In the story of Antigone, an argument of who is the tragic hero between Antigone and Creon exists. I firmly believe Creon is the tragic hero of the play. Creon becomes the typical fallen hero in Greek drama. He faces many conflicts, internally and externally, and undergoes quite a bit of painful emotions. One might say Antigone should receive the title of being the tragic hero, but Creon plays a more significant role by learning his lesson the hard way and ending up as the classic tragic hero who loses everything at the end of the dramatic play.
There has always been much controversy between who the tragic hero is in the play. A tragic hero is a literary character who makes an error of judgment or has a fatal flaw that, combined with fate and external forces, brings on a tragedy. Many times, the tragic hero will acknowledge their “fatal flaw” near the end of the play; however, by this time, it will be too late for this character to correct their wrong doings. “He [Creon] receives compassion through the audience, yet recognizes his weaknesses and his downfalls from his own self-pride, stubbornness, and controlling demands,” (Graves 37).
He is the true tragic hero. Though the audience notices how villainous Creon is, they still express sympathy towards him. According to Robert Graves, author of The Greek Myths: 2, they [the audience] realize that he has “brought all of his problems upon himself,” (Graves 14) and know that he should have been more open-minded; however they all feel that “no one should have to go through the experience that he has,” (Graves 14). The audience also expresses pity towards him because Antigone is a murderer and they can understand why Creon is so upset. 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 he rather demands that they follow it,” (Grantz 18). 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,” (Antigone 178). Through this quote the reader realizes that Creon wants obedience in everything he decides even if he is at fault. Creon gives the impression that he feels that there is nothing worse than disobedience to authority, even if the authority is wrong.
This further supports Creon’s belief that everyone shall remain faithful to him even if he rules unfairly. 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,” (Graves 46). 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, Creon still accuses the sentry of receiving money to do the crime and threatens to punish him. 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. This shows how Creon is able to make accusations against any person and punish them without rhyme or reason, knowing in his mind that he is correct. It also shows that Creon is quick to shut out, or brush off, those who may disobey his power of authority in the city. 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],” (Antigone 740). 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,” (Antigone 185). Creon further continues by stating “I will make her greater still,” (Antigone 193). In this quote Creon declares that he will improve the city by his rulings.
Creon describes how his qualities make him a good ruler; he believes he has the best attributes and qualities to rule the city, and he feels that no one can compare to him as a ruler. This theory is dissected by Graves in his book The Greek Myths: 2. Creon’s ego adds to his eventual downfall because of his feeling of superiority over the people. 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,” (Antigone 498) this shows his absolute lack of compassion when he is talking with Antigone.
Creon later notices that he had a weakness, in which he tries to correct, but is too late in doing so. His weakness is that he does things on impulse. He never really sits down and thinks about his actions; instead he just says what comes to mind. Creon says “you will never marry her while she lives,” (Antigone 750) right after his first discussion about Antigone. Creon summarizes his plans for Antigone, which comes to his mind after talking with Haemon. These two decisions decide the lives of two young people, but because of his impulsiveness, Creon never fully realizes the potential outcome.
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. 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,” (Antigone1108).
These words show how he changed his impulsive decision, but unfortunately, he 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,” (Grantz 26). 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 chooses not to correct them, because he is the king, and the king is never wrong.
Because of Creon’s self-pride, Creon makes the decision to never let his son marry Antigone, this choice ends up killing his son also. This flaw, that of self-pride, is a characteristic found in many tragic heroes (such as Brutus, in Julius Caesar) and supports framing Creon as the tragic hero in Sophocles’ Antigone. Creon makes many errors throughout the play because of his flaws. 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,” (Antigone 203). 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,” (Antigone 1328). 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,” (Antigone 1339).
These three quotes show his fall from grace. The first taken from the beginning of the play where Creon’s unwillingness to believe Polynices was not a traitor, cause a morbid punishment for him, even in death. Next we see Creon’s fall from grace and realization that he was wrong, followed by his acceptance of his actions; all traits of the classic tragic hero. 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. Works Cited Gantz, Timothy. Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources. John Hopkins University Press. 1993. Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths: 2. London: Penguin, 1960 Hochman, Stanley. McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama. New York, New York. 1972 Sophocles. Antigone.