Creon as the Ideal Tragic Hero of Sophocles' Antigone

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Creon as the Ideal Tragic Hero of Antigone

Tragedy always involves human suffering, but not everyone who suffers is a Tragic Hero. According to Aristotle, there are five basic criteria that must be met for a character to be considered a Tragic Hero. Aristotle’s ideas about tragedy were recorded in his book of literacy theory titled Poetics. In it he has a great deal to say about the structure, purpose and intended effect of tragedy. His ideas have been adopted, disputed, expanded, and discussed for several centuries. In this essay, I will examine these criteria in regards to Antigone’s Creon, King of Thebes.

The first criterion states that to be a tragic hero, Creon must occupy a "high" status position, but must also embody nobility and virtue as part of his innate character. Creon fits this description quite accurately. We know at the beginning of the play that Creon is King of Thebes. Therefore, he occupies a stature of nobility. Furthermore, Creon’s innate character embodies virtue and nobility. For example, when talking to the Chorus at the beginning of the play, Creon says, "…anyone thinking/another man more a friend than his own country/I rate him nowhere…I would not be silent if I saw ruin, not safety…I would not count any enemy of my country as a friend" (Lines 202-210). His standards are set to the point where he would put his country above all else. He would do anything to protect his country; he would "not be silent if [he] saw ruin, not safety" (line 204).

Also, Creon shows a high sense of morality when he properly buried Eteocles, Antigone’s brother. Antigone herself says this when speaking to her sister, Ismene, "Creon honored the one…Eteocles, they say he has used justly with lawful rites and hid him ...

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...earn from. Finally, his punishment delivered by fate exceeds his crimes. Thus, according to Aristotle, Creon is the prefect tragic hero.

Works Cited and Consulted

Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms, 7th ed. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.

Segal, Charles Paul. “Sophocles’ Praise of Man and the Conflicts of the Antigone.” In Sophocles: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Thomas Woodard. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

Sophocles. Antigone. Translated by R. C. Jebb. The Internet Classic Archive. no pag.

“Sophocles” In Literature of the Western World, edited by Brian Wilkie and James Hurt. NewYork: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1984.

Watling, E. F.. Introduction. In Sophocles: The Theban Plays, translated by E. F. Watling. New York: Penguin Books, 1974.

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