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Antigones Tragic Hero

Sophocles Antigone holds with it a controversy involving the plays tragic

hero, sparking heated debates on whether the tragic hero is Creon or Antigone.

Throughout the play, readers often select a certain character that they believe

possesses more characteristics of a tragic hero. It becomes very easy for readers to

pick these characters out because these readers often find qualities of a tragic hero

in themselves that assist them in making comparisons to the plays characters. Some

of these qualities are the responsibility people feel for their personal calamities,

their recognition of their mistakes and faults, and often even punishments for their

mistakes. In his play Antigone, Sophocles proves Creon to be the tragic hero, rather

than Antigone. Sophocles proves this point by emphasizing Creons ultimate

responsibility for the plays calamity, his utterly irrevocable recognition of his own

mistake, and his harsh, excessive punishment, while he does not for Antigone.

Creon is the tragic hero of Antigone because he is completely accountable for

the calamity in the play, as he is the one who set the decree that brought about the

entire mess. While Creon is arguing with Teiresias about his culpability, Teiresias

says, I tell you, Creon, you yourself have brought / This new calamity upon us

(1.5.25-26).1 This evidence is extremely important because it expresses the fact that

Creon is primarily responsible for the plays calamity. Creons ultimate culpability

for Antigones calamity proves to be one of the strong reasons as to why Creon is the

plays tragic hero.

An additional reason that Creon is the tragic hero is the fact that he faces the

harshest of punishments, which happens to be the death of his loved ones. Adding
on to his punishment, Creon is utterly aware of the fact that his punishment is self-

inflicted, as his arrogance was the predecessor to the suicides of three of his family

members. After Creon has been shown the corpses of his kin, he says, I have killed

my son and wife. I look for comfort; my comfort lies here dead (1.5.135-136).3 He

states this heavy with emotion, finally realizing that he has been punished for his

pride in the most merciless of ways. Creon has clearly received a severely harsh

punishment, as he expresses the lack of any comfort as well as the lack of hope for

future comfort. Creons suffering spawns a sense of pity to readers in that he has lost

everything, including his family. The purpose of tragedy is to draw a fear or feeling

for the character from the audience and to emotionally cleanse the audience

through the characters journey to disaster. The immensity of Creons punishment

connects him to the characterization of a tragic hero, along with a few additional

justifications.

Another reason that furthers Creons characterization of a tragic hero is the

fact that he realizes the mistakes he has made upon conversing with Teiresias.

Antigone is not the tragic hero for this exact reason, as she has no moment in which

her own symphony of errors comes rushing into clarity. After Creon finds Antigone,

Haimon, and Eurydice to be dead, he says, I alone am guilty./I know it and I say it

(1.5.121-122). This is the moment he finally comes to terms with what he has done

and the greatness of its magnitude. This quote also exemplifies the fact that Creon

has picked out his mistakes and has learned from them. Also, it is a firsthand

recognition from the perpetrator, himself. He knows what he has done wrong, and

he is now learning to be wise. When Creon sends Antigone to her place of death, she
says, What things I suffer, and at what mens hands, because I would not transgress

the laws of heaven (1.4.79-80). She is making one last futile attempt to convince

Creon that she has done no wrong in this situation. This quote conveys a sense of

accusation, rather than self-blame and recognition of her own mistakes. She still

sees her punishment as unfair, and if she recognized her mistakes as a tragic hero

does, she would not have been as astounded. Creons recognition of his mistakes and

Antigones lack thereof proves that Creon is Antigones tragic hero.

Over and over again in his play Antigone, Sophocles ratifies the fact that

Creon is the tragic hero and Antigone is not. He does this through accenting Creons

culpability for the plays tragedies, his acknowledgement of his mistake, and his

strict, cruel punishment. The determination of which character is the plays tragic

hero often leads to a bit of self-discovery. In evaluating the characteristics of a tragic

hero, readers often make self-comparisons, which lead to parallels between readers

and characters. This often enables readers to have a simpler time determining

which character happens to be the tragic hero. It is important for readers to know

how to determine a tragic hero because it provides a better insight on the play as a

whole as well as on its individual characters. Additionally, establishing a plays

tragic hero helps readers find qualities or similarities in themselves. Lastly, readers

can learn, through reading the listed tragic hero characteristics and their

applications to the characters of Antigone, how to assess the possible results of their

decisions, no matter how much smaller the magnitude.

Works Cited
Sophocles Antigone. Elements of Literature: Fourth Course. Ed. Robert Anderson.

Orlando: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1989. 749-792. Print.

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