Sophocles’ Antigone was a book that had a unique plot. One of the ideas presented in this specific play was feminism and Antigone’s determination to go against their ruler. Along with this idea occurred a number of tragedies, which means there’s also a tragic hero. There are numerous debates in determining the tragic hero in this play, between the protagonist Antigone and Creon, Antigone’s cruel uncle. Tragic heroes, in any work, is a character – not necessarily the protagonist- with a tragic flaw who brings upon their own downfall and misfortune. This makes it obvious that Creon is more fit to be considered as the tragic hero. Although Antigone faced many conflicts and flaws, Creon is more suitable to this title because of the conflicts he faces, his acknowledgement of his wrongdoings, and how he takes punishment at the end.
At the beginning, Creon is seen as a leader with fine morals and definite laws that come along with punishments. However, the conflict in the play starts when Creon doesn’t allow for a proper burial of Antigone’s brother. “Creon, who was allied with Eteocles, has proclaimed that the rebel Polyneices should not be allowed burial, under strict penalty of death to anyone who would disobey his order,” (Explanation of: ‘Antigone’)This portrays Creon with his excessive amount of pride he has towards his leadership role, which characterizes his tragic flaw. Another thing he does a lot is believing that everything he does, such as all his cruel actions, is the right thing to do and does not want to acknowledge that what he’s doing is wrong.
For example, in the text, the author states “O dearest Haimon, how your father wrong you! (Ismene) // I’ve had enough of your childish talk of marriage! (Creon)” This determines how Creon also wants to control his son’s marriage/ life, by saying that his decision of not wanting Antigone for him is correct, which is why he wants death to put them apart. He felt superiority when it came to his family. And even though Antigone’s brothers were in the throne, he felt as if he had higher authority than the gods. This can be seen when he says, “The State is the king!” He believes that none other than him can make all decisions for them. At this point, Creon is portrayed as arrogant. But Haemon replies with, “Yes, if the State is a desert.” This can consider that even his own son is not fond of his father and doesn’t like the way he rules. Yet making another point on the qualities of a tragic hero.
After a few turn of events, Creon soon realizes that all of his selfishness and pride he had gets in the way of his fate. It wasn’t until a prophet, Teiresias, reveals that Creon has a doomed future. “….deserted by Haemon, condemned by Teiresias, he is ultimately punished through his family” (Winnington). The writer states that as Creon knows of his fate, there is more doom to come from his family but it is not known to him until afterwards.
Although Creon may be full of his own pride, he cared for his family which is why his punishment for his actions refer to his family. “ Think: all men make mistakes,// But a good man yields when he knows his curse is wrong,// And repairs the evil (Play).” When Teiresias says this to Creon, he expects him to have a change of heart in letting Antigone free, but since Creon thought he was right about everything, he chose not to. He gave up this chance and by not doing so, he could’ve compensated for his wrong-doings. This all goes back to the characteristics of being a tragic hero. His tragic flaw being his pride because he wants to seem like he is a strong and flawless leader. He doesn’t want to be able to show his flaws to others and he also doesn’t want to accept them to himself. Therefore, after not being able to compensate for his actions, he actually falls for Teiresias’ prophecy of bringing calamity to his life.
At last, when Creon learns of the deaths, he starts to acknowledge all the conflicts he brought to himself and others. His wife died. His son died. These were the cause of the actions of Creon, the way his pride took over his doings/ sayings all contributed to these tragedies. “…Creon, whose tragedy is brought to its completion (Winnington)”. What this quote means is that after those deaths, Creon’s doom has come to be. When this happens, he started to realize that it all goes back to what he did, and he knows that he was the cause of it.
He says, “I have been rash and foolish…(Play )” Creon recognizes that he has been nothing but relying on his own instincts and focusing everything on his own decisions, and not knowing that doing that was hurting others, even if he didn’t do the things directly at them. His pride was what let him to his downfall and he acknowledges it far too late, not listening to what others had to say about his ruling. He wouldn’t take any ruling advice from anyone, not even from his own family. He also says, “Fate has brought all my pride to a thought of dust (Play)”. This determined how he acknowledged that it was his own pride that brought upon his own downfall. The realization of his mistakes and actions is another determination of a tragic hero.
Creon carries all the characteristics there is to a tragic hero. First, his tragic flaw was that he was full of pride. His pride led to all the other conflicts and he was involved in every problem, whether it was family wise or ruling wise. At the end, he was able to realize all his mistakes and acknowledged what it was that contributed to his downfall. On the other hand, Antigone might’ve had a tragic flaw and several conflicts, but she wasn’t able to acknowledge anything and it isn’t known that she learned from whatever mistakes she made. It’s also not shown where she knows about where she went wrong and such. Creon, though, does realize where he goes wrong even if it is far too late. Therefore, making Creon the true tragic hero of Antigone.