The True Tragic Hero in Sophocles’
In Master Sophocles’ Antigone, the question
of who the tragic hero really is has been a subject of debate for a great
number years. Creon does possess some of the qualities that constitute
a tragic hero but unfortunately does not completely fit into the role.
Antigone, however, possesses all the aspects of a tragic hero. These are,
in no particular order, having a high social position, not being overly
good or bad, being tenacious in their actions, arousing pity in the audience,
a revelatory manifestation, and having a single flaw that brings about
their own demise and the demise of others around them. Antigone possesses
all of these traits therefore qualifying as the tragic hero.
The first qualifying aspect is that Antigone
is of a high social standing in Thebes. Creon himself refers to her as
a princess though she is technically no longer one. Because of her high
standing she is capable of great suffering, in that she has a lot of fame
and regard to lose. Those who say Creon is the tragic hero state say that
Antigone is no longer in a high position in the society, therefore does
not qualify on that account. If the character had needed to be in a high
political position this would be true, but they need only have a great
deal to lose in their downfall. Although she may no longer hold political
power Antigone is still a powerful figure in Thebes, since she was to be
married to Creon’s son Haemon and the whole city seemed to know how tragic
her life had become.
Antigone and Creon would qualify as the
tragic hero if the only requirement was not being overly good or bad. Creon
shows his negative side when he refuses to bury Polyneices and when he
speaks to the sentry. His positive side is shown in his obvious affection
for Antigone and Ismene, whom he has attempted to raise since their fathers
death. Antigone’s ungodly side is shown by her incestuous behavior with
her brother Polyneices. Her positive side is shown by the way the she insists
on respecting his right to be buried in the religious tradition of Greece
so that his soul may live on in the afterlife.
Another aspect of a tragic hero is an unwavering
course of action, most likely caused by their flaw, that brings about their
demise and the demise of those around them.
Antigone’s flaw is her rash
and headstrong behavior. This is the source of the conflict in the play.
Had Antigone asked Creon for permission to bury Polyneices in observance
of the Greek role in religious life he would have probably allowed it.
Instead, she rashly decided to take matters into her own hands, most likely
because of her anger in losing the true love of her life. This aspect also
emerges later in the play, when Antigone decides to kill herself in the
cave rather than give Creon the satisfaction of the deed. Had she not been
so imprudently hasty she would have been spared her life by Creon, who
was on his way to free Antigone and have Polyneices given a proper burial.
Creon does not have a tenacious nature,
and therefore could not be the Aristotelian tragic hero. His ineptness
as a ruler is prevalent in the way he wavers on the topic of Polyneices
burial. In the beginning he seems very stubborn, which some say is one
of the fatal flaws that qualify him as a tragic hero, but later changes
his mind. The true tragic hero would stick to their fatal flaw, like Antigone
did, until their complete demise.
As far as the issue of arising pity in
the audience and in other characters, it is clear that Antigone clearly
wins over Creon in the arena of intensity of emotion. All of Thebes sympathizes
with Antigone, especially after she has been sentenced to death.
himself tells his father “And I have heard them, muttering and whispering…They
say no woman has ever, so unreasonably, died so shameful a death for a
generous act.” It is obvious that she had the pity of the entire city except
for Creon. Creon, however, is not sympathized with at all except for the
chorus, which always agrees with the last point of view presented.
readers may be inclined to side with him, but the entire city is opposed
to him during the play disqualifying him as the tragic hero.
Another issue that has been brought up
in the .