Creon: Antigone’s True Tragic Hero
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “show me a hero, and I’ll write you a tragedy. ” This quote is based on the definition of a tragedy, a story of a person who starts in a high position in society and falls throughout the story to end in a state worse-off than where he began. This person is known as the tragic hero. The tragic hero is the character who falls from grace due to fate and a weakness.
In Sophocles play, Antigone, one could argue that there are many tragic heroes, however, the one who stands above them all as the hero is the character of Creon, the present King of Thebes, Creon is undeniably the tragic hero in Antigone as shown by his fall from grace as a result of fate and his own flaws. In a tragedy, a tragic hero falls from grace as a result of his hamartia, a personal flaw or weakness. This so called “grace” is Creon’s new position as King of the city of Thebes.
In the first scene of Antigone, Creon announces his come to power, and now says that he is ready to be tested, since “no ruler can expect complete loyalty from his subjects until he has been tested in office” (196). This shows how Creon has an excessive amount of pride, or hubris, one of his tragic flaws. Throughout the play Creon struggles between two choices: either allowing Antigone to burry her brother legally, upholding “divine law”, or proving to the citizens of Thebes that he is a strong ruler, in order to “pass” his test.
His own stubbornness is yet another tragic flaw that inevitably leads to his downfall. A tragic hero’s hamartia triggers a series of events that lead to his ruin. It is because of Creon’s hubris and stubbornness that leads to his great misfortune. By sentencing Antigone to her death, Creon chooses his position of king over his familial and moral obligation. It is here that Creon’s tragic flaws are most evident. The reader begins to focus on Creon’s unyielding, uncompromising, and arrogant attitude. Even Teiresias tries to convince Creon to “yield for [his] own good” (232), however, Creon does not yield.
After this last chance to turn back, which Creon ignores, he experiences his disgrace. Creon loses his remaining family; his last remaining son, Haimon, who had been in love with Antigone, killed himself because of her death, and his wife, who had found out about his son’s suicide, kills herself as well. It is here that the reader feels pity for Creon, because he is left alone with nothing but his power, which he finally realizes was not enough to save him from his fate. It is this invocation of pity that ultimately shows Creon for the tragic hero he is.
Ultimately, it is Creon who is Antigone’s true tragic hero. He has met all the “requirements” of a tragic hero in that he has experienced a downfall due to his hamartia, and realizes this at the conclusion. He was once king of Thebes with everything in life to be happy for, but due to his own relentless, arrogant attitude of superiority, he has lost everything he had to live for, which invokes pity for the once-great king. Through his desolation and sorrow it is evident that Creon is the true definition of a tragic hero. However, no one would wish to be a tragic “hero” if all that results is misery and despair.