Antigone and Kreon. In Antigone, both Antigone and Kreon could be considered the tragic heroes of the play. A tragic hero, as defined by A Dictionary of Literary, Dramatic and Cinematic Terms, is someone who suffers due to a tragic flaw or hamartia. This Greek word is variously translated as “tragic flaw,” “error,” or “weakness.” Kreon’s hamartia, like in many plays, is hubris, which is Greek for overweening pride, arrogance, or excessive confidence. Kreon’s hubris causes him to attempt to violate the laws of order or human rights, another main part of a tragic hero. Also, like all tragic heroes, Kreon suffers because of his hamartia and then realizes his flaw.
The belief that Antigone is the hero is a strong one, but there is a stronger belief that Kreon, the ruler of Thebes, is the true protagonist. Kreon’s main and foremost hamartia was his hubris or his extreme pride. Kreon was a new king, and he would never let anyone prove him wrong or let anyone change his mind once it was made. One main event that showed Kreon’s hamartia and also caused the catastrophe was when he asked his son Haimon, who was engaged to marry Antigone, if he still loved his father.
Haimon says he respects Kreon’s ruling, but he feels, in this case, that Kreon was wrong. Haimon asks his father to take his advice and not have Antigone executed, but because of Kreon’s hubris, Kreon gets furious and makes the situation worse than it already was. He was way too proud to take advice from someone younger, and in his anger, he decided to kill Antigone right away in front of Haimon’s eyes. “‘Just understand: You don’t insult me and go off laughing. Bring her here! Let him see her. Kill her here, beside her bridegroom'” (Sophocles 919-921). This was too much for Haimon to take, and he runs out of the room, yelling, “‘… her death will destroy others'” (Sophocles 908).
Blinded by his pride and arrogance, Kreon takes that remark as a threat to himself, unknowing that it wasn’t directed at himself, but was a suicide threat by his own son. Another example of Kreon’s tragic pride is when the prophet Teiresias travels all the way to Thebes to tell Kreon very important news, but Kreon’s pride makes him ignore it, and he accuses Teiresias of being bribed. Teiresias tells Kreon that the gods are angered by Kreon’s disregard for their laws, and that Kreon should release Antigone and bury Polyneices. After Teiresias tells Kreon that he, the king of Thebes, has made a wrong decision, Kreon’s tragic pride is shown again.
Teiresias: “Doesn’t anyone know, won’t anyone consider…?” Kreon: “Consider what? What universal truths are you going to proclaim?” Teiresias: “…how much more valuable than money good advice is?” Kreon: “Or how much worse losing your judgement is?” (Sophocles 1210-1214)
Teiresias, a blind prophet from Delphi who has never been proven wrong, tells Kreon, “‘All mankind is subject to error. Once a mistake is made…it is wise of him to make amends and not be unbending. Stubbornness is stupidity'” (Sophocles 1180-1184), but Kreon remains stubborn.
Teiresias: “And tyrants love to have their own way regardless of right and wrong.” Kreon: “Do you know who you’re talking to? We’re your rulers” (Sophocles 1225-1228).
Like all tragic heroes, Kreon must suffer because of his hamartia. After his anagnorisis, Greek for recognition, he realizes that he was filled with too much pride and that the prophet’s prediction must be true. Kreon attempts to set things right, but unfortunately does not do so in time. In a very ironic peripeteia, Greek for reversal, his son commits suicide, as does his wife. This is all because of Kreon’s tragic flaw: Pride. Kreon realizes this and suffers, like all tragic heroes. Suffering is one of the main parts of a tragic hero’s realization of his or her tragic flaw when it’s too late and suffering because of it.
Kreon’s realization of his flaw is very obviously shown when he says, “…I was wrong, not you” (Sophocles 1464), and “I have learned, I am ruined. It was a god. Then, right then! Hit me, held me, heaped heavy on my head…” (Sophocles 1468-1469). His suffering is also obviously shown. “Has someone a sword? I and grief are blended. I am grief” (Sophocles 1502), “Hurry, take me out of the way, I’m nobody. I’m nothing” (Sophocles 1510-1511).
Kreon is a tragic hero because his actions follow the typical “tragic hero” outline. He had a hamartia, a tragic flaw, which was his pride and stubbornness, or hybris. He realized his hamartia but unfortunately just too late and suffered because of it. Now, “suffering is his teacher.” He has learned the hard way, but like all tragic heroes, he has learned. Kreon’s character followed the basic outline of a tragic hero.
Critics to this day still argue about who is the tragic hero of Antigone, Antigone herself, or Kreon. From what I have found, Kreon seems like the perfect “tragic hero” because he fits all the requirements of a tragic hero. Antigone, on the other hand, does not. She does not realize her hamartia, and while Kreon must live with what he has done, Antigone is dead. Death ceases her suffering, letting her rest for eternity. (Sophocles)