In Sophocles’ Antigone, the question of who the tragic hero actually is
has been the subject of a debate for years. It is unlikely for there to be
two tragic characters in a Greek tragedy, and there can be only one in the
play Antigone. The king Creon possesses some of the qualities that constitute
a tragic character, but does not have all of the necessary traits.
Antigone, however, contains all of the aspects that are required for her to be the
main character. According to Aristotle’s Poetics, there are four major
traits, which are required of the tragic character. The character must be
a good and upstanding person. The character must focus on becoming a better
person, must be believable, and must be consistent in his or her behavior. Due
to the fact that Antigone represents these four character guidelines,
as well as several other protagonist traits, she can definitely be defined as
the tragic hero.
In order for Antigone to be the tragic character, she first must be a good
and upstanding person. Antigone is indeed a good-hearted person and has
committed no crime up to her decision to give her brother, Polynieces, a
proper burial. There is no doubt that Antigone is upstanding and a person
of importance in Thebes. She was scheduled to marry Haemon, the son of
Creon, and was considered a princess. Aristotle stated that the aspect of
a good person was first and most important when creating a tragic character.
The fact that Antigone is a woman makes no difference, because Aristotle
expressly said, “Even a woman may be good.though the woman may be said to
be an inferior being.”
Aristotle’s second rule for determining a tragic character is that the
person must aim at propriety. The character must work towards becoming a
better person. Antigone illustrates this second guideline by her effort
to clear her conscious and bring honor to her family by giving Polynieces a
decent burial. By taking this responsibility, and by denying Ismene’s
involvement in her crime, Antigone shows that she has acquired a greater
courage within herself than she had possessed before. In no way does
Creon comply with Aristotle’s second guideline. Throughout the play, he does
not allow himself to see the point of view from other people, such as when
Haemon tries to reason with him, and he neglects the blind prophet,
Tiresias, when he warns Creon of his actions.
The last two expectations of a tragic character are intertwined.
According to Aristotle, the character must be true to life and be consistent in
moralant Morality in Sophocles’ Antigone
Antigone: The Obedience of One’s Morality
According to the Bible, after Jesus was arrested by religious leaders, the apostles, his closest followers, fled his side. The apostle Peter was later recognized as one of Jesus’ companions by the people who helped arrest him. Peter, however, denied even knowing Jesus three times. Peter believed that, should he remain faithful, he would be granted eternal life by God, and he knew that denying Jesus was a grave sin. However, his fear of his accusers caused him to err, and to stray from what he believed to be right. Today, many of us have been told to “do what you believe is right, no matter what the cost.” However, human weakness often causes one to falter, as Peter did, in an attempt to protect oneself. While many people advise others with the aforementioned motto, few will use it to the extent that is insisted upon in Antigone, the extent to which the apostle Peter should have applied it.
Antigone is an outstanding example of someone who did what she thought was right, while she was among fools, many hardships, and people who were discouragingly uncourageous. Although we may not defend the self-sacrificial actions of Antigone, or may not have the strength to do something similar, we should follow principle behind her actions. Antigone believed, as did most people of her time, that a dead person’s soul could not rest if that person’s body was not buried. Creon, the King, ordered that the body of Polyneices, Antigone’s brother, be left to rot unburied because he had died attacking the city, a traitor. This presents a huge problem for Antigone; she feels she must obey the laws of the gods and bury her brother, but the penalty would be earthly death.
Antigone’s moral values were so important to her that she was willing to die in order to uphold them. She reasoned that her reward (or punishment) after death would reflect the nobility of her decision–and the reward would last much longer than her terrestrial life. However, Peter believed the same thing, and had complete faith in his beliefs, but did not act accordingly. He became too overwhelmed by the present, and his possible suffering then. It is human nature to fear death, and this overwhelmed Peter’s desire to adhere to all godly laws. Such was not Antigone’s case; no doubt ever entered her mind as to what she was to do.