A tragic hero, according to Knox is someone who has is the existence of a single central character and one whose actions and sufferings are the focal point of the play. Knox says that Oedipus is a “polluted and self blinded hero.” Based on his analysis, we can see that there are reasons to sympathize with Oedipus, however, it can be implied that sometimes a man, even a hero can bring trouble upon himself when he tries the inevitable – attempt to change what cannot be changed.
From Oedipus Rex to Antigone, the moral dilemma is to acknowledge and accept the consequences of your own action, for they each come with a price. Although sometimes we cannot control the anger, hurt, or whatever fate throw our way; we must make a decision and throw in the dices.
In the Introduction of Oedipus Rex, Oedipus is somewhat responsible for his actions that led to blindness and eventual banishment by his decision to try and fight the fate that has been warned to him numerous times. Either he believed it to be true or not, he stood his will to do what he feels will satisfy that thirst for knowledge of the truth – although a tragic truth it became.
Although the fate that was assigned to him upon birth is set and does not go in accordance with his wishes for his life, he nevertheless, chose his consequences when he made the decision to fight it first by running away from his hometown unaware that they are really his adopted parents and landed in the hands of faith once more – except this time, it’s fate going in the wrong direction which led him to unknowingly kill his father, marry his mother, blind, and banished.
Thus, in Oedipus’s case, he was first a victim of circumstance, something that is beyond his control, a tragic hero fated to an incestuous union. However, the result that he endured was the creation of his own actions which made him a victim of his own “nature to know the truth.
Hegel views that Antigone, on the other hand as a tragic heroine who suffers at her own decision and consequences to disobey the law that Creon had set due to her family ties. This is not to say that she is wrong in what she did. She was faced with the conflict of Individual versus State and based her decisions on what she felt was individually right.
However, Hegel’s analysis still implies the same thing – that it was her own choice and conscious decision that had cost her life in this manner. She was quite aware of the consequences but decide that her love for her brother and her wish to have him properly buried is well worth the price if Creon decides to impose the death penalty. Courage, she had in this decision that not everyone can make, however, it did led to her untimely death as a result.
Creon is another tragic hero, while not as “tragic” as the first two is also someone who suffers at their own decisions to do what they feel is right. Creon, did not heed the warnings that consequences will arise if Antigone is put to death, because she did break the rule of the state and thus, did what any head of state would do – puts her to death against warnings of his dooms.
According to Knox, Sophocles is the person who presents us with what we know as “tragic hero.” Sophocles demonstrates the principle of human morality, ignorance, and a irrepressible urge that will not reason nor wants to. Sophocles demonstrates the need to be flexible and resist the urges of our “nature” if it goes against what we cannot change.
Unchangeable factors such as a person’s “fate”, facial features, and similar qualities are beyond what we can control. If we try to control it, there will be consequences, and that consequence as a result of our actions based on the decisions that we consciously make may or may not be worth it.
In Oedipus’s case, the distraught that he feels upon finding out the truth may make him move back a step on it if he could. Antigone was buried alive for her decisions, but it seemed to be one that she may have felt justified as long as she feels that what she did was right. Creon, on the other hand may think twice about it if time could move backwards.
When the messenger appears at the end of the play, both times, he was the bearer of bad news. The messenger first appears to report that Haemon and Antigone have both taken their own lives. The messenger reappears again with news of the death of Creon’s wife Eurydice who cursed her husband until her last breath. Creon is fully blamed for the cause of death to his son and wife for not listening to the Gods.
According to Sophicles, Creon is deserving of his fate for being proud or having too much pride; a trait highly despised by the gods, who has a habit of punished the proud and willful. Thus, due to his proud stance and refusal to back down, he suffered rightly for this one characteristic flaw. However, it’s also his characteristic flaw of being proud that he becomes a tragic hero.
Knox, Bernard (2005). Oedipus the King by Sophocles. New York: Simon & Schuste.
Lamb, David (1987). Hegel and Modern Philosophy. New York: Croom Helm.