Tragic Characters in Antigone
In the Greek tragedy Antigone by Sophocles, the two main characters, Creon and Antigone, share some of the same characteristics that make up a tragic hero. A tragic hero is “a great or virtuous character in a dramatic tragedy that is destined for downfall, suffering, or defeat (1). ” In all tragedies, basically every one involves human suffering. And that’s what tragedy is all about. Aristotle had plethora of ideas about tragedy that were recorded in his book called Poetics. In this book, he explained what makes a character tragic.
He said that “the tragic hero is a character of noble stature and has greatness; this should be readily evident in the play. The character must occupy a “high” status position but must also embody nobility and virtue as part of his or her innate character (2). ” The tragic hero should be portrayed as someone who is great, but not perfect; otherwise the readers wouldn’t be able to understand what the character is going through. The hero’s downfall would be his or her own fault, caused by free will. The tragedy is usually triggered by some error of judgment or some character flaw that contributes to the hero’s lack of perfection… this is known as a tragic flaw, which often involves arrogant pride or over confidence (2). ” The hero’s misfortune is not entirely deserved; the punishment exceeds the crime, or it’s simply unjust. When the fall of the character comes it shouldn’t be categorized as complete loss. The audience gains understanding and awareness on the part of the tragic hero. “Though it arouses solemn emotion, tragedy does not leave its audience in a state of depression.
Aristotle argues that one function of tragedy is to arouse the unhealthy emotions of pity and fear and through a catharsis cleanse us of those emotions (2). ” Now with the understanding of what a tragic character is, the audience can grasp a better understanding of how both the characters, Antigone and Creon, are both tragic characters in their own way. As stated above, a tragic hero is someone of high status, or royalty, and has a tragic flaw, and both characters share this. They also share an inability to compromise and to reason with.
Antigone’s dilemma is that she believes that her brother should receive a proper burial, but the action would be against King Creon. This is her tragic flaw. Her loyalty to her brother was her downfall and she paid for it with her life. Which in turn lead to a number of suicides in the family, making Creon alone. Creon’s dilemma is that he believes the brother to be a traitor to the city of Thebes. He stated that if anyone were to give him a burial, they would be stoned to death, which made the citizens of Thebes think of him as insensitive.
He felt as if he needed to establish dominance, which was his tragic flaw. Since Antigone defiled him, he would make an example of her, family or not, which lead to his downfall. Antigone and Creon are each other’s counterparts, but they share the fact that they were both good and bad. Even though Creon was like a tyrant, his only desire was to make Thebes flourish. Antigone tries to show honor by trying to bury her brother, but she doesn’t take into consideration the effect that all of this will have on others.
So basically, both characters show us that good exists in evil, and evil exists in good. Anyone can become a hero; it just depends on society if they see them as heroes or the villains. Works Cited: 1. tragic hero. (n. d. ). Dictionary. com Unabridged. Retrieved March 18, 2013, from Dictionary. com website: http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/tragic hero 2. SparkNotes Editors. (n. d. ). SparkNote on Poetics. Retrieved March 14, 2013, from http://www. sparknotes. com/philosophy/poetics/