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Analysis of Sophocles’ Antigone
By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on July 29, 2020 • ( 0 )
Within this single drama—in great part, a harsh critique of Athenian society and the Greek city-state in general—Sophocles tells of the eternal struggle between the state and the individual, human and natural law, and the enormous gulf between what we attempt here on earth and what fate has in store for us all. In this magnificent dramatic work, almost incidentally so, we find nearly every reason why we are now what we are.
—Victor D. Hanson and John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom
With Antigone Sophocles forcibly demonstrates that the power of tragedy derives not from the conflict between right and wrong but from the confrontation between right and right. As the play opens the succession battle between the sons of Oedipus—Polynices and Eteocles—over control of Thebes has resulted in both of their deaths. Their uncle Creon, who has now assumed the throne, asserts his authority to end a destructive civil war and decrees that only Eteocles, the city’s defender, should receive honorable burial. Polynices, who has led a foreign army against Thebes, is branded a traitor. His corpse is to be left on the battlefield “to be chewed up by birds and dogs and violated,” with death the penalty for anyone who attempts to bury him and supply the rites necessary for the dead to reach the underworld. Antigone, Polynices’ sister, is determined to defy Creon’s order, setting in motion a tragic collision between opposed laws and duties: between natural and divine commands that dictate the burial of the dead and the secular edicts of a ruler determined to restore civic order, between family allegiance and private conscience and public duty and the rule of law that restricts personal liberty for the common good. Like the proverbial immovable object meeting an irresistible force, Antigone arranges the impact of seemingly irreconcilable conceptions of rights and responsibilities, producing one of drama’s enduring illuminations of human nature and the human condition.
Antigone is one of Sophocles’ greatest achievements and one of the most influential dramas ever staged. “Between 1790 and 1905,” critic George Steiner reports, “it was widely held by European poets, philosophers, [and] scholars that Sophocles’ Antigone was not only the fi nest of Greek tragedies, but a work of art nearer to perfection than any other produced by the human spirit.” Its theme of the opposition between the individual and authority has resonated through the centuries, with numerous playwrights, most notably Jean Anouilh, Bertolt Brecht, and Athol Fugard grafting contemporary concerns and values onto the moral and political dramatic framework that Sophocles established. The play has elicited paradoxical responses reflecting changing cultural and moral imperatives. Antigone, who has been described as “the first heroine of Western drama,” has been interpreted both as a heroic martyr to conscience and as a willfully stubborn fanatic who causes her own death and that of two other innocent people, forsaking her duty to the living on behalf of the dead. Creon has similarly divided critics between censure and sympathy. Despite the play’s title, some have suggested that the tragedy is Creon’s, not Antigone’s, and it is his abuse of authority and his violations of personal, family, and divine obligations that center the drama’s tragedy. The brilliance of Sophocles’ play rests in the complexity of motive and the competing absolute claims that the drama displays. As novelist George Eliot observed,
It is a very superficial criticism which interprets the character of Creon as that of hypocritical tyrant, and regards Antigone as a blameless victim. Coarse contrasts like this are not the materials handled by great dramatists. The exquisite art of Sophocles is shown in the touches by which he makes us feel that Creon, as well as Antigone, is contending for what he believes to be the right, while both are also conscious that, in following out one principle, they are laying themselves open to just blame for transgressing another.
Eliot would call the play’s focus the “antagonism of valid principles,” demonstrating a point of universal significance that “Wherever the strength of a man’s intellect, or moral sense, or affection brings him into opposition with the rules which society has sanctioned, there is renewed conflict between Antigone and Creon; such a man must not only dare to be right, he must also dare to be wrong—to shake faith, to wound friendship, perhaps, to hem in his own powers.” Sophocles’ Antigone is less a play about the pathetic end of a victim of tyranny or the corruption of authority than about the inevitable cost and con-sequence between competing imperatives that define the human condition. From opposite and opposed positions, both Antigone and Creon ultimately meet at the shared suffering each has caused. They have destroyed each other and themselves by who they are and what they believe. They are both right and wrong in a world that lacks moral certainty and simple choices. The Chorus summarizes what Antigone will vividly enact: “The powerful words of the proud are paid in full with mighty blows of fate, and at long last those blows will teach us wisdom.”
As the play opens Antigone declares her intention to her sister Ismene to defy Creon’s impious and inhumane order and enlists her sister’s aid to bury their brother. Ismene responds that as women they must not oppose the will of men or the authority of the city and invite death. Ismene’s timidity and deference underscores Antigone’s courage and defiance. Antigone asserts a greater allegiance to blood kinship and divine law declaring that the burial is a “holy crime,” justified even by death. Ismene responds by calling her sister “a lover of the impossible,” an accurate description of the tragic hero, who, according to scholar Bernard Knox, is Sophocles’ most important contribution to drama: “Sophocles presents us for the first time with what we recognize as a ‘tragic hero’: one who, unsupported by the gods and in the face of human opposition, makes a decision which springs from the deepest layer of his individual nature, his physis , and then blindly, ferociously, heroically maintains that decision even to the point of self-destruction.” Antigone exactly conforms to Knox’s description, choosing her conception of duty over sensible self-preservation and gender-prescribed submission to male authority, turning on her sister and all who oppose her. Certain in her decision and self-sufficient, Antigone rejects both her sister’s practical advice and kinship. Ironically Antigone denies to her sister, when Ismene resists her will, the same blood kinship that claims Antigone’s supreme allegiance in burying her brother. For Antigone the demands of the dead overpower duty to the living, and she does not hesitate in claiming both to know and act for the divine will. As critic Gilbert Norwood observes, “It is Antigone’s splendid though perverse valor which creates the drama.”
Before the apprehended Antigone, who has been taken in the act of scattering dust on her brother’s corpse, lamenting, and pouring libations, is brought before Creon and the dramatic crux of the play, the Chorus of The-ban elders delivers what has been called the fi nest song in all Greek tragedy, the so-called Ode to Man, that begins “Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man.” This magnificent celebration of human power over nature and resourcefulness in reason and invention ends with a stark recognition of humanity’s ultimate helplessness—“Only against Death shall he call for aid in vain.” Death will test the resolve and principles of both Antigone and Creon, while, as critic Edouard Schuré asserts, “It brings before us the most extraordinary psychological evolution that has ever been represented on stage.”
When Antigone is brought in judgment before Creon, obstinacy meets its match. Both stand on principle, but both reveal the human source of their actions. Creon betrays himself as a paranoid autocrat; Antigone as an individual whose powerful hatred outstrips her capacity for love. She defiantly and proudly admits that she is guilty of disobeying Creon’s decree and that he has no power to override divine law. Nor does Antigone concede any mitigation of her personal obligation in the competing claims of a niece, a sister, or a citizen. Creon is maddened by what he perceives to be Antigone’s insolence in justifying her crime by diminishing his authority, provoking him to ignore all moderating claims of family, natural, or divine extenuation. When Ismene is brought in as a co-conspirator, she accepts her share of guilt in solidarity with her sister, but again Antigone spurns her, calling her “a friend who loves in words,” denying Ismene’s selfless act of loyalty and sympathy with a cold dismissal and self-sufficiency, stating, “Never share my dying, / don’t lay claim to what you never touched.” However, Ismene raises the ante for both Antigone and Creon by asking her uncle whether by condemning Antigone he will kill his own son’s betrothed. Creon remains adamant, and his judgment on Antigone and Ismene, along with his subsequent argument with his son, Haemon, reveals that Creon’s principles are self-centered, contradictory, and compromised by his own pride, fears, and anxieties. Antigone’s challenge to his authority, coming from a woman, is demeaning. If she goes free in defiance of his authority, Creon declares, “I am not the man, she is.” To the urging of Haemon that Creon should show mercy, tempering his judgment to the will of Theban opinion that sympathizes with Antigone, Creon asserts that he cares nothing for the will of the town, whose welfare Creon’s original edict against Polynices was meant to serve. Creon, moreover, resents being schooled in expediency by his son. Inflamed by his son’s advocacy on behalf of Antigone, Creon brands Haemon a “woman’s slave,” and after vacillating between stoning Antigone and executing her and her sister in front of Haemon, Creon rules that Antigone alone is to perish by being buried alive. Having begun the drama with a decree that a dead man should remain unburied, Creon reverses himself, ironically, by ordering the premature burial of a living woman.
Antigone, being led to her entombment, is shown stripped of her former confidence and defiance, searching for the justification that can steel her acceptance of the fate that her actions have caused. Contemplating her living descent into the underworld and the death that awaits her, Antigone regrets dying without marriage and children. Gone is her reliance on divine and natural law to justify her act as she equivocates to find the emotional source to sustain her. A husband and children could be replaced, she rationalizes, but since her mother and father are dead, no brother can ever replace Polynices. Antigone’s tortured logic here, so different from the former woman of principle, has been rejected by some editors as spurious. Others have judged this emotionally wrought speech essential for humanizing Antigone, revealing her capacity to suffer and her painful search for some consolation.
The drama concludes with the emphasis shifted back to Creon and the consequences of his judgment. The blind prophet Teiresias comes to warn Creon that Polynices’ unburied body has offended the gods and that Creon is responsible for the sickness that has descended on Thebes. Creon has kept from Hades one who belongs there and is sending to Hades another who does not. The gods confirm the rightness of Antigone’s action, but justice evades the working out of the drama’s climax. The release of Antigone comes too late; she has hung herself. Haemon commits suicide, and Eurydice, Creon’s wife, kills herself after cursing Creon for the death of their son. Having denied the obligation of family, Creon loses his own. Creon’s rule, marked by ignoring or transgressing cosmic and family law, is shown as ultimately inadequate and destructive. Creon is made to realize that he has been rash and foolish, that “Whatever I have touched has come to nothing.” Both Creon and Antigone have been pushed to terrifying ends in which what truly matters to both are made starkly clear. Antigone’s moral imperatives have been affirmed but also their immense cost in suffering has been exposed. Antigone explores a fundamental rift between public and private worlds. The central opposition in the play between Antigone and Creon, between duty to self and duty to state, dramatizes critical antimonies in the human condition. Sophocles’ genius is his resistance of easy and consoling simplifications to resolve the oppositions. Both sides are ultimately tested; both reveal the potential for greatness and destruction.
24 lectures on Greek Tragedy by Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver.
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As the play begins, the invading army of Argos has been driven from Thebes, but in the course of the battle, two sons of Oedipus (Eteocles and Polynices) have died fighting for opposing sides. Their uncle, Creon , is now king of Thebes. He decrees that the body of Polynices, who fought against his native city, will not be given burial rites but will be left to rot, as a warning to traitors. Creon further decrees that anyone who does try to bury Polynices will be punished with death.
Oedipus's daughters, Antigone and Ismene , are grieving for the loss of their two brothers, but Antigone is also defiant. She declares that the burial traditions are the unwritten laws of the gods, and are more important than the decrees of one man. She vows to give Polynices the proper burial rites. Ismene begs Antigone not defy the laws of the city and add to their family's tragedy. Antigone will not yield.
Antigone is caught in the act of performing funereal rites for her brother. Creon is furious, and has Antigone brought before him. She remains defiant, and says that she will not break the laws of the gods just to follow Creon's unjust law. Creon responds that she will die for her disobedience to the laws of the city. Ismene pleads with Creon to spare her sister's life. Antigone is engaged to Creon's son, Haemon , and the two of them are very much in love. But Creon is as unyielding in his allegiance to the rule of law as Antigone is to the unwritten traditional rules of the gods.
Haemon comes to Creon to ask him to reconsider. The citizens of Thebes are sympathetic to Antigone's desire to bury her brother, but are too afraid of Creon to speak up. Creon grows angry at his son's attempt to offer him advice. Their exchange grows heated. Haemon insists he is trying to prevent his father from pursuing an injustice. Creon accuses his son of siding with a reckless traitorous woman over his own father, to whom he owes obedience. Haemon threatens that the death of Antigone will lead to another death, and then rushes away, saying that Creon will never see him again.
Antigone laments her approaching death and all that she is giving up in refusing to bend to Creon's law. Guards lead her away to be sealed up (alive) in a tomb. Tiresias , the blind prophet, warns Creon that he is about to make a terrible mistake in killing Antigone, and that he should not leave the body of Polynices unburied. Creon flies into another rage and accuses Tiresias of false prophecy and of accepting bribes. Upset, Tiresias tells Creon that as punishment for killing Antigone, the gods will soon take the life of Creon's child. Creon is shaken by this, and eventually decides to relent. He rushes off to free Antigone from the tomb.
After Creon has left, a messenger arrives at the palace with the news that Haemon has killed himself. Eurydice , Haemon's mother and Creon's wife, asks to know what happened. The messenger says that Haemon went to Antigone and found that she had hanged herself. When Creon arrived, Haemon lunged at him with his sword, then used the weapon to kill himself. Eurydice leaves without a word. Creon returns, overcome with grief, carrying the body of his son. He cries out and blames himself for driving his son to suicide. A messenger enters with the news that Eurydice has killed herself while cursing Creon for murdering their son. Creon is left a broken man.
Antigone essay questions.
Why does Ismene object to Antigone's plan to bury Polyneices?
Ismene believes the men who rule Thebes must not be disobeyed because men are stronger and their will must be respected.
How does Antigone demonstrate pre-feminist ethics?
Antigone believes that a woman's duty is not to the men who rule a domain, but rather to her own instincts and her own sense of right and wrong. She believes that the gods do not dictate through a ruler, but rather through individual beliefs.
When does Creon become apologetic for his actions?
Creon never apologizes for his actions. Instead, he simply orders Antigone to be freed because he knows that Teiresias is never wrong - and therefore that his own life is at risk. However, he never truly believes that his order to imprison her was the wrong course of action.
What is the seeming reason for Haemon's suicide? Does he kill himself only out of desperate love for the dead Antigone?
Haemon's suicide seems to have two motivations - first out of anguish over Antigone's death, but also because he is so furious with his father for having betrayed his trust. Early in the play, Haemon tells his father that as long as he offers wisdom, Haemon will follow him. But now it is clear that his father led him astray, and for that Haemon believes that one of them must die.
Why isn't Creon killed by the plague that befalls him at the play's end?
Creon's punishment is to suffer without a family, and to suffer the guilt of knowing he destroyed the lives of innocents to preserve obsolete traditions and a misconceived legacy of misogynist rule.
What is Creon's tragic flaw?
Creon's tragic flaw is that he believes that men have the right to interpret divine will and impose absolute power in their name. As a result, a simple belief - men cannot be wrong in the face of women - is elevated to law and thus leads to multiple (unnecessary) deaths.
Is Antigone ever apologetic for burying Polyneices?
Though Antigone bemoans her fate and believes death is a cruel and unnecessary punishment for burying Polyneices, she is never apologetic for actually covering his body. She believes until the end that she did the right thing.
Why does Antigone not allow Ismene to join her in her death sentence?
Antigone does not want her sister laying claim to an act that was solely hers for two reasons: one, because she wants her sister to remain alive, and two, because she wants her sister to feel the shame of abandoning her principles for the sake of staying alive and being subservient to men.
What is the role of the Chorus?
The Chorus is meant to reflect the conscience of Thebes - they are the elders who expect Creon to guide them towards wisdom. As they lead him astray, they begin to sense this and reflect their feelings in their choral poems.
What is unusual about the Watchman's speech?
Unlike the other characters, the Watchman's speech is written in more natural rhythms and dialect.
Antigone Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Antigone is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
demonstration of pre feminist ethics in sophocles antigone
Antigone's gender has profound effects on the meaning of her actions. Creon himself says that the need to defeat her is all the more pressing because she is a woman. The freedom of Greek women was extremely limited; the rules and strictures placed...
Whose rights should assume priority - Creon's to legislate and punish, or Antigone's to bury her brother? Is there any way to resolve the competing claims of Creon and Antigone?
I like Antigone. Some critics see Antigone as too self-righteous, even alienating, but others claim her as a seminal feminist, determined to do what is right even in defiance of patriarchal law. Indeed, Antigone captured the public imagination...
To what extent do Creon and Antione control their own fates?
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Study Guide for Antigone
Antigone study guide contains a biography of Sophocles, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
- About Antigone
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Essays for Antigone
Antigone essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Antigone by Sophocles.
- Influence of Antigone on A Doll's House
- The Use of Light and Dark Images in Antigone
- Batman and Creon: Denied the Glory?
- Relativist Justice in Antigone
- Hubris in Antigone and Oedipus
Lesson Plan for Antigone
- About the Author
- Common Core Standards
- Introduction to Antigone
- Relationship to Other Books
- Notes to the Teacher
- Related Links
- Antigone Bibliography
E-Text of Antigone
Antigone e-text contains the full text of Antigone by Sophocles.
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Essays on Antigone
Antigone is a tragedy of the ancient Greek playwright Sophocles, staged in 442 BC, while Antigone essay follows the events set in Thebes, ancient Egypt. Antigone essays depict how after Antigone’s brothers Eteocles and Polynices were killed by each other in war, King Creon rose to power and detected that Polyneices should not be buried as killer and traitor. Essays on Antigone analyze her actions as she disagreed because religion dictated that every person must be buried, otherwise their soul won't find peace. Essays show how she attempted to bury Polyneices and was walled up alive. She was the fiancée of Creon’s son, who killed himself out of grief, and his mother followed him. And so Creon lost his family because he defied divine law. Peruse Antigone essay samples below for details of this story. Our essay samples also include its complete analysis.
Authored before or in 441 BC at a time of national enthusiasm, exposing the dangers of absolute ruler also referred as a tyrant. In the play setting, this played by Creon, a king whom people could hardly give their opinion about him. Despite regretting his actions as the play ends,...
Sophocle’s Antigone is a play of expansive and lasting well known appeal. However, it is ironical that most of the play’s admirers have hardly arrived at a concurrence regarding its interpretation. This paper seeks to discuss one character in the play, Creon, who becomes the new king of Thebes following...
Sophocles play depicts a conflict between moral and political laws Sophocles play depicts a conflict that exists even in the day today. Essentially, this conflict is in regard to moral laws and political laws that are manmade. The characters in the play Antigone clash because of these laws since each of...
This is a Greek tragic play that explains the moral and ethical dilemmas. The play unearths the ethical dilemma existing between the proponents of the human law and the strict adherents of the law of gods. Since the two laws are different, one had to choose only one law to...
In a social order, every man including those in power is limited to some boundaries beyond which one cannot cross without consequences. Antigone by Sophocles presents a society on the verge of self-destruction through sickness as a result of the transgressions of a king. The King of Thebes, Creon violates the...
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They tell Creon has vowed that no one shall bury him, that no one shall weep for him, but that his corpse shall lie in the fields,.... for carrion birds to dig while they hunt for food.” Creon, the king, has ceremoniously buried one of Antigone's brothers while refusing to...
Sophocles' tragedy "Antigone" Sophocles' tragedy "Antigone" was composed in or around 441 BC (Honig). The play is set in Thebes, where two heirs, Eteocles and Polynices, contend for Oedipus' kinship throne. Eteocles starts the war by sitting on the throne against Oedipus' orders. Both of them are killed on the battlefields....
Antigone and Othello: A Critical Analysis of Love Antigone is a tragedy play written around 442 BCE by Sophocles about the burial of Antigone's brother Polynices against the rule of Crone and the country, as well as the tragic effects of her act of civil disdain. Othello is a tragedy play...
Antigone is a play with a theme of political tragedy and a heroic literary character that has been applied to modern society across a broad spectrum. Theatrical version is one of the best elements of plays in the literature intended to relive the incidents in the historical and cultural context...
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Home — Essay Samples — Literature — Antigone — Antigone vs. Creon: Clash of Values and Consequences
Antigone Vs. Creon: Clash of Values and Consequences
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Published: Sep 16, 2023
Words: 688 | Pages: 2 | 4 min read
Table of contents
The character of antigone, the character of creon, the conflict and consequences, themes and lessons.
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The Main Actor Creon in “Antigone“ by Sophocles Essay
Antigone by Sophocles dramatizes the conflict between a sense of duty towards the family and the claims of state. The two main actors in the masterwork namely Antigone and Creon represent the two sides of this conflict respectively.
Throughout the play, there are hints that Creon who defends his actions as doing them in line with the interests of the people and the gods that he is doing the exact opposed and in the processes hurting both the gods and the citizens through his actions and decisions that lead to a series of tragedies.
After the two sons of Oedipus, Polynices and Eteocles, die in a power tussle, Creon ascends to power once again in Thebes. Creon’s decision to have to have Eteocles given a decent burial and Polynices’ body left in the open battleground to rot and the death sentence that he issues against anyone who tries to bury Polynices is the central conflict in the play.
The two brothers had made a pact to alternate leadership over Thebes, but when Eteocles term was over, he refused to honor the pact and instead clang to the throne. Polynices gathered an army, which was and attacked Thebes in what was regarded as the ‘Seven against Thebes’.
Thebes won the war. However, it is due to this war that the two sons of Oedipus died. Creon was wrong in his decision, which he regarded to be in favor of the gods and the citizens of Thebes considering that he acted in favor of a man without honor who could not keep his word and declared the acts of Polynices as treason.
When Antigone defies the order of Creon and buries her brother’s body, Creon becomes exceedingly upset, and a bitter argument ensues between him and Antigone. By that fact that Antigone is the sister of both Polynices and Eteocles, she believes that it is her obligation to bury her brother as it was not in any way pleasant to the gods to see the body of a bury rot in the open.
Creon yet commits another atrocity that lacks the favor of both the gods and the citizens of Thebes. He condemns Antigone and her sister Ismene to be entombed alive which leads Antigone to take her own life before the order is carried out.
By dragging Ismene in the problems of her sister, it is clear that Creon takes Antigone’s act of defiance from a point of selfish advantage and wants to finish Oedipus’ bloodline and secure the throne for himself. By deciding to punish both Ismene and Antigone, Creon exhibits a disconnection with kin, and through this, it is remarkably clear that he has lost the fundamentals of humanity and community.
It is through Creon’s actions that people close to him lose their lives. On realizing that Antigone was dead, Creon’s son Haemon takes his own life after threatening to kill him.
Creon’s own wife also takes her own life after she learns of her son’s death. This is another significant hint in the play that Creon’s deeds and rulings were not in favor of the gods and men but were founded on absolute pride and chauvinism.
Creon comes to a change of heart when Tiresias the leader of the chorus tells him that the body must be buried based on the will of the gods. Only then does Creon know that he has been wrong.
His efforts to release Antigone, however, come late as his deeds lead to the tragedies that follow. In the end of the play, Creon also ends tragically after a descendant of a former king invades Thebes. He is put to death.
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IvyPanda. (2019, May 7). The Main Actor Creon in “Antigone“ by Sophocles. https://ivypanda.com/essays/creon/
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IvyPanda . 2019. "The Main Actor Creon in “Antigone“ by Sophocles." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/creon/.
1. IvyPanda . "The Main Actor Creon in “Antigone“ by Sophocles." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/creon/.
IvyPanda . "The Main Actor Creon in “Antigone“ by Sophocles." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/creon/.
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Antigone Argumentative Essay Examples
Type of paper: Argumentative Essay
Topic: Law , Literature , Women , Greece , Sophocles , Character , Death , Violence
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Antigone is a legendary Greek play originally written by Sophocles. In the play, it is easy to confuse who between Antigone and Creon is the protagonist, and there have been many debates on the same issue. According to Greek tradition, a protagonist is the person with the leading role in the story, that is, the hero or heroine of the story. It is the person from whom the title of the story is derived. Whereas many scholars are of the opinion that Antigone is the play's heroine, Creon seems more deserving of this position.
Naturally, literalists consider the character whose name forms the title of the play to be the protagonist. However, in Antigone, Creon portrays a strong character that matches Antigone’s volition. As expected, the play reveals a thrilling battle between Antigone and Creon with both characters portraying similar qualities at some point. Although, the play portrays Antigone as the heroine of the story, Creon fights to maintain law and order in the republic and this heroic struggle cannot be ignored. Greek literature defines the protagonist as the character or the person who realizes their mistakes or faults. This definition leads to further confusion over who should be the protagonist in the play Antigone. This is because Antigone fits the contemporary description of a hero while Creon fits the second. The play also presents Antigone and Creon as antagonists, which makes both of them tragic heroes of the story.
Antigone and Creon have a lot in common. They were born into a higher social class than most people, and both have terrible defects in their characters. Although the play derives its name from the character Antigone, it does not necessarily make her the protagonist. She fulfills the role of the protagonist in the traditional sense. The plot of the play centers on her actions and beliefs, but her pride and stubbornness leads to her untimely death.
Creon, on the other hand, also has many characteristics that qualify him for the role of hero in this story. The tragic hero should be accountable for his own downfall, experience a misfortune that is greater than they deserve, and should also come to a certain realization about his self. Creon fits this description perfectly. He recognizes his mistakes and tries to rectify them. He is also extremely proud and stubborn and refuses to let Antigone win the fight. When the gods made his mistake known to him, he tries to correct it by releasing Antigone (Sophocles 24). Unfortunately, it was already too late. Antigone, on the other hand, never realizes her mistakes. She continues to fight Creon up to the point of death, which is characteristic of the antagonist. This makes Creon the protagonist, although not in the conventional sense.
Although Antigone and Creon are sworn enemies, they share similar traits. For instance, both of them are strong-willed, and stand by their beliefs. The events at the beginning of the play set the stage for a bruising battle between Antigone and Creon. Antigone insists that Polynices must receive a proper burial, while Creon insists that Polynices is a traitor who should not receive a proper burial. Antigone fights for the proper burial of her dear brother and her aim is to bring justice to her brother and appease the gods (Sophocles 17). Antigone stands firm in her ground and insists that family members have an obligation to take of each other. She says to Ismene, “My own flesh and blood how many griefs our father handed down to us.” This statement reveals Antigone’s love for her family and the extent to which she will fight for them. On the other hand, Creon does not give in to Antigone’s demands and orders sentries to keep watch of the tomb so that no one buries Polynices. Creon, on the other hand, fights for the adherence of the republic laws. He stands by what he believes; just like Antigone stands by her beliefs (Sophocles 17). Creon’s first speech is a statement of his determination to keep the “ship of the state” in the right direction. In lines 117-180 of the play, Creon invokes the words “law”, “policy” and “decree” a lot showing how determined he is in upholding the laws.
Whereas Antigone is anti-authority, Creon, on the other hand fights to maintain the status quo. From the beginning of the play, Antigone casts doubt on Creon’s leadership skills and authority. She defies Creon’s order not to accord Polynices a proper burial. Although the laws of the republic state that traitors should not be accorded proper burial, Antigone cleverly argues that human law is not above divine law. The divine law states that everyone is sacred and should be accorded a proper burial. Antigone also fights for recognition of women in society. The contemporary laws deny women such an opportunity. On the other hand, Creon fights to maintain law and order. He is firm in ensuring that the laws are followed to the latter. Creon envisions dire consequences when those who disobey the law are not punished. Creon also fights Antigone because he believes women should be put in their place, and never let to lead. In line, 758 Creon asserts, “We must defend the men who live by law..never let some woman triumph over us.” Clearly, Creon wants to maintain the culture which denies women equal opportunities.
Creon fits perfectly in the role of the tragic hero. His main goal was not to kill Antigone, but to ensure that his laws are followed; he did not want Antigone’s actions to lead to more people disregarding his laws. He wanted the people of Thebes to see him as a man who stands by his word. Antigone, on the other hand, is also neither evil nor good in any extreme manner. Her goodness can be seen in her love and loyalty for her brother Polyneices. Although she disobeys the laws created by a man, she is keen to obey the laws of the gods. Her pride and arrogance lead to her tragic end; she refuses to apologize to Creon for her crime and is more willing to die than beg for his mercy (Sophocles 34). She refuses to conform to his reasoning and is willing to bear the consequences of her actions. She is aware of the consequences of her actions even before she buries her brother, but this does not prevent her from pursuing her course. She proceeds with her plan even when her sister Ismene refuses to assist her. Antigone refuses to be crushed by a male-dominated society and takes a stand as one who gives a voice to women. She stands by what she believes even to the point of death, which is characteristic of the antagonist.
Sophocles. Sophocles' Antigone. Trans. Diane Rayor. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2011.Print.
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