Antigone-Analysis of Creon’s speech
Thesis Statement: Analysis of importance and role the speech of Creon takes in Antigone play.
Table Of Contents
- Introduction: Creon’s usage of his speech to introduce himself, his ideals and plans to the people
- How Creon’s speech creates the background for conflict in the context of the play’s events
- Analysis of the speech conventional opening and its purpose
- How Creon flatters elders to win them to his side
- Creon introducing his political principles to justify his decision concerning Polyneices
- The clever usage of pronouns in the speech
- The persuasive effect of contrasting Eteocles and Polyneices
- How Creon’s speech reveals his personal traits
- The usage of categoric statements as a representation of the king’s determination and selfishness
- The way Antigone’s and Creon’s positions are opposed by what they say
- Conclusion: The role Creon’s speech plays in introducing his character, contrasting different sets of values and setting the conflict backgound in the play
How is Creon’s character introduced through his opening speech in the First Episode and how does this speech create tension? After the war between Oedipus’ two sons Eteocles and Polyneices killed both brothers, Creon, their uncle, ascended to the throne as the nearest kinsman. This speech is Creon’s first as king and its main aims are to explain his legitimacy, outline his political ideals and justify his proclamation regarding the treatment of Polyneices.
Being an astute speaker, Creon’s speech contained effective usage of the art of persuasion, showing his shrewdness, inflexibility and arrogance. By contrasting Antigone’s earlier decision, it plays in important role in plot development, bringing out the central theme of conflict, creating tension and building up the rising action. Regarding the overall structure of Creon’s speech, the order of his choice of topics masks his rash decision under a justified appearance, reflecting the great care taken into detailed planning.
Analysis of the speech conventional opening and its purpose
He starts off with a conventional opening, crediting the gods dutifully for their continuous guardianship of Thebes with the commonly used ship-of-state metaphor, “Gentlemen, after tossing the life of our city on the great waves of the ocean, the gods have safely righted it once more. ” This displays Creon’s loyalty to the gods as any good king would, presenting an appealing image of himself.
The traditional element is pleasing to most conservative elders, providing them with a sense of security under the new king’s rule, and hence, his later judgments, however unusual it may be. Creon intentionally did not start by announcing his proclamation at the beginning as its unconventional nature tends to be frowned upon to say the least, or even be rejected by the conservative elders. Creon is very well aware of this and delays his announcement, addressing the conventional first.
Afterwards, Creon moves onto flattering the chorus (elders), recounting their faithful service under King Laius, Oedipus, and his descendants, “I know that you always respected… and again… and when he died, you still stood by his children with unwavering loyalty” before affirming the legitimacy of his own rule. Here, Creon uses flattery as a reminder that the elders’ loyalty lie with the king, and hints that as he is now king, they should serve as him as true heartedly as they did his precedents. Again, he cleverly applies the elders’ sense of responsibility to gain their support.
He then continues on with outlining his principles (lines168- 180), and only after that does he announce his proclamation regarding the treatment of Polyneices. By this order, Creon was able to first gain the elders’ support, then show that his actions were “in accordance with” his principles, making his judgment appear to be a sound argument based on valid political ideals. Creon’s masterful technique in masking absurdity with reason fully reflects that he is politically astute and a calculating man.
The clever usage of pronouns in the speech
Moreover, the crafty use of pronouns exhibits Creon’s ability to convince. As the first person plural “we” appeals to the public (chorus), it provides a sense of unity among the audience, being reminded that they should cooperate with Creon in governing Thebes, and that they should strive towards a common goal, Creon’s goal, in making this city “great”. As they are responsible for abiding by these principles, it would only be appropriate that they agree with Creon’s proclamation based on these principles.
Another effective use of the third person pronoun “it” is seen in “it has been proclaimed to the city…”, where instead of “I”, the active agent (Creon) being mentioned, any biased personal opinion of Creon himself is presented as impersonal and of good judgment, further enhancing the credibility of the proclamation. Once again, Creon is able to appeal to his audience’s emotions and takes the utmost care even in the choice of pronouns, being very persuasive speaker. Meanwhile, Creon is also able to manipulate the elders’ emotions and prejudices to achieve his goal of justifying his actions.
The persuasive effect of contrasting Eteocles and Polyneices
Inflated language (hyperbole), most notably, the superlative adjective “greatest” used to describe Eteocles gives the audience an exaggerated heroic image and thus his respectful treatment of the noble dead seems only reasonable. In stark contrast to this was the treatment of Polyneices’ body, which wasn’t even given a proper burial. The juxtaposition of the polarized extremes with syntactic patterning–two sentences paralleling each other, effectively contrasts the praise for the hero (Eteocles) and condemnation for the traitor (Polyneices).
How Creon’s speech reveals his personal traits
The heroic image of Eteocles adds up to the emphasis on the crimes of the traitor, hence making Creon’s treatment of him reasonable, as it is suited for a criminal. Also, the role of gothic imagery should not be undermined. Being a demagogue, a political leader who appeals to the popular desires and beliefs of the people, Creon paints gory visual images where Polyneices is said to be “burning down” Thebes, “drinking” the blood of his brother, almost vampire-like and “throwing” the people into slavery in order to repulse the audience, evoking their anger and fear.
However in reality, this is just an exaggerated assumption, the elders’ emotions being toyed with, falling in line with Creon’s expectations. Here, Creon exhibits strong persuasive skills, being a manipulative speaker, striving to achieve his ultimate aim at the cost of others. On the other hand, the choice of wordings and use of language effectively enhances the absolute tone of this speech, meanwhile revealing Creon’s fatal flaw—his arrogant, impulsive character.
Emphatic declaratives are used in outlining Creon’s principles, for example, “I know this…” “… I will make this city great”, showing Creon’s excessive confidence in his own judgments. Along with absolute language like “A man who… is worthless” “… I say he is nothing”, the over-confident, definite words of Creon’s speech adds a bluntness to his tone, showing his inflexible and headstrong character. It also acts as a reflection of his arrogance, a characteristic shortcoming that will eventually lead to punishment by the gods and his ultimate downfall as he challenges the gods’ authority.
Not only did Creon’s speech reflect his personalities, it also contributes a good deal in building up tension for the rising action in the play. Firstly, the order in which Creon’s speech is presented is of great importance. It is positioned immediately after Antigone speaks of her decision to bury Polyneices in a secret discussion with Ismene. Both parties hold strong determination in their respective decisions, and as one is revealed directly after the other, and Creon is unaware of Antigone’s decision, it leads the audience to wonder: what will happen next?
The way Antigone’s and Creon’s positions are opposed by what they say
They anticipate the upcoming conflict between the two opposing forces and hence, suspense is created. At the same time, Antigone and Creon’s basic values are juxtaposed, the former professing her faith in traditional bonds of kinship (philos), the latter holding his beliefs in loyalty to the state (polis). Each represents fundamental ideological differences, deeming the two incompatible. Thus, ensuing clashes during confrontation will be expected.
Moreover, this speech itself, spoken by a demagogue, is fueled with passion and bold determination, a demonstration of Creon’s unyielding personality. Equally as steadfast and unwavering is Antigone with her choice to go against the king’s word. Hence if a head-on collision between Antigone and Creon is set in due course, it would be expected to be not only a heated debate but a fight with ghastly consequences. Overall, Creon is a skilled demagogue who crafted his speech with great care, making an abundant usage of rhetorical techniques to pursue his ultimate aim of justifying his proclamation.
Hence, he is shown to be shrewd and manipulative, a confident leader with his tone reflecting his arrogance. However it is later known that this is far from the truth, as his insecurity, cruelty and impulsiveness are concealed. This speech plays a significant role in introducing the central theme of conflict, presenting polis in contrast with philos, heating up the situation and its tension quickly building up the rising action, conflict ready to break out any second.