortal law, almost a martyr; Creon suffers because his pride causes him to transgress a higher law, the law of the gods. Thus, the critical difference between the tragic value of the two characters lies in the nature and cause of their suffering. In the end, Creon recognizes his flaws and in doing so reaches an elevated state of understanding. Though Antigone faces a tragic end she does not reveal as much about the human condition as does Creon, thus making Creon the focus of the play.
Antigone is established as a representative of the gods’ laws and serves as a reminder to Creon of the will of the gods. He is the representative of mortal law. As such, he has disregarded the gods’ laws with his edict prohibiting the holy burial of Polyneices. While Antigone’s fate is an obvious matter of her external end at the hands of Creon, Creon’s fate takes on a divine nature as it begins to develop in his character. Directly after Creon’s entrance his nature is introduced through the fear of the Sentry. The Sentry who says: “How dreadful it is when the right judge judges wrong!” (203). Another voice of truth and reason enters with Haemon, Creon’s son and Antigone’s husband, who at first ingratiates Creon with filial loyalty and then subtly introduces the idea that Creon might be wrong: “…do not believe that you alone can be right.
The man who thinks that, the man who maintains that only he has the power To reason correctly, the gift to speak, the soul– A man like that, when you know him, he turns out empty” (219). Here the reader is introduced to Creon’s tragic flaws: vanity and pride. Haemon goes on to tell his father: “you have no right to trample on God’s right” (221). Next enters Teiresias who reinforces Antigone and Haemon’s statements about the laws of the gods with his warning of bad omens. Though Creon childishly scorns the prophet’s warnings on the surface, once Teiresias has exited and Creon is left alone with the chorus, he admits that “it is hard to give in! but it is worse to risk everything for stubborn pride” (235). Creon thus finally acknowledges the oncoming tragic fate of his bad judgment.
In the end, Antigone operates as the sorrowful composition of a tragic figure whose suffering is the unfortunate result of the tragic flaw of the real tragic hero, Creon. By focusing the play on the tragic heroism of Creon but having the foil of his character as the protagonist, Antigone, Sophocles creates a vision of tragedy which is as complex as the human condition it explores. Sophocles raises the question of man’s ultimate place in the universe with two characters, each representing different strata of the human spirit, torn between mortal and immortal law, free will and fate. He answers with the tragedy of Creon, who in the end finds wisdom and learns through his own suffering.