Antigone Essay 6
crime is pride / pride is crime While everybody makes mistakes, the person who has too much pride to admit that he is wrong only causes further damage. In the play Antigone, by the Greek playwright Sophocles, there is a perfect example of this shown through the character Kreon. The brother of the late queen of Thebes, Jocasta, and brother-in-law of the late king, Oedipus, Kreon assumes the throne of the city of Thebes. He regards his nephew Polynices, the attacker of Thebes, as a traitor.
Consequently, in his first act as King of Thebes, he forbids the burial of Polynices under pain of death, a ruling that appears to violate an ancient moral law and sacred tradition: the right of all families to bury their dead. Antigone, the sister of Polynices, condemns the decision. After learning of it, she tells her sister, Ismene, that Kreon has decreed an honorable burial for Eteocles, enabling him to enter the afterlife as an esteemed and worthy soul, but has ordered Polynices to lie unburied, a feast for the vultures, dooming his soul to wander aimlessly.
Though only a girl, Antigone decides to defy the decree. Ismene, horrified, urges Antigone to keep her place in a male-dominated society that surely will not tolerate the defiance of a young woman. “No, we should be sensible:/ we are women, born unfit to battle men;/ and we are subjects, while Kreon is king. / Now, we must obey, even in this, / even if something could hurt more” (Lines 73-77). Here, Ismene is telling Antigone that she should not try to bury the body of her brother- instead she should ignore her desire to satisfy ancient traditions to instead satisfy the traditions of a king and his patriarchal laws.
This dilemma of what standard to adhere to- what values to place pride in, for both Kreon and Antigone becomes the cause of individual downfall. A wise prophet once said, “The only/Crime is pride. ” This quote is both legitimate and compelling; for it applies to two very different characters in Antigone for two very different reasons. King Kreon’s innate character embodies virtue and nobility; he is an essentially good man of high position who takes pride in his role as king. However, he also possesses the tragic flaws of excessive pride and an oversized ego.
This pride causes the tragic reversal that leads to his emotional ruin and eventual remorse and repentance. The character Antigone is someone who takes pride in her beliefs, and it is her beliefs that account for her actually being charged with a crime. Antigone has a sense of universal humanity and she is willing to risk committing a crime to protect that sacred belief. “No, /Even if you were willing to “be senseless”/ I wouldn’t want the help you could give. / It’s too late. / You must be as you believe. / I will bury him myself. If I die for doing that, good:/ I will stay with him, my brother;/and my crime will be devotion” (Lines 82-90). The pride of Antigone is her devotion, it is her reasoning “You must be as you believe”, that lead to her crime. For Antigone it is too late, because the man in charge is “being senseless” – but also living in accord to his beliefs. As king of Thebes, Kreon makes many difficult decisions. As a new ruler, he feels it necessary to prove himself to his citizens; therefore he rules his state with a firm hand. “It’s my job to rule this land. There is no one else” (Lines 885-886). It is the stubborn attempts of Antigone that actually seem to threaten Kreon- he wants to make sure that he is the only one in charge. It is Kreon that decides the punishment for the devotion, pride, of Antigone and orders her death. “Now they’ll have to be women and know their place. / Even men, rash men, run / when they see how close death is to life” (Lines 716-718). This quote of Kreon’s is very ironic; he might not have even realized it though. Antigone does become the man in her boldness, proving herself more than a match for Kreon.
In retaliation, he sentences her to be buried alive in a tomb even though she is betrothed to his own son, Haemon. It is Kreon’s incapability to attempt to reason with the way the situation is turning towards a dark and twisting path; he is not a rash man- he is not running or seeing how close death is to life. If Kreon were not so involved in protecting his pride to see the light of reason in this situation he could have avoided an ending of tremendous sufferings and sorrow for him and his land. The prophet Teiresias later persuades Kreon to reverse his decision, warning that to do otherwise would invoke the wrath of the gods.
Kreon relents, buries Polynices, and goes to the tomb to release Antigone. But Kreon’s change of heart comes too late to forestall fate: Antigone has hanged herself rather than accept Kreon’s sentence passively. Haemon, overcome with grief and anger, lunges wildly at his father with a sword, but misses. Haemon then plunges the sword into his own body and dies. Kreon’s distraught wife, Eurydice, then turns a dagger on herself, cursing Kreon, and she too dies. Kreon stands alone to harvest the terrible suffering he had sown by exalting the law of the state, or man’s law, over the law of the gods, or the moral law. No, nowhere to look, / not to lean, but slides from my hands. / It leaps on me, it crushes” (Lines 1527-1529). The King has finally realized that his pride became the reason of these deaths; the crime that he committed was in executing orders to protect his pride. Pride is considered one of the seven deadly sins because it places too much emphasis on individual will, thereby downplaying the will of the state and endangering the community as a whole. Since pride makes people unwilling to accept wise counsel, they act rashly and make bad decisions.
Antigone would not listen to her sister Ismene’s words of rash advice; her pride led to her crime of suicide. The crime of Antigone was her willingness to follow that pride. Kreon would not listen to the Chorus or any other pieces of wisdom given by others, he decided to lead his city and keep his pride intact- and this is what gave way to the crime of endowing loved ones with an overwhelming want for death. The crime of Kreon was his conformity to his pride. Teiresias was wise in saying that “crime is pride”, because those who push reason aside to follow their pride will suffer.