Antigone by Sophocles is one of the most well-written Greek tragedies. At first, it may seem that Antigone is the tragic hero, but details support the fact that Kreon is the tragic hero. Kreon may be seen as neither good nor bad, which is why readers might feel an understanding or connection between themselves and Kreon. Kreon is not trying to be unjust, biased, or wrongful, but his decisions make him seem that way and affect many of the outcomes throughout the story. Kreon’s powerful and unjust leadership, his pride, and his dynamic nature make him a tragic hero.
Kreon has a very significant role in the play as the ruler of Thebes. As a ruler, his voice is heard, and his ideas are put into action. Throughout the play it is made apparent that he believes that only his opinion matters. Kreon has put in place harsh punishments to prevent people from going against him. Toward the beginning of the play, Kreon’s rise to power is met with hopefulness, especially by the Chorus. Kreon takes the time to speak positively and supportively about Thebes: “For the state is safety / When she is steady, then we can steer” (ll. 227-228). Kreon seems to be prioritizing what is right for Thebes.
As the storyline goes on, however, Kreon becomes close-minded and focused only on his views about the loss of Eteocles and Polyneices. Kreon becomes more like a dictator of Thebes. After he realizes that people are rebelling, Kreon says the following to Koryphaios and the Sentry: “You’ll see: When you have it, shame makes you hide it; / that kind of money wrecks men / and few escape alive.” (ll. 389-392) This is an example of the tone Kreon uses toward his people now that he has taken on a dominant role over Thebes.
It becomes clear that Kreon is stubborn and has a lot of pride. On pg. 61, this pride begins to work against him. Kreon’s faults and decisions have caused him guilt. As you read the work, you notice that everything pertaining to the plot revolves around his sense of pride. Antigone’s role is used to emphasize Kreonr’s pride. Antigone is not the tragic heroine, and she suffers from Kreon’s actions. When Antigone is caught burying Polyneices, Kreon uses her fault to build his own sense of pride: “With that I have everything.” (l. 606) Kreon believes that, as a leader, being wrong is a disgrace. Teiresias tells Kreon: “Stubbornness is stupidity. It is criminal.” (l. 1185) “The state is sick.” (l. 1170) Kreon feels that Teiresias is in no position to be giving a leader advice. Kreon believes his actions are already fair and just. Teiresias’ words to Kreon seem to matter little to him.
Throughout the story, Kreon’s emotions change. This makes him a dynamic character. For most of the story, Kreon is stubborn and shows little sympathy or care for any of the characters. Kreon expresses anger in the beginning when he realizes that people are going behind his back. As the story continues, Teiresias comes to predict the future for Kreon. Although Kreon avoids Teiresias’ words at first, Koryphaios agrees with Teiresias, which causes Kreon to doubt himself. Kreon says: “What should I do? Tell me. I promise to comply.” (l. 1275).
When Koryphaios tells Kreon to let Antigone out of the tomb, Kreon replies: “That’s your advice? To give in?” (l. 1278). Kreon is confused, because he hasn’t taken into account other people’s perspectives. It is at this point that Kreon begins to acknowledge his flaw. When the Messenger returns with the information that Antigone, Haimon, and Eurydice are dead, Kreon truly realizes what he has done: “I am grief” (l. 1503). Kreon’s emotions change dramatically at this point, and his eyes are opened to his new reality.
In conclusion, Kreon’s forceful and close-minded leadership, his pride, and his complex nature, make him the tragic hero. Looking back on the text, you realize that too much pride is always punished, despite the characterr’s status or power ranking.
Kreon does not come into his position with too much pride, but he gains it as the events in the story unfold. Although he does not die, the loss of family and everything he had is something that Kreon will never be able to erase: “Hurry, take me out of the way. I’m nobody. I’m nothing” (l. 1511) Kreon will carry the guilt from his actions on his shoulders forever, causing him to step down in power. Kreon feels that he is no longer fit for ruling because of his mistakes that cannot be taken back. This shows that Kreon has weaknesses that cause him to be a tragic hero.
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