Isn’t this action possibly a god’s?
Or have you seen them honor wicked min?
It isn’t so.
This exchange shows that it is a common opinion that proper honorary burial rites are desired by the gods, even though Creon doesn’t think so. Furthermore, Creon’s response shows his disrespect for both the chorus and the gods and that he believes what he is doing is just. Even though Creon is breaking their cultural traditions and violating the laws of the gods, he either does not know or intentionally ignores the fact that what he is doing is wrong. Even though he is king, the laws created by a mortal cannot supersede that of the gods, so despite him believing that he is legally correct in his course of action his desire to disgrace Polyneices and enforce his invalid law are critical mistakes that eventually result in his demise.
One important aspect of this section of the play is that Creon does not yet know who buried Polyneices while the audience does. As a result, there is tension built as the audience is left to wonder if Creon will figure out who was the one who violated his edict and what will happen when he does. Furthermore, it sets the stage between the conflict between Creon and Antigone, and the audience is able to decide which side they agree with although Antigone’s cause is depicted as much more sympathetic and just. She goes to great lengths to bury her dead brother at much personal risk should she be found out. Antigone is fighting an oppressive law enacted by an almost tyrant king, in order to fulfill the sacred rites and cultural customs of the gods. As a result, Creon is depicted as an antagonist and perhaps the audience hopes that he will suffer some sort of retribution for his misdeeds.
Creon’s second mistake is when he decides to kill Antigone as punishment for violating his law. On lines 657, Creon is talking to Haemon and states that he is resolved to kill Antigone.
I shall not now proclaim myself a liar,
but kill her.
He asks Haemon if he would rather see him weak to the public or see him stand strong like he is obligated to as king. Creon’s obsession with his public image and duty to the state over his familial loyalties stems from both a desire to stay honest, as shown in his refusal to proclaim himself a liar, and from a wish to fulfill the ideal image of a father and king, a ruler over his people and his family, and if he bends now, he will be seen as being ruled by his son and niece rather than ruling them. However, much like in Agamemnon’s tragedy Creon’s decision to fulfill is duties as a ruler at the expense of the lives of his family resulted in his killing of innocents. Even though he specifically outlawed the burying of Polyneices, Antigone was still following the laws of the gods so she didn’t actually do anything wrong. As a result, even though Creon is unjustly sentencing Antigone to death, he decides that he must enforce his horrific decision because he is afraid of looking like a weak ruler. His mistake is a result of his character flaws of stubbornness and hubris. He is also overly concerned about what the public thinks about him, as a result, he doesn’t want to be taken advantage of and fears potential anarchy.
Much like Agamemnon, Creon makes the conscious decision to make his mistakes but does not believe that what he is doing is incorrect. He uses his obligation to the state and regal authority to justify the fact that he is committing morally reprehensible acts. The fact that he implemented a law that technically made Antigone a criminal does not matter because the law went against the will of the gods in the first place. As a result, Creon is not making his mistakes out of malicious intent, but because his character is tragically flawed and his ability to be a merciful ruler is overshadowed by his fear of seeming like a weak ruler.
Furthermore, Creon’s stubbornness and refusal to listen to opposition from others only makes the situation worse. His tenacious allegiance to the laws of state turn out to do more harm than good. After he hears Teiresias’s prophecy that Creon is doomed and cannot escape fate, he baselessly accuses Teiresias of being paid off on lines 1061-1063.
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