Essays on Antigone

Essay On Antigone

Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero states that a tragic hero is a noble person who makes an error, in judgment or actions due to a central flaw, which causes their downfall. They then have a revelation and realize their mistake, but it is too late to amend for their villainy. In the Greek tragedy “Antigone”, by Sophocles, many think Antigone is the tragic hero. However, Creon fits Aristotle’s definition better. He makes an immense mistake by having Antigone executed that triggers his demise and loses everything he loves before fixing his mistake. Antigone would not be the tragic hero even though she stubbornly gets herself killed; she does not regret her actions.

Creon’s decision to have Antigone killed is his fatal mistake. He is angered that Antigone, a woman, has the courage to break his law. Creon wants to “carry her far away,/Out there in the wilderness, and lock her/Living in a vault of stone. She shall have food,/And there let her pray to the gods of hell:/They are her only gods:/Perhaps they show her an escape from death,/Or she may learn,/though late,/That piety is shown the dead is a pity in vain” (3.142-149) to prove he is a strong ruler, whose heart cannot be softened by a female “For they are but women and even brave men run/When they see Death coming”(2.162-165). He has guards take them away and lock up both Antigone and her sister, Ismene, until their death. Haemon, Creon’s son and Antigone’s fiance, comes to reason with his father. Creon becomes even more stubborn and tells his son that he is foolish to let a woman seduce him. Creon’s fatal flaw, hubris, leads him to question “you want me to show myself weak before the people?/Or to break my sworn word? No, and I will not./The women dies”(3.26-28). He follows through with his word making the biggest mistake in his life and Antigone is sent to her death.

After Creon makes his poor choice an old prophet Tiresias comes to Creon and warns him of the great sorrows that are coming. Creon realizes his mistakes and goes to repair them. Yet, it was too late, for Antigone “had made a noose of her fine linen veil/And hanged herself. Haemon lay beside her,/His arms about her waist, lamenting her,/His love lost underground, crying out/That his father had stolen her away from him./When Creon saw him, the tears rushed to his eyes,/And he called to him: ‘What have you done, child? Speak to me./What are you thinking that makes your eyes so strange?/O my son, my son, I come to you on my knees!’/But Haemon spat in his face. He said not a word,/Staring—/and suddenly drew his sword/And lunged. Creon shrank back; the blade missed, and the boy,/Desperate against himself, drove it half its length/Into his own side and fell. And as he died,/He gathered Antigone close in his arms again,/And now he lies dead with the dead, and she is his/At last, his bride in the houses of the dead”(Exodus 64-76). This was not the only thing that Creon lost that day. His wife was later found dead she had “stood before the altar, and her heart/Welcomed the knife her own hand-guided,/And a great cry burst from her lips for Megareus dad,/And for Haemon dead, her sons. And her last breath/Was a curse for their father, the murderer of her sons./And she fell, and the dark flowed in through her closing eyes”(Exodus 111-117). Creon lost everything and fell into despair “he was happy once, as I count happiness:/Victorious in battle, sole governor of the land/Fortunate father of children nobly born./And now it has all gone from him! Who can say/That a man is still alive when his life’s joy fails?/He is a walking dead man. Grant him rich;/Let him live like a king in his great house:/If his pleasure is gone, I would not give/So much as the shadow of smoke for all he owns” (Exodus 7-15). Now Creon had nothing and had to live with the fact that it was all his fault.

Antigone would not be a tragic hero because she never regrets her actions. She thinks what she did was right and she “dared/It was not God’s proclamation. That final Justice/That rules the world below makes no such laws./Your edict, King was strong, /But all your strength is weakness itself against/The immortal unrecorded laws of God./They are not merely now: they were, and shall be,/Operative forever, beyond man utterly./I knew I must die, even without your decree: I am only immortal/Now before it is my time to die,/Surely this is no hardship: can anyone/Living, as I live, with evil all about me,/Think Death less than a friend? This death of mine/Is of no importance; but if I had left my brother/Lying in death unburied, I should have suffered./Now we do not./You smile at me. Ah Creon,/Think me a fool, if you like: but it may well be/That a fool convicts me of folly” (2.57-74). This shows that Antigone was not only doing the right thing but she was punished for it. Antigone expected her punishment even though it meant her death, and still, that didn’t scare her into not burying her brother.

Antigone and Creon are very similar: they both are stubborn, they both make a ‘mistake’, they both meet their downfall because of that mistake. However, Creon is the tragic hero in the Greek tragedy. He realizes his mistake and tries to make it right, but it was too late. This comes to show that overall Creon better fits the definition of a tragic hero in the play Antigone. 

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