Antigone Essay, Research Paper
The Brutality of Creon
The Admirability of Antigone
Many critics feel that in the play Antigone by Sophocles, there are two characters that can be considered the tragic hero. Antigone and Creon both display many characteristics that would label them the tragic hero. Creon s actions are against the will of the gods, and this is why he cannot be the tragic hero of Antigone. In his literary criticism of the play, Brian Vickers presents a similar feeling, Creon is brutal and Antigone is thoroughly admirable. This idea proves true throughout the play. It is eveident that Antigone s actions are driven by a love for her brother, and a desire to please the gods. While Creon s actions are founded in his quest for more power and complete control over the city of Thebes and its people.
Creon s brutality can best be illustrated by looking at the way his citezens, other than Antigone, react to his laws. One example is the way Ismene talks about Creon when she is trying to convince Antigone not to bury Polyneices. She tells Antigone, We must obey them (the laws) I yield to those with authority. (Sophocles) The people of Thebes obey his laws purely out of fear of Creon, and the respect owed to a king. Antigone is not disrespectful of Creon but she also is not afraid of his brutality. Even if she were afraid of Creon it still would not have changed her actions because she answers to a higher power, the gods.
Creon s love for the city-state cause him to abandon all other beliefs. He tries to enforce this upon the people of Thebes. He wants them to think that his laws should be followed before any other personal, moral, or religious belief. This is where the conflict of character occurs between Antigone and Creon. Antigone knows that the sacred laws held by heaven are far more important than those made by a king (Hathorn, 61).
Those who argue that Creon was only trying to protect and preserve the city extend this idea too far. To use this as a reason for Creon s actions that have nothing to do with protecting Thebes is rediculous. Yes Creon had a great love for the city of Thebes, but this is not a reason for having a close family member executed for putting her brother to rest. In his book, Aspects of Literature James Hathorn addresses this thought. He says His (Creon) patriotism is too narrow and negative, and his conseption of justice is too exclusive to be considered love for the state (Hathorn, 59).
The method in which Creon enforced his laws was brutal and extreme. He felt he had to be that way because being a new king he wanted to gain the respect of the people. He didn t want them to take him for an easy king. Although this is true, it does not give him the prerogative to blatantly defy the will of the gods. Creon wants to be feared because this will give him more power. That is why his treatment of Antigone was so harsh. His main concern was not about the burying of a traitor, his main concern was about gaining the respect and fear of Thebes. If he had been an established king, his punishment would not have been so brutal. Creon was simply trying to make a name for himself.
The brutality of Creon does not just refer to the way he treats Criminals. It also refers to the way he socializes and acts around the people. He is egotistical and feels that he can talk to people however he wants. This is evident in two separate dialogues. The first is with his son Haimon. Haimon comes to speak with Creon about Antigone, but Creon refuses to listen to Haimon claiming he is a girl struck fool . The second dialogue proves to be more costly to Creon than the first. It is when Tiresias comes to deliver the morbid prophecy. Once again Creon says the prophet has been corrupted by money. Both dialogues show how Creon treated the people he talked to. It is not the manner in which a hero would speak to his people.
Another action that defenders of Creon constantly use to show he is good guy is the fact that he brought Antigone and Ismene into his home after their father had been persecuted. The nobleness of this act is greatky overshadowed by his egotistical nature. He will not let Antigone get away with this because he feels he has to protect his image. He is afraid of losing respect and control over his people, this is evident in two of his quotes, How shall I win the world s obedience? This shows all he is doing is just in an effort to be a world power.
The second quote of Creon, If she gets away with this, call me a woman and call her a man. Shows his view of women. A true tragic hero must demonstrate noble qualities. The views that Creon holds of women are not noble or even respectable. He is a chauvinist leader who is on a power trip, looking for any reason to flex his anarchist muscle. Antigone gave him this opportunity, and she was punished for doing what was morally and religiously right. The only reason she was condemned was because her actions were against the wishes of the king.
Each of Antigone s actions were admirable, in the interest of her brother and the gods. She buries her brother without worrying what might happen to her. James Hathorn addresses this idea when he says, Antigone takes into consideration death and the reality that may be beyond death (Hathorn, 60). The point he makes is a valid one. Antigone debated over the issue of whether to bury her brother or not. In the end she ultimately decided that her life was not as valuable as making sure her brother rests in peace. She was only trying to please the gods whereas Creon was working directly against the will of the gods.
Literary critics are not the only ones that show Antigone is admirable. There are several instances in the play itself where one can see firsthand the basis for Antigone s decisions. Early in the play Antigone says, I intend to give my brother a burial. I ll be glad to die in the attempt, -if it s a crime then it s a crime the gods command. This quote enhances several characteristics of Antigone. The fact that she would be glad to die just to bury him illustrates how deep her love is for her brother. It also shows us that although she defied the laws of Creon, it was only in an effort to please the gods. During this time period pleasing the gods was considered the most important aspect of life. Antigone is in support of hr own actions. In burying her brother Polyneices she entrusts that she is doing what the gods want, contrary to the beliefs of Creon.