Sophocles’s play, Antigone, expresses a journey of tragedy, nobility, and virtue through the actions of the tragic hero. A tragic hero, as defined by Aristotle, depicts one of high nobility, who experiences a tragic downfall due to their ignorance and blinding of their pride. However, the tragic hero also gains self-knowledge from their unacceptable actions. Creon’s tragic flaws of being stubborn and displaying hubris make him fit well into the role of a tragic hero, especially since he eventually realizes his wrongdoings. Although many tragic heroes suffer from death, Creon’s downfall includes the death of his wife and son, leaving him with culpability and regret. The tragic hero in Antigone is one of the most prominent characters, Creon, the egotistical ruler of the city Thebes.
With Creon’s stubbornness and hubris as the leading factors of the stirred up conflict in Antigone, he unknowingly was leading himself to his downfall along with others. Creon expresses his stubbornness in his retort to Haemon, who questions his father’s judgment, by stating, “Am I to rule this land after some will other than mine?” (Sophocles 28). Creon utilizes rhetorical questions to emphasize his point on how foolish and idiotic it is to doubt or disagree with his judgment, therefore, highlighting his arrogance. He labels himself as the sole ruler of Thebes, promoting his desire in having power over others. His stubborn character is revealed through his one-sided, defensive reply, indicating his inability to consider others’ opinions.
Consequentially, these personality traits of his lead to his deterioration and the collapse of others as well. Along with his stubbornness, Creon expresses his pride in his noble stature throughout the play and while speaking to Tiresias, “Know’ st thou of whom thou speak’ st? I am thy lord” (Sophocles 39). Creon uses this direct and straightforward statement to illuminate the strong value of his nobility and how it cannot be tarnished. He uses diction such as “lord,” expressing his arrogance and how it will be difficult for one to belittle and defame his noble title. By referring to his kingly rule in that manner, Creon accentuates his superiority over others. He becomes overly-prideful in his title and actions, causing him to be selfish and concerned more about the wellbeing of his reputation rather than the commemoration of a deceased person.
By receiving Tiresias’ prophetic advice, “Furies, from Death and Heaven, lay wait for thee, to take thee in the evil of thine own hands…For as to that, with no great wear of time, Men’s, women’s wails to thine own house shall answer” (Sophocles 40). After becoming fully aware of his deeds, everything around him begins to decline which is another factor that makes him a tragic hero. As Creon rushed to the tomb to release Antigone of her decree, he had come to see her cold, dead body hanging on fabric as a result of her doing. Haemon is there weeping for the death of his wife, and after an attempt to stab Creon for revenge and failing, he stabs himself, taking his own life to end his misery. Creon notices that almost all hope is lost and he confirms this by saying, “Ah, ah, thou art dead, thou art sped, for a fault that was mine, not thine!” (Sophocles 48). Continuing with the appalling events Creon has been put through, a messenger delivers the news that his wife, Eurydice, summoned evil to fall on Creon for being a child slayer as she took a knife and stabbed it to her heart, taking her own life as well. Creon is filled with dread from all these sudden deaths that came as a result of his prideful actions. His head, filled with grief, decides that he did not deserve to live, and he exclaims, “Come, thou most welcome Fate, appear, O come; bring my days; final date, Fill up their sum! Come quick, I pray; let me not look upon another day!” (Sophocles 51). Following the elements of a tragic hero, Creon eventually came to his senses about his stubborn and conceited actions, but unfortunately, it was too late as it led to the consequence of the death of his family.
Many may argue that Antigone is the true tragic hero in the play since the play is named Antigone after all. But on the contrary, Creon is more qualified to be the tragic hero because unlike Antigone, he recognizes and admits to his wrongdoings. During her heated argument with Creon, she pays tribute to her brother, Polyneices, stating, “To honour thee to the end, in Creon’s sight appear in that I did so to offend” (Sophocles 34). Antigone emits a sarcastic tone, highlighting how she thinks it is wrong and unlawful for her to be punished for burying Polyneices. She does not accept the fact that she was punished because she went against the law and committed treason, but blames her punishment solely on Creon’s unsympathetic character. She is blinded by her will to do right with the gods, and she ends up meeting her end, without the realization of her faults. Creon is not ashamed to admit he was wrong and he says, “Woe is me! To none else can they lay I, this guilt, but to me!” (Sophocles 50). In contrast to his actions at the beginning of the play when Creon was too arrogant to admit to his faults, he eventually accepts and regrets his wrongdoings, following the path of a tragic hero. This shows his growth as a character, as he now can accept some of his most prominent tragic flaws of being stubborn and overly prideful. He embodies his faults and pays a solemn apology to those whom he has harmed. Although he was not the one to face death, he still had to pay the consequences of regret and deep grief.
Creon takes the role of a tragic hero in Antigone because he displays characteristics, such as hubris and stubbornness, that take over his mindset of what is truly the correct thing to do. Stubbornness oftentimes evokes defensiveness and causes one to focus on their opinion, and their opinion only. This leads to one’s lack of judgment which serves as a dangerous factor when making important decisions, unaware if their judgment is correct or not. Although he understood his mistakes near the end, he still brought others to their end as well as his downfall of grief. Had Creon not realized his immoral actions and tragic flaw, he would not have been the tragic hero in this play.