Essay on Hubris in 'Antigone'

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An expression that comes from the Bible reads, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” This expression illustrates the idea that when people possess too much pride and stubbornness, they will eventually make mistakes that can lead to complications and disaster. Although excessive pride is a sin that will inevitably bring about your downfall, many proud people realize this only when they are faced with a grave situation. The consequences of hubris and stubbornness are inspected in the tragedy, Antigone, written by Sophocles, when the king of Thebes, Creon, endures the suicide of his son and wife, as well as his niece, leading him to eventually end up defeated and alone. Because Creon is unable to make rational decisions as a result of his adamant personality and massive ego, he ends up generating suffering. Creon’s unwavering stubbornness along with his hubristic personality is accompanied by unforeseen repercussions seeing as he is persistent and punishes Antigone for her unwillingness to yield to his will, and is too proud to take advice from his eldest son, Haemon. This is important because it emphasizes that decisions driven by excessive pride and obstinacy can lead people to make impulsive and ignorant decisions, which often can result in dreadful and sometimes fatal consequences.

Creon’s stubbornness results in deadly consequences when he penalizes Antigone for disobeying his order disclosing that stubbornness can blind people from making logical and unbiased decisions. After catching Antigone burying the body of her deceased brother, Creon proceeds to humiliate and reprimand her. When Antigone admits to burying her brother’s body, Creon replies, “She gloats over her deed. But as I live, She shall not flout my orders with impunity. My sister’s child was she even nearer, Nearest and dearest, she should not escape Full punishment-she, and her sister too, Her partner, doubtless, in this burying” (Sophocles 139). When Antigone admits that she has disobeyed Creon, he obstinately and verbally attacks her for challenging his orders and refuses to see the situation from her perspective. He states that “she shall not flout my orders with impunity,” which can be interpreted as him saying that his orders and beliefs are absolute and cannot be altered. He is so iron-willed that he does not even stop for one moment to understand why Antigone did what she did, determining that his decision was justified. Furthermore, he even goes as far as to blindly blame Antigone’s sister, Ismene, for aiding her sister in burying Polyneices. He aimlessly points fingers, convinced that anyone who does not believe in the same thing he does is guilty. Creon is so hard-headed that he is willing to incriminate and punish one of his nieces for standing up and doing what she thinks is right while he wrongly accuses the other one. His decision to punish Antigone backfires on him when she ultimately decides to take her own life, just as he decides to release her. When the messenger heard Haemon shout in anguish, he rushed to Antigone’s prison to discover, “her hanging by the neck. The rope was of the woven linen of her dress” (159). The messenger describes how Antigone was “hanging by the neck,” showing that she had decided to take her own life rather than die agonizingly and alone from hunger. To elaborate, hanging is a form of punishment used in the 15th and 16th centuries to dispose of criminals. It is important to note that Sophocles has Antigone die by hanging rather than any other way, which, in a way, symbolizes that she died how a criminal would be sentenced to death, or in the modern world, how many people would take their lives. When Creon tries to comfort his son after he discovers his wife’s lifeless body he, “Spat in his face, and then without a word Drew sword and stuck out” (159). Haemon refuses his father’s comfort and sympathy and proceeds to spit in his father’s face showing his disgust for his father. Generally, spitting in anyone’s face is seen as a sign of disrespect or disobedience, which is exactly what Haemon shows. Haemon went from grief-stricken to angry and blames his father for the death of his bride-to-be. Additionally, Haemon “drew a sword and stuck out,” implying that he was ready to take his father’s life in vengeance for Antigone. At this point in the play, Haemon has lost all respect for his father even willing to slaughter him for his sins. Because Creon refused to acknowledge Antigone’s perspective and punished her for burying her brother, she ultimately took her own life, which in the process resulted in his son losing all respect for him. From this, readers are enlightened and shown how decisions made stubbornly and rashly can come with unfortunate and sometimes irreversible consequences.

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Creon’s hubristic personality also causes tragic repercussions because, rather than heeding his son’s advice, he ignores him because of his age, demonstrating that excessive pride can blind people, leading them to make irrational decisions. After the Chorus declares that both Creon and Haemon have good points in their argument to decide Antigone’s fate, Creon angrily responds by saying, “Indeed! Am I to take lessons at my time of life From a fellow of his age?” (146). Too proud to listen to his son’s advice, Creon arrogantly tries to show his superiority by mentioning the age gap between them. He asks the Chorus why he should take lessons from “a fellow of his age,” signifying that he believes Haemon is too young to be advising Creon, who is older than him. The “indeed,” means that Creon might even agree with what his son is saying but he cannot bear to be enlightened by a mere young boy like him. Haemon proceeds to explain to his father that the people of Thebes have sided with Antigone and have no desire to participate in her execution. When asked if Antigone’s action was dishonorable, Haemon responds by saying, “The people of Thebes think not,” to which Creon retorts back by saying, “The people of Thebes! Since when do I take my orders from the people of Thebes?” (146). Oblivious of his pride, Creon snaps at anyone who questions his jurisdiction. As a king, Creon is supposed to listen to his people, but he refuses to do so based on the sole fact that he is too proud to admit that he was wrong to give Antigone such a harsh punishment. Furthermore, Creon accuses Creon of having, “No more will than a woman” (146). Instead of acknowledging different views on the same issue, Creon attacks his son and makes irrational claims because his mind is clouded by his pride. These actions, driven by excessive pride, eventually led to the death of not only his son but his wife as well. When Creon went to release Antigone, a while after, the Messenger came to announce that, “Haemon is dead slain by his own- His hand. His father’s act it was that drove him to it” (157). Creon’s determination to punish the enemy of the city, even when he is dead, directly causes the death of his youngest son. The messenger describes that Haemon had slain himself with “his hand,” which meant that he had purposely killed himself. This extreme decision to kill himself is a result of “his father’s act,” with the act being he sentenced Haemon’s bride-to-be to starve to death, causing her to take her own life instead. Haemon’s death, unfortunately for Creon, is quickly followed by the death of his wife, Eurydice. Upon hearing about the death of her beloved son, Eurydice, “with her hand she drove the sharp sword home into her heart” (161). Eurydice’s suicide is a result of Haemon killing himself over Antigone’s death, which all traces back to Creon. The messenger describes how Eurydice killed herself, to emphasize the fact that she decided to take her own life over the loss of her son. He also mentions how she “drove the sharp sword home into her heart,” to show readers how she felt. Eurydice felt a deep emotional wound in her heart over Haemon’s death, which is represented by a literal stab to the heart. The word home is used to describe a place where one lives, generally with other family members. The word home is used in the quote to signify how her son was her “home” but now that he was dead there was a crack in her home/heart. Creon is left alone and burdened with the deaths of three very close people to him. He grieves in solitude and finally realizes that all this suffering was of his own doing and could have been prevented had he acted more wisely. Because Creon’s suffering is a direct result of not listening to Haemon’s advice, readers are taught that too much pride can affect one’s ability to make rational decisions, and it is important to keep your pride in check when making important decisions.

Creon’s misfortunes come from his stubbornness and excessive pride. He attempted to harshly punish Antigone for going against his wishes and arrogantly refused to listen to his son’s suggestions when he had his best interests at heart. His obstinacy and hubris blind him from making good decisions which could have prevented his suffering that ultimately left him in solitude. Although Creon acknowledges his mistakes at the end of the play, it is too late as he is already burdened by the suicides of his spouse, son, and niece. Sophocles’ tragedy advises readers about the consequences of excessive pride and being pertinacious, and the suffering it can cause.  

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Essay on Hubris in ‘Antigone’. (2024, May 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 14, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-hubris-in-antigone/
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