The dilemma of identifying the true hero, or heroine, of Sophocles’ Antigone has tortured students for years. It is indeed a difficult decision to make. The basis for this decision is what the reader perceives to be Sophocles’ dramatic issue in this play. The dramatic issue of the play is twofold: Antigone is a fanatic who is driven by her religious fever to bury the body of her criminal brother, Polyneices, against the edict of Creon. In the second part, Sophocles shows how the new King Creon’s refusal to change his decision in the face of adversity is admirable, but at the same time his political morals end up destroying his family. His fall from grace is tragic, whereas Antigone’s fall is welcome. In this manner, Sophocles sympathizes with Creon, and thus he becomes the hero of the Antigone.
Contrary to the belief of Jebb, a critic of Antigone, Antigone cannot be the heroine of Antigone. There are several reasons for this: she is a one-dimensional character who does not go through any development during the course of the play, her behavior is illogical and does not evoke a sense of pity from the audience nor the chorus, and her personal vendetta outshines her religious goal. These same reasons are also basis for the dismissal of the claims of Hogan, another critic of Antigone who has Antigone and Creon as dual heroes.
Antigone’s character does not evolve in the play. Jebb sees her as enthusiastic, “at once steadfast and passionate, for the right as she sees it- for the performance of her duty,” and having an “intense tenderness, purity, and depth of domestic
affection” (Jebb 1902 p.12); Calder and I disagree with this statement. Calder is a critic of the pla…
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…is more likely the tragic hero of Antigone, rather than Antigone herself.
At first glance, Sophocles’ Antigone seems to have two protagonists, Antigone and Creon. The hero cannot be Antigone because of her one-dimensional character, illogical behavior and lack of pitifulness. And upon closer inspection, it is revealed that Creon is indeed the tragic hero, through the fact that his original edict concerning the burial of Polyneices contained the means of Creon’s downfall.
Calder, William M. III (1968). Sophokles’ Political Tragedy, Antigone. GRBS 9, 389-407.
Hogan, James C. (1972). The Protagonists of the Antigone. Arethusa 5, 93-100.
Sophocles (1902). Antigone (Richard Jebb, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sophocles (1991). Antigone (David Green, Trans.). Chicago: The Universiry of Chicago Press.
Creon’s Perspective in Oedipus Rex and Sophocles’ Antigone
Creon’s Perspective in Oedipus Rex and Antigone
The role of the king in the time of Greek tragedies was simultaneously desired and dreaded because of the king’s responsibility to the people and because of the effects of the position on the king’s character. Creon reveals such ambivalent thoughts towards the kingship in his speech defending himself from Oedipus’s conspiracy accusation in Oedipus the King; these ambivalent thoughts reveal much about the nature of the kingship, especially in conjunction with Creon’s later actions in Antigone.
In attempting to refute Oedipus’s assertion that Creon has taken part in a conspiracy to obtain the kingship, Creon evaluates the nature of the kingship and of his present role. First, he says, “Consider, first, if you think any one/ would choose to rule and fear rather than rule and sleep” (36.584-585). By this, Creon means that the main difference between his position and the king’s is that of the accompanying action to ruling. In both positions, one is a ruler who holds great power over the state. However, the king is placed in a greater place of accountability to the people. This accountability is what Creon says inspires “fear” in the king, for if affairs of state or of the people fall into decline, the king is the first person whom the citizenry look to blame. This is analogous to executive leaders throughout history, as one can see in looking at American presidents and the correlation between the present conditions and events of the nation to the public’s opinion of the president, regardless of the actual impact that his decisions may have made in these conditions. Creon maintains that he has the same amount of power as the king but without the accountability that inevitably leads a king to distress.
Creon’s reasoning concerning the equality between his power and Oedipus’s leads him to state:
I was not born with such a frantic yearning
to be a king- but to do what kings do.
And so it is with every one who has learned
wisdom and self-control.
He means that he has never desired the position of king, because he sees no advantage over his present position in the state. Rather, he sees the disadvantage of the fear that accompanies the position of king. Creon has evaluated this situation for his circumstances and then goes further in stating that anyone with wisdom and self-control would come to such a conclusion as well.