As defined in class, a tragic character is a character who suffers because of a tragic flaw or, in Aristotle’s opinion, because of an error or mistake they made. They also tend to evoke pity or sadness in the audience. In Sophocles’s Antigone, Creon’s hubris and his stubbornness, which prevent him from taking advice from others, lead to his tragic end. By the time Creon eventually realizes his flaws, he is unable to stop the devastating events that unfold before his eyes. Creon is initially a loyal and strong king. However, his deep and fatal flaws turn him from a powerful king, to a man unable to stop his downfall. Creon’s eventual repentance and realization that he is wrong evokes pity, as the reader sees Creon going to free Antigone, but is too late and finds Antigone dead and watches Haimon kill himself. Creon is the tragic character in the play Antigone because of his fatal flaws, such as pride and stubbornness, that lead to his demise and prevent him from using his initial good qualities to his benefit.Order now
Creon is initially portrayed as a strong king with good intentions for his kingdom. He is a natural leader, with logical ideas and good judgement. Creon says, “I call God to witness that if I saw my country headed for ruin, I should not be afraid to speak out plainly,”(197) which emphasizes Creon’s wisdom and discernment. However, Creon’s downfall is foreshadowed early on in the play, as Creon uses his title and power of king to show and emphasize his superiority: “You forget yourself! You are speaking to the king!”(233) While Creon has good qualities, his fatal flaw of hubris is what starts to corrupt his mind and lead to his demise. Creon’s pride is what prevents him from being able to listen to advice from others. Creon has many opportunities to put aside his pride and show mercy to Antigone. After all, he had previously shown that he was a leader with good discernment. However, because of his hubris, Creon does not want to back down and in the process, loses his son and wife because of his inability to listen to other’s ideas. He does not want to admit that others are right and that he is in the wrong. However, he goes from the proud king who thinks he is better than everyone, to watching his last son Haimon fall on his own sword and later finding out that his wife killed herself out of grief, simply because of his pride.
Creon’s stubbornness and his refusal to allow a proper burial for Polyneices is also one of his fatal flaws that ends up hurting himself and leads to his tragic end. Creon refuses to listen to anyone, even Tiresias, who is a proclaimed prophet and delivers messages from the gods. Essentially, Creon is so stubborn that he is able to disregard what the powerful gods have to say. Tiresias says to Creon, “Think: all men make mistakes, But a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.”(232) Creon replies, “Whatever you say, you will not change my will.”(234) Creon doesn’t even take the chance to listen and make an informed judgment; instead, his mind is already made up and he refuses to change it. Creon does not want to admit that he was wrong about imprisoning Antigone and refusing to bury Polyneices. When Creon finally relents and gives up his stubbornness, he personally went to give Polyneices a proper burial, then rushed to free Antigone. Like Romeo and Juliet, the poor timing of the events is what causes them to unfold so tragically. If Creon had only realized his mistake sooner and been less stubborn, Antigone might have been saved and he could have prevented Haimon’s death. Creon also chose to go bury Polyneices first to make up for his mistake. In reality, this decision prevented him from getting to Antigone earlier, and when he arrives to the scene he finds Antigone dead and watches Haimon kill himself. Creon does not get to bear the punishment of his own actions. Instead, he is forced to lose both his wife and his son for something that he caused, all because he held onto his stubbornness for too long, which shows how truly fatal his stubbornness was.
Another aspect of a tragic character is that he/she should evoke sadness and pity for them among the readers or audience. Although the play is called Antigone, we do not feel as much sympathy towards Antigone as, from the beginning, Antigone’s fate was apparent. She stated, “But I will bury him; and if I must die, I say that this crime is holy: I shall lie down with him in death.”(192) She was willing to die all along. However, Creon’s fate is constantly changing. After talking to Tiresias, Creon seems to have finally realized his mistake and repents: “I will go-Bring axes, servants: Come with me to the tomb. I buried her, I will set her free.”(236) But the audience can only free sorry for Creon as he arrives to free Antigone and walks in to see her dead and to then watch his son kill himself. Additionally, he loses his wife, who kills herself after hearing about Haimon’s death. Creon accepts that his actions have killed his wife and son and only blames himself: “It is right that it should be. I alone am guilty. I know it.”(244) This tragic ending evokes empathy towards Creon, who started off as a strong king whose stubbornness prevented him from making good decisions. He is then unable to listen to others and take their advice, but when he finally accepts that he is in the wrong, he has lost everything meaningful in his life.
Stubbornness and pride are very human flaws and may even resonate with some audience members. It is sometimes hard for humans to listen to others and put aside their own convictions. While Creon’s may have been extreme, he does not deserve to lose his family.