The debate over who is the tragic hero in Antigone continues on to this day. The belief that Antigone is the hero is a strong one. There are many critics who believe, however, that Creon, the Ruler of Thebes, is the true protagonist. I have made my own judgments also, based on what I have researched of this work by Sophocles.
Antigone is widely thought of as the tragic hero of the play bearing her name. She would seem to fit the part in light of the fact that she dies for doing what she believes is right. She buries her brother without worrying what might happen to her. She “Takes into consideration death and the reality that may be beyond death” (Hathorn 59).
Those who do believe that Antigone was meant to be the true tragic hero argue against others who believe that Creon deserves that honor. They say that the Gods were against Creon, and that he did not truly love his country. “His patriotism is to narrow and negative and his conception of justice is too exclusive… to be dignified by the name of love for the state” (Hathorn 59). These arguments, and many others, make many people believe the Antigone is the rightful protagonist.
Other critics argue that Creon is the tragic hero of Antigone. They say that his noble quality is his caring for Antigone and Ismene when thier father was persecuted. Those who stand behind Creon also argue that Antigone never had a true epiphany, a key element in being a tragic hero. Creon, on the other hand, realized his mistake when Teiresias made his prophecy. He is forced to live, knowing that three people are dead because of his ignorance, which is a punishment worse than death.
My opinion on this debate is that Antigone is the tragic hero. She tries to help her brother without worrying about what will happen to her. She says, “I intend to give my brother burial. I’ll be glad to die in the attempt, -if it’s a crime, then it’s a crime that God commands” (Sophocles 4). She was also punished for doing what was right. Her epiphany came, hidden from the audience, before she hung herself.
Creon’s “nobleness” of taking in young Antigone and Ismene is overshadowed by his egotistical nature.
Sophocles’ Antigone – The Real Tragedy
Tragedy of Antigone
The play “Antigone” by Sophocles displays many qualities that make it a great tragedy. A tragedy is defined as a dramatic or literary work in which the principal character engages in a morally significant struggle ending in ruin or profound disappointment. In creating his tragedy “Antigone”, Sophocles uses many techniques to create the feelings of fear and pity in his readers. This in turn creates an excellent tragedy.
In order for a play to be considered a tragedy it must achieve the purgation of fear and pity. In the play “Antigone”, Sophocles does a great job of bringing out these two emotions in a reader. At the beginning of the play there is a conversation between Antigone and her sister Ismene. During the conversation the reader learns the two girls lost their father in battle and both of their brothers at the hands of one another. Then the reader learns that one of the brothers, Polynices, has been left out to die without a proper burial. At this time the reader begins to feel pity for the two sisters. They have lost their father and their two brothers all at the same time.
Later in the conversation the reader learns that Antigone has a plan to bury here brother Polynices and that she wants Ismene to help her. Ismene is scared to do this because the new king, Creon, has issued a decree that says that any person that attempts to bury the body will be sentenced to death. The fact that Antigone is going to attempt to bury the body creates fear in the reader. They are fearful as to what will happen to
Antigone if she is caught. As the play moves on there is a building of this fear and pity that is felt for many of the characters that finally is resolved at the catastrophe. At that point the reader learns that Creon, the king, has lost his wife, his son, and his niece Antigone, all because he was too stubborn to give in as well as to afraid that if he did give in that he would be judged as an easy king. In a way this ending brings the two emotions together. The reader feels pity for Creon because of his great loss, but at the same time he feels a bit of fear because he wouldn’t want this type of tragedy to ever occur in his life.