The True Tragic Hero of Antigone

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What makes a hero? In our society, a hero is thought of as a tall man who wears a cape and has super powers, but to the Greeks, it was very different. In every Greek tragedy, there is the tragic hero, defined by Aristotle as a character who is an extraordinary person, with both good and bad qualities. Although the character reaches a level of insight, a tragic flaw, such as hamartia, leads to their failure in the end. A perfect example of this can be found in Sophocles’ trilogy, The Theban Plays which follows the struggling city of Thebes and the efforts of its rulers to escape their misfortune. Antigone, the third play is an excellent example of this. As the title is Antigone, one would assume that she is the tragic hero, or heroine, but this is not the case. In the tragedy Antigone, Creon fills the role of tragic hero.
Creon’s power sets him apart from the average man. As he is king of Thebes, he claims privileges not granted to an ordinary citizen. Creon has the power to make laws, and decide how to punish those who break them. He has only ruled Thebes for a short time, yet already he has sentenced his niece to death. His intolerance intimidates the Thebans, “All these / Would say that what I did was honourable, But fear locks up their lips,” (Antigone 139-140). This shows that despite his short time as king, Creon has inspired the fear of his subjects. His power is strengthened by their resistance to confront him, and this power is what makes him an extraordinary person.
Creon is often labeled as the “bad guy” in Antigone, but this classification characterization ignores his qualities that make him a more complex character with good and bad traits. He takes his position of power seriously, working hard to keep order in Thebe...

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...owledge of his failure.
In Antigone, we see that Creon fits Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero. As king of Thebes, he has the character traits that make him an extraordinary person and a tragic flaw that leads to his ultimate downfall. Although many dislike him, Creon’s journey as a tragic hero makes the audience pity him. Unlike comic book superheros, Creon is human. His mistakes are ones we can connect with. In life, we aren’t handed happy endings, and tragic heros like Creon show us this.

Works Cited

Sophocles. Antigone. Trans. E.F. Watling. Sophocles: The Theban Plays. London: Penguin Books. 126-162. 1974. Print.
Sophocles. King Oedipus. Trans. E.F. Watling. Sophocles: The Theban Plays. London: Penguin Books. 25-68. 1974. Print.
Sophocles. Oedipus at Colonus. Trans. E.F. Watling. Sophocles: The Theban Plays. London: Penguin Books. 71-124. 1974. Print.
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