Essay: Sophocles’ play Antigone

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  • Subject area(s): Literature essays
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  • Published on: December 23, 2019
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  • Sophocles’ play Antigone
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In Sophocles’ play, Antigone, it begins with the illegal burial of Polyneices, Antigone’s beloved brother. Creon, the King of Thebes, is coerced to condemn his niece Antigone to death. Being loyal to his city, Creon follows through with his punishment of Antigone. By doing so, his character is changed forever. By the end of the play, Creon’s hubris has taken over which leads to his demise. Creon’s close-minded and stubborn personality is highlighted by his son Haemon’s opposing traits which also helps to develop his weakness, excessive pride while teaching the audience how hubris leads to an ultimate downfall.

To start off, Creon’s stubbornness contradicts Haemon’s trait of being reasonable. “We must make sure that law and order hold. I won’t give in to any woman’s will. If I am beaten, let it be by men. No one will say a woman was stronger than I.” (Sophocles 30-31). Creon believes that men should be the ones to rule while women should submit and obey. He feels that if he changes his mind about the punishment for this crime, he will no longer be a man. These gender roles are so immovable to Creon that he would feel emasculated were he to surrender to Antigone. He would see her as no longer a woman and believes she would usurp the role of a man if she were to have any control or leadership. Haemon has opposite beliefs from his father, he thinks that Creon is making a huge mistake. “I hear their talk, both for and against you. The people fear you. They won’t say to you things they think you don’t want to hear. But I hear what they say to one another. The whole town feels sorrow for this girl.” (Sophocles 31). Haemon tells his father that everyone feels that it’s a great wrong for Antigone to die for such a noble act. Insulted by the idea that his citizens should tell him how to rule, Creon vigorously defends his absolute authority. Creon, enraged, reels off insults at his son, calling him disrespectful and the slave of a woman. “Let him go. Let him be the angriest man who ever lived! But these two girls will die.” (Sophocles 35). Creon’s tragic hero quality, excessive pride, led to him to become impatient.

In addition, Creon’s close-mindedness versus Haemon’s open-mindedness. “Worry about your own guessing. If you don’t find these criminals, you’ll have guessed wrong. You’ll find that greed pays off in death!” (Sophocles 16). Creon believes he is so high in power that he threatens the guard, who brought the news that Polyneices was buried. Despite none of this being the guard’s fault, Creon threatens him with death if he doesn’t find the one who defied him. He takes advantage of his status as a man of power to get things done his way. “Father, the gods have given us reason. It is their greatest gift. I cannot find any way to tell you that you’re wrong.” (Sophocles 31) Haemon’s arguments with Creon are rational. He says that reason is a gift of the gods, and he cautions Creon against being single-minded and self-involved. He asserts that everyone has to give way somewhat, listen, and change and that no one is infallible. “Am I to rule by another mind than mine?… The state belongs to him who rules it.” (Sophocles 33). Due to Creon being close-minded, he lacks listening to others, which leads to his downfall.

Creon’s tragic hero quality of hubris leads to the theme of fate which ties with the occurrence of tragic events. “Then know this: The sun will not set many more times before you’re called to give a body for these bodies – that of your own child.” (Sophocles 46) Teiresias, a seer, warns Creon that the gods will take revenge on him for not burying Polyneices. Creon discovered his own fate by his own actions, not by things happening to him. “He killed himself. His father caused his death.” (Sophocles 51). Creon weakness, hubris, caused this to happen. After Creon finds out what his actions have brought him and learns how the gods can bring people to ruin, it’s too late. “Take me away, take me away. May my death come quickly. Come, my end, my best friend. Never let me see tomorrow.” (Sophocles 56) Creon understands his doom, as well as the fact that his fate was discovered by his own actions.

Creon’s characteristics play a major role in the theme development of the play and are stressed by Haemon’s conflicting traits. Creon possesses all the characteristics of a tragic hero. His hubris doesn’t effectively let him deal with his problems, Teiresias’s prophecy is the peripeteia and Creon finds out things won’t go the way he planned. Finally, Creon recognizes that his hubris has brought his downfall. The tragic play, Antigone, teaches the audience to not let pride get in the way of your actions.

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