Creon as a Tragic Hero in Antigone

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Sophocles’ Antigone communicates the desire for power and the struggle that erupts between Antigone and Creon who is her uncle and King of Thebes. Both characters dissent from each other in the way that Antigone’s brother Polynices is to be buried. Creon and Antigone, being consistent in their morals, are stubborn individuals. At the conclusion of the play, cliche of the “tragic hero” falls on both characters. The two characters’ downfalls were foreshadowed by errors in judgement. Although, the real tragic hero was played by Creon. His dominance, bullheadedness, and noble status, and shortcomings show the tragedy of the character of Creon.

Creon is the King of Thebes in the play and his role as the antagonist is shown as he decries: “…Polyneices, I say, is to have no burial: no man is to touch him or say the least prayer for him; he shall lie on the plain, unburied; and the birds and the scavenging dogs can do with him whatever they like” (Sophocles 1. 43-46). Although his words are not welcomed, Creon remains the master of Thebans.

On the other hand, Antigone was the princess, but was far lower in grandeur than her Uncle. The King’s status in his city only boosts his pride which influences his decisions. He proclaims, “You forget yourself! You are speaking to your King!” (Sophocles 5. 66) which only further portrays his pride and status in Thebes. Antigone goes against her father’s dominance by disobeying his words, which undermines him, and bestows upon her brother a proper burial.

Creon and Antigone are family, thus being similar in status.. The King of Thebes is the brother to Oedipus. The quote, “But now, at last, is our new King is coming: Creon of Thebes, Menoikeus” son.” (Sophocles 1. 1-2) reveals the extent of the nobility that ran in Creon’s family showing his high status. Even though Antigone’s similar birth into nobility as she was Oedipus’ daughter, Creon’s position in the family was higher. As addressing his servants, “Unfortunately, as you know, his two sons, the princes Eteocles and Polynices have killed each other in battle; and I, as the next in blood, have succeeded to the full power of the throne” (Sophocles 1. 15-19). This unforeseen occurrence shows just how greedy and power hungry Creon’s noble status has made him.

Prideful is a word that fits King Creon perfectly. Because of this characteristic, one of Creon’s flaws is Self-pride. On the other hand, Antigone suffers from being overambitious. That trait is shown when she says: “…Is less of importance; but if I had left my brother lying in death unburied, I should have suffered. Now I do not” (Sophocles 2. 79-81). Here, Antigone shows her ambition to bury her brother proper causes her to disobey Creon. On the flipside, characters can become ambitious; whereas self-pride is unique to some characters.

Having pride clouded Creon’s judgement, plunging him into an unfavorable situation which brought consequences upon him, but a tragic can overcome mistakes, and Creon is no exception. In the play, it is unclear if Antigone learned from her mistakes. Creon’s words help reinforce this idea: “Good. That is the way to behave: subordinate¬- Everything else, my son, to your father’s will” (Sophocles 3. 13-14). Creon’s problem with self pride trumps Antigone’s over ambitiousness, thus making him fit the definition of a tragic better.

A great misconception that comes from readers is that Antigone must be the tragic hero in the play. The play is named after her which can lead readers to assume that she must be the tragic hero.Antigone in the eyes of her family and gods could be considered a hero but in terms of the play, she does not hold the title of tragic hero, as seen in her words: “I should have praise and honor for what I have done. All these men here would praise me- Were their lips not frozen shut with fear of you” (Sophocles 2. 113-115).

She even views herself as a hero. After reading the play, readers often sympathize with Antigone and think of her highly in her efforts, thus dubbing her the tragic hero. Finally, since Antigone is the protagonist, she automatically must be the tragic hero. Her words here: “Creon is not strong enough to stand in my way” (Sophocles Prologue. 36) highlight the fact that she is the protagonist but there is a clear difference between protagonist and tragic hero.

A tragic hero is composed of these traits: superiority, near to perfection, a tragic flaw, a noble birth, or he discovers that the person’s downfall is a result of their own actions. As noted in previous parts to this piece, Creon embodies the definition of a tragic hero more than Antigone. An example of this would by that most Thebans looked up to Creon rather than Antigone. These words from Creon supports the fact: “This is my command, and you can see the wisdom behind it. As long as I am King, no traitor is going to be honored with the loyal man” (Sophocles 1. 47-49).

While this shows Creon’s power, it is also important to consider that at one time Antigone could have been superior to him, but when Oedipus was exiled, her favorability went away. It is without a doubt that Creon is a tragic hero due to his nobility because the daughter of a former king would hold less status than the current king himself, so Creon’s family is of nobler lineage than Antigone’s. To summarize, self-pride is reserved for unique characters such as the tragic hero whereas; an abundance in ambition is reserved for main characters, giving the allusion of the hero.

To prove a point that all heroes do not necessarily have to be pleasant, Sophocles made Creon the tragic hero. At the conclusion of the play, Creon says, “…I have been rash and foolish. I have killed my son and my wife” (Sophocles Exodus. 142-143). The quote shows that Creon is aware of his actions. He realizes that his decisions negatively affected those he cared most for. Based off his regretful tone in his voice, Creon realizes that what he has done has caused himself great pain.

Creon and Antigone are the most important characters in the play, and each contribute to the plays significance and relevance. Creon’s “stubborn as a mule” attitude toward burying Polyneices contributes to his downfall. His actions affected everyone around him which ultimately affected him. Antigone mission to bury Polyneices properly led to her downfall, and she ends up leaving the play as a character who commited suicide. On the other hand, Creon remains alive to suffer and reflect on all the pain and grief his decisions have given him. Some would say living with all the pain and grief is worse than death.

This realization worked well and really tied in the story and made the most logical sense in the end. In the end, Creon meets the same fate that many other tragics meet in these types of plays. The idea that power corrupts and blinds those who wield it is exemplified in Creon, whose shortsightedness results in his fate being sealed. Overall, the book appeals to the reader in a logical way, as the old saying goes, “pride comes before the fall.” In conclusion, the flaws, characteristics, and status in life show that Creon is the true tragic hero in Antigone.


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Creon as a Tragic Hero in Antigone. (2021, Jun 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/creon-as-a-tragic-hero-in-antigone/

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