The Thebian play of Antigone has excited many debates over the years. The most prevalent being who exactly could be characterized as the tragic hero in the story. The argument that Antigone is the hero is deffinatly a strong one. There are many critics who believe that Creon, however, is the true protagonist of the play. In order to determine whether or not Creon is the tragic hero one must first examine what a tragic hero is.
Aristotle states that a hero is neither purely innocent nor purely malevolent. A hero is usually born into high rank of society, and this person must possess a tragic flaw. This flaw normally stems from either poor judgment or extreme arrogance. This flaw will inevitably contribute to the characters downfall.
As the play opens one becomes acquainted with King Creon as the head of his society. This in itself meets one of Aristotles criteria for being a tragic hero, yet as one reads further into the play it becomes obvious that Creon possesses the tragic flaw of arrogance.
He refuses to admit that he is wrong in his judgment over Antigone. When Creon refuses to yield with his order for Antigone to die he exemplifies his own tragic flaw. Creon refuses to admit he is wrong because he believes within himself that he is right. This weakness can be compared to Romeo, in the famous play by William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, who is impulsive and unyielding in his certitude. When Haemon comes to his father after hearing the news of Antigones plight he pleads with Creon to be reasonable. Haemon compares Creon to trees in a flood.
Youve seen trees by a raging winter torrent. How many sway with the flood and salvage every twig, but not the stubborn-theyre ripped out. (Lines 797-799) Haemon wants his father to see that this ruling he has made is unwise and rash and yet Creon ignores his advice because he believes that what he has done is for the greater good of the kingdom, and therefore honors the gods of his people. Creon cannot afford to think of the well being of his son or even his niece Antigone, he must be selfless because that is what is honorable. Here it is shown that Creon is not absolutely malicious, he is thinking of his kingdom when he damns Antigone to certain death. He is also not entirely without fault; Creon is revealed to be a very arrogant man throughout the play.
He does not admit his own mistake until the very end. Even then it is only after Tiresias tells him of the occurrences in the sanctuary that he sees his folly and tries to repent.
It is also written that a tragic hero has the power to affect one or more characters within the tragedy. Creons kingly status, conveniently places him in a position of extreme power. The degree of this power is made evident when Creon sentences Antigone to death for violating his proclamation. Creons ultimate power as king allows for his influence on other characters in the play and therefore satisfies a standard of the tragic hero.
As the title tragic hero implies, Creon must have a tragic flaw. Creons hubris is his tragic flaw that cements his position of the tragic hero of this play. That is Creons pride and egotism in the face of divine laws creates the tragedy in which innocent people are killed in this play. His demise begins when he denies the divine right of burial to Polyneices and was only driven further when he condemns Antigone to death for her opposition to his law. It is important to acknowledge here that Antigone disputes this law because it is Creons law, mans law, and directly contradicts the laws of the gods. Antigone is argued to be the tragic hero of the play, but for this to be true her motives cannot be pure.
Antigone wants to burry her brother for no other reason than it is the will of the gods for it to be done. Never once does she question this, even at the threat of her own death. She is pure in .