Tragic Hero


Tragic Hero Essay, Research Paper

Who Is the Tragic Hero, Antigone or Creon?

This analysis is to determine the character that fits the tragic hero profile; it was completely based according to the Aristotelian idea of tragic hero and it is understood that hero is:

??neither purely evil or purely wicked; the hero must born in the high social status, and he/she must possess a tragic flaw which is proper from the inner side of the character; it usually manifests in the form of poor judgment and or arrogance, condemning him/herself into a catastrophic finality and in the meanwhile, establishes other character?s destiny? (Eschbach 02/17,).

Either Antigone or Creon is situated in the highest level of the social hierarchy. Creon became the king of Thebes, after his two nephews killed each other over the throne; Antigone (Creon?s niece), was an orphan who happened to be Creon?s future daughter in law. Both presented moral values, differing exclusively on the situation they were applied. Creon?s actions towards the people reflected honesty and equal treatment upon the laws he made. Antigone?s actions towards the burial of her brother (although he fought against his country, she taught that he deserved to be buried), reflected fidelity and respect upon the religious tradition and the gods? laws. However, both presented hubris, which made either one wrong.; Creon would not accept anybody?s disobedience against his laws, and Antigone, on the other hand, would not give up on her brother?s burial. In this case, Creon is wrong because he does not have the right to choose the person that could be buried; his laws could not intervene the gods? laws. Antigone is just as wrong as Creon. By disobeying the men?s laws, she automatically disobeyed the gods? laws as well.

After a profound analysis of the tragedy, I strongly think that Antigone is not able to be a tragic heroine. Although she encounters the high status of the social hierarchy, her hubris, her moral values and philosophy of living, she is not as adequate as Creon is in Aristotle?s profile. Antigone possesses all moral values to be, somewhat, a heroine (not a tragic one); she is an eminent example of someone who did what she thought it was right to do (Polynieces? burial), and while she was among danger, obstacles and people who were cowards (Chorus), she obeys the laws of the gods and is careless about the mortal law?s penalty, her own death. She explains to her sister that her reward after death would reflect on her nobility and values while she was alive.

?So, do as you [Ismene] like, whatever suits you best I will bury him myself. And even if I die in the act, that death will be a glory? (Sophocles 1045).

She also admits that her departure from the mortals? world would help her escape her miserable life (referring to her family loss). She is just too perfect to be a tragic hero; she only does what is right, and her death is not seen as a tragedy and yet, a benefit.

What are left on my thoughts are the reasons that make Creon more tragic than Antigone. Is it relevant to analyze which of the characters suffered more to realize right from wrong? Which one basically lost almost everyone in the family due to arrogance, stubbornness and pride?

Creon is the only one considered the tragic hero because he comes from the highest level of the social status; he is ?neither perfect or ultimate evil? (, he is stubborn, and he also reflects a personality full of pride. By being the king of Thebes, he is in a position of great power, nobility, responsibility, and influence. He occupies some sense of morality and also states nobility by defending and protecting his city over everything he encounters opposing his rules. He is very clear when he says

?These are my principles. Never at my hands will the traitor be honored above the patriot? (Sophocles 1048).

Creon is a very fair and excellent ruler; he punishes the wrong and rewards the good.

?But whoever proves his loyalty to the state I?ll prize that man in death as well as life? (Sophocles 1048).

On the other hand, the character is not perfect. His choice of punishment, refusing and demanding that nobody is allowed to bury Polynieces? body does not achieve his moral values, and yet he dishonors the gods? laws. These actions are how hubris and self-indulgence are manifested, and consequently what turns Creon imperfect (tragic flaw); he emphasizes his power and equates himself with the gods by stating that he can take lives away as he wants:

?But whoever proves his loyalty to the state, I?ll prize that man in death as well as life? (Sophocles 1048).

Creon?s main tragic flaw is hubris or his pride, and his arrogance in the face of the immortals; he committed the mistake since the beginning of the tragedy by denying the fundamental divine right of Polynices? burial. In addition to it, he also is strict and certain of Antigone?s condemnation for her opposition against ?his? law, but he was the only one who was against the divine law. Antigone?s reasons for burying her brother were strictly to demonstrate love, loyalty, honor, and respect for her family and for her brother to be accepted in the gods? land. However, the main reason that Creon is angered is not the fact that Polynieces fought against his city, and yet the insult and betrayal of his own niece, especially by being a female figure who disobeyed him in public; it is even worse because she is his son?s (Haemon) fianc?, and, therefore, his ego is quite damaged.

?Go down below and love, if love you must ? love the dead! While I?m alive, / no woman is going to lord it over me? (Sophocles 1057).

The type of punishment given to Antigone was very severe and cowardly, in contrast to the main reason that caused it. Why would he lock Antigone up and starve her to death when he could have her killed in an effective and quick way? He did that to make it very clear to everyone that he is the only one who possesses power and would reach the lowest moral level to anyone who would dare to be against his rules:

?I will take her down some wild, desolate path never trod by men, and wall her alive in a rocky vault, and set out short rations, just the measure piety demands /to keep the entire city free of defilement? (Sophocles 1064).

Creon demonstrates arrogance, egocentrism, and he contradicts himself. A good example of it is the argument he has with his son. Haemon says that the entire population of Thebes disagrees with Creon?s punishment for Antigone, but he certainly says:

?And is Thebes about to tell me how to rule? ? Am I to rule this land for others-or myself? ? The city is the king?s- that?s the law!? (Sophocles 1063).

This could be interpreted as how can inferior people tell him what to do? In this situation, Creon contradicts himself because at the beginning he said that he would do what his people want him to do, and then eventually he says exactly the opposite of what he said in the first place.

Eventhough after Tiresias? advice?? you have no business with the dead, nor do the gods above- this is violence you have forced upon the heavens. And so the avengers, the dark destroyers late but true to the mark, now lie in wait for you, the Furies sent by the gods and the god by the death to strike you down with the pains that you perfected!? (Sophocles 1072), the king remained blind by his pride. This dialogue, which Creon has with Tiresias reminds the one his brother, Oedipus ?He once had to face the truth told by Tiresias but he was also blinded by his hubris? (Eschbach 02/15). They were both stubborn and blinded by their pride; at the first place, they also would not listen to Tiresias, a prophet who has always told everyone the truth. And as it was told in the previous tragedy, ?the curse over Oedipus? family would prevail with the continuation of his family? (Taylor), so his sons and daughters were included in the curse and therefore, their story would end up in tragedy. With his personality, Creon, just happened to be the ?black sheep? on that occasion, and so he suffered just as his brother did.

?Oh I?ve learned through blood and tears! Then it was then, when the god came down and struck me-a great weight shattering, driving me down that wild savage path, ruining, trampling down my joy. Oh the agony, the heartbreaking agonies of our lives? (Sophocles 1077).

Creon finally realizes that his hubris was causing catastrophes among the ones he loved. He overlooked the situation and kept in mind what Tiresias had said; he became rational.

?Now ?I?m on my way! Come each of you, take up axes, make for the high ground, over there, quickly! I and my better judgment have come round to this- I shackled her, I?ll set her free myself. I am afraid? it is best to keep the established laws to the very day we die?and the guilt is all mine (Sophocles 1078).

He now knows that the immortal laws cannot be broken by anyone who resides in the mortal world, thus the one who dares to break them would have to assume the responsibility of the consequences.

?Take me away, I beg you, out of sight. A rash, indiscriminate fool! I murdered you, my son, against my will you too, my wife?Wailing wreck of a man whom to look to? Where to lean for support?? (Sophocles 1079).

Unfortunately, it was too late when he became rational: Antigone committed suicide due to Polynices? burial mandate, Haemon died by threading himself with a sword, and Eurydice (his wife), killed herself as soon as she found out her son was dead.

?She stabbed herself at the altar? [because he] ?killed her son? (Sophocles 1078).

In spite of his hubris and actions, he did not only kill his son and wife, but everyone in Thebes disliked him, and as a consequence, he ended up living with regret and lonely for the rest of his life.

According to Aristotle, I defend my opinion that Creon is the only tragic hero by just analyzing his main tragic flaw: hubris, the essential reason to start a riot among his kingdom; his late realization of wrong things he has caused and, his reprimand from the immortals was even worse than his punishment; he had to live in sorrow for the rest of his life. On parallel, Antigone was just a perfect mortal, who has done everything for the gods? will, and besides her suicide she certainly left with no considerable sins from the world she lived. Once she committed suicide, there was no more pain and agony.

Eschbach, Elizabeth. Lecture. ?Oedipus at Colonus.? Orlando. Valencia Community College.

15 Feb. 2000.

Eschbach, Elizabeth. Lecture. ?Antigone.? Orlando. Valencia Community College.

17 Feb. 2000.

Sophocles. Antigone. Trans. Robert Fagles. Discovering Literature: Stories, Poems, Plays.

2 ed. Gabriele L.Rico and Hans P. Guth. Upper Sadde River, NJ: Blair Press, 1997. (1042-1079).

Taylor, Don. Antigone. Videocassette. Film for the Humanities, 1988

Unknown. ?Aristotle?s Tragic Hero.? 16 Feb. 2000.


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