Antigone is a great Greek tragedy by Sophocles. The story is about a Antigone who has buried her brother by breaking Creon’s decree, and she is punished for obeying the god’s laws. There are many arguments about who is the tragic hero in Sophocles’ Antigone. Some believe that it is Creon because he also has the characteristics of a tragic hero. Others believe that it is Antigone because the play bears her name. Antigone is a hero, to clarify the meaning of a tragic hero. In order to determine whether Antigone is the tragic hero, we will have to answer the question, what is a tragic hero?
According to Aristotle, “The tragic hero is a character of noble stature and has greatness, he/she is not perfect, the hero’s downfall and it is partially his/her own fault, and the hero’s misfortunate is not wholly deserved. ” Antigone is a tragic hero because she has a high social standing in Thebes, she is neither good nor bad, and her suffering appears to be unjust and unfair because of her gender, social class, and fate. Antigone is very proud, like her father Oedipus, who also happens to be a tragic hero. Pride ends up being their downfall.
Antigone promises her brother, before he is killed, that she will give him a proper burial, “But I will bury him; and if I must die, I say that this crime is holy” (Sophocles. Prologue 55-56), but Creon decreed that anyone who buries him will be put to death. In ancient Greece leaving a body unburied will anger the gods. When Antigone goes to bury her brother it shows that she is self-sacrificing because she could be killed if she was caught. It also shows she is a loyal to the gods and her family. Another reason why Antigone is the quintessential example of a tragic hero is because Antigone’s ambition.
Her devotion and love towards Polynices have no limitations. Antigone believes she must create pain, misery and suffering in Creon’s life to bring him to her level and make him feel the pain she is dealing with. Her obligation to Creon means making him suffer the most in the end because of his inability to see the importance of family and being loyal to them, “If I had left my brother lying in death unburied, I should have suffered” (Sophocles. sc. 2. 70-71). This quote demonstrates that Antigone is brave because she is determined to at least try to give Polynices, a proper burial. She can’t fail unless she tries.
Furthermore, Antigone is the most tragic character in this play because of her torn loyalties, and her apparent lack of other options. Her downfall destroys Creon, a mass sinner of hubris, but this itself makes Antigone’s downfall no less tragic. Creon exemplified hubris at every turn; he was in excess of nearly everything. He was unwilling to budge even slightly until the prophet himself told him if he didn’t, he would die. Antigone also showed signs of hubris. Her excessive independence and arrogance were very evident when Ismene returned to stand by Antigone’s side, but was rejected by Antigone.
Antigone’s downfall was caused by her own perhaps brash actions, but we feel pity for her because we are aware of her situation. Antigone herself was a definite tragic hero, fitting every requirement by every characteristic of a tragic hero. Despite her downfalls, justice shines through in the end, marking the story as a true tragedy. Creon is defeated by his own actions, and Antigone’s own tragic death marks the beginning of that defeat. So, despite the great tragedy and sorrow of Antigone’s tale, we will, in a sense, learn from her mistakes and see the possibility of ourselves to suffer as she did.