What exactly makes someone a “hero” or a “tragic hero” if you will? Aristotle defined a tragic hero as a man of noble birth with heroic qualities whose fortunes change due to a tragic flaw or mistake that ultimately brings the hero’s downfall. Their tragic flaws makes them more relatable or/and get pity from the audience. However a hero is understood to be different to everyone. Anyone who influences anyone else by saving or even helping save his or her lives can be considered a hero. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. changed the lives of millions of people by bringing justice to minorities. Even a parent can be a hero to his or her child by leading them in the right direction. The definition of heroism changes with the context and of course with time. Heroes of the past are not necessarily heroes of present time and vise versa. But today we will focus our attention on Sophocles’s Antigone and how both Creon and Antigone can and should be considered Heros. Although the actions they take seem oppugnant, Antigone and Creon both share some characteristics which make the story even more interesting. Antigone and Creon are both strong characters, they are both stubborn, loyal and they both have a goal.
First let’s start with how both Creon and Antigone are confident and they are strong characters. They are both stubborn and it is shown in how they both will not back down for what they believe in. For example, Antigone has her mind set in burying her brother Polyneices. Even when her sister Ismene tries to convince her to follow Creon’s rules and to basically save her own life from being publicly stoned. Antigone goes ahead and argues with her , (page 3) “be what seems right to you; him will I bury. Death, so met, were honour; and for that capital crime of piety, Loving and loved, I will lie by his side” Ismene wants no part in this but promises not to tell a soul about her plan. Antigone also wants the world to know her loyalty is strong for her family (page 4) “Tell it, Tell it! You’ll cross me worse, by fast, if you keep silence — not publish it to all”. Antigone believes she is doing the honorable thing. She is very demanding with getting brother Polyneices body . 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.
Creon also shows some of the self-centered characteristics that Antigone does. For example, when Creon is approached by Tiresias and is told to let Antigone bury her brother Polyneices, Creon does not want to listen to him. Creon instead argues (page 39) “that man ye shall not cover with a tomb; Not though the eagle minister of Jove. To Jove’s own throne Gould bear their prey of him. Not even for horror at such sacrilege will I permit his burial.” Creon is not happy at the fact that Polyneices fought for the wrong side and for that his body must stay on the outside of the gates and no one is allowed to bury him. (page 20) “spoling, i say, this country; while his rival stood for it”
In the other hand, Creon does not believe in the loyalties of others. Not even of his own blood , his son Haemon. When Haemon tries and talk his dad out of sentencing Antigone to death. Creon assumes it is only because he is loyal to his fiancé Antigone, but not his father. Creon goes on and angrily says, (page 25)“leave her to wed some bridegroom in the graves! For, having caught her in the act, alone of the whole city disobeying me, I will not publicly bely myself, but kills her. Not let her go glorify her god of kindred!” He is also stubborn and wants the world to see that if you disobey him, you will pay the price. No matter if you are “your sons fiancé” or even niece. No mercy to no one. Creon assumes that whoever breaks the law or is not on his side, does so to hurt him or does it for the simple act of money.
Yet, another similarity is that Antigone and Creon are both loyal. The only difference here is that they are loyal to different things or people. Antigone is loyal to her family and Creon is loyal to the state, his people. Creon does not care that Antigone and Polynices are part of his family. Creon is a ruler and like any ruler, he must show that no one can or should cross him. He will sacrifice people, even his loved ones in order to maintain his power. The only thing Antigone cares about is that her brother gets a proper burial and is not left dead outside of the gates. So, she does what she needs to do and goes against Creon’s law and accepts her death for it. Antigone’s priority and her loyalty is to her family and that is far more admirable than Creon’s loyalty to the state. Creon had to establish order in a city divided between loyalties for the two brothers. So, he clearly had to support the rule of the former king to show his strong loyalty for the state and make an example of the brother who fought against his home city . In his mind, nothing is higher than the law of the land, and since the king’s word is law, his proclamation is that the traitor Polynices must be left unburied.
This all probably could have been under control if they had listen to literally what anyone had to say. They were both very headstrong, as a matter of fact Antigone refused to listen to her sister Ismene and Creon refused to listen to his son Haemon and he also refused to listen to Tiresias who tells him that the rites of the deads are the concerns of the gods and that the refusal of the burial will bring the curses of the gods down on Thebes. Although this may be true, Creon does not care to listen and he is too stubborn until everyone that is important to him unfortunately dies. Besides not listening, having no sympathy or concern to what other people have to say. Antigone and Creon both refused to listen to what each other had to say and refused to put themselves in each other shoes. They both try and intimidate one another. Antigone reminds Creon that he is defying the gods and by doing so he will suffer for it. Creon on the other hand reminds Antigone that he has the power of kill her.
Furthermore, Antigone and Creon cannot surrender to each other. If Creon gave in and was merciful to her, he felt that he would have broken his very first law and weakened himself as a ruler in the eyes of his people. Antigone felt she had to break Creon’s law for the honor of her already dishonored family. After living with the shame of an incestuous birth all their lives, her family had little left except an honorable death. She felt, it was the best they could hope for, and the least she could do for a member of her shamed family. Sadly, in the end, Creon found that the law of the gods was the only true absolute, and he had to give in at the end. Although Antigone’s arguments had some flaws, such as abandoning her sister for the sake of a dead brother while proclaiming family loyalty is important, her obedience to the gods showed the only true path for a moral.
One can also go as far and say that Creon and Antigone are both very prideful. Creon’s pride fills him not as a king superior to the gods,but also as a man superior to women. Creon is insulted at the very thought that a trifling woman dared to disobey him, stating that Antigone and Ismene shall be imprisoned until the execution takes place, ‘not free to roam’ like all women should be. (page 20) “then get you down. Thither, and love, if you must love, the dead! No Women, while I live, shall order me!” Creon is so prideful as a man that he does not believe a woman should ever tell him what to do. Antigone is prideful in the way that she doesn’t let her sister take blame. (Page 21) “That justice will not suffer; you refused, and I — I had no partner.” Antigone also says, “Mix not your death with mine. Do not claim work You did not touch. I shall suffice to die.” She wants the world to know she did all of this alone. Antigone refuses to let Ismene die honorably. She refused to help originally and believes she doesn’t deserve credit now. But Ismene did not want to take blame because it will look honorable. Ismene wanted to take part blame because without her sister, she has nothing left to live for. (Page 21) “and what care I for life, if I lost you?”
They both believe they are doing what is best for themselves. But Antigone has already accepted the fact that she is going to die. (page 33) “Thou grave, my bridal chamber! Dwelling-place hollowed in earth, the everlasting prison Whither i bend my steps, to join the band of kindred, whose more numerous host already Persephone hath counted with the dead; of whom i last and far most miserably Descend, before my term of life is full; i come, cherishing this hope especially, to win approval in my father’s sight, approval too, my mother, in thine, and thine Dear brother! For what these hands i paid unto you dead lavement and ordering And sepulchre-libations : and that now, Polynices, in the tendence of thy body i meet with his reward. Tet to the wise, it was no crime, that i did honour thee.” Antigone believes that everything she has done as been for the best and to honor her brother Polynices and also to honor her family. She even believes that for some people, what she has done has been no crime.
Creon and his stubbornness realizes he’s made a huge mistake. By not being merciful to Antigone, not only did he lose his niece but he also lost his son, Haemon. (page 48) “thou art dead, thou art sped, for a fault that was mine, not thine” Creon now believes it is all his fault. (page 48) “ah yes, i have learnt, i know my wretchedness!” Creon has learned that maybe, you should put your family first before the state. Yet, he cannot believe his son is dead due to his stubbornness and selfishlessness. (page 51) “lead me forth, cast me out, no other than a man undone; who did slay, unwitting, thy mother and thee, my son.”
Depending who you ask, Antigone and Creon are both heros in their own ways. Yes, they both could have fixed this in other ways. But when you’re fighting for what you believe is right, you will not stop until you prove your point. Regardless of losing your own life or causing the deaths of your loved ones. In the end we can argue that Antigone and creon both were very selfish and stubborn but they both really were fighting for what they believed was right in the first place.