A Heroic Hero In Creon's Tragic Tragedy

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In contemporary film and theater, the term “tragedy” has come to mean little more than a sad story. A modern tragedy may feature a person from any walk of life coming to an unpleasant end. But the origin of this genre, the Greek Tragedy, was far more than just an unfortunate tale. Greek playwrights believed that a tragedy must have a tragic hero who meets specific criteria. The tragic hero must begin the play as a man above men, typically a man of nobility. He must also possess a personality defect – known as the tragic flaw – such as selfishness, greed, or pride. The hero’s fault will be directly responsible for his “fall from grace,” wherein he loses his status or reputation. After the fall of the hero comes his enlightenment. During enlightenment,…show more content…
Sophocles includes a line in the king’s first speech that foreshadows the events to come. Creon tells the Chorus, “For me, a man who rules the entire state and does not take the best advice there is, but through fear keeps his mouth forever shut, such a man is the very worst of men – and always will be.” The king of Thebes believes that he is showing strength when he orders Antigone’s death for defying his decree against Polyneices’ burial. Creon is advised that he is wrong, but he refuses to accept the warnings for fear of appearing weak. After all, what sort of king would acquiesce to the whims of his subjects? When Antigone attempts to convince the king that his decree is misguided, Creon replies, “No woman’s going to govern me – no, no – not while I’m still alive.” When his son, Haemon, tries to reason with him, Creon scowls, “And men my age – are we then going to school to learn what’s wise from men as young as him?” Antigone and Haemon are right, but Creon is afraid of how he will be perceived by going back on his word. So the king reduces these characters to their sex and age, respectively, and disregards them. Even the prophet Teiresias plainly tells the king that he is wrong and should rectify his error, but Creon accuses Teiresias of betraying him for money. “The tribe of prophets – all of them – are fond of money,” he says. The king has…show more content…
Focusing on a noble man who missteps and then pays heavily is a great way to present a lesson, which was the goal of many Greek playwrights. On the other hand, this method sacrifices audience catharsis to a certain degree. This is because a predictable play with somewhat justifiable tragedy tempers the emotions of the observer. After all, it is much more terrifying to consider that horror has befallen an ordinary, everyman protagonist who did nothing to deserve his fate. But again, there is a trade-off. The modern tragedy presents no lesson to be learned. In the case of Antigone, there is a definite tragic figure and a classic Greek framework. Creon is a nobleman – a king. His moral character is tarnished by cowardice, and his fear stands in the way of taking good advice. Rather than allow himself to be counseled, he stubbornly doubles down on his poor decisions. The king’s actions directly cause his son to take his own life, and then his wife does the same in turn. He realizes, too late, that he was wrong the whole time and must bear the burden of their deaths. The audience may only experience a mild catharsis, but they absolutely leave with a lesson: beware of giving in to fear, for even the most powerful men can be paralyzed by cowardice and lose everything through their
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