The True Tragic Hero in Sophocles’ Antigone
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.Order now
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.
Haemon 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.” .