The Deaths of Antigone and Creon

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The Deaths of Antigone and Creon

Antigone and Creon are the main characters of the play Antigone written by Sophocles.
Antigone is the daughter of Oedipus, who was a major figure of ancient Greek myth.
Oedipus accidentally killed his father and married his mother. Because of that act, Oedipus ended up cursing his family and died a horrible death. After his death, his sons inherited his kingdom and in a power struggle ended up killing each other. One of the sons, Polynices attacked the city to try and claim power from his brother. But since both of the brothers died and the city was not taken Polynices was labeled as a traitor whereas the other brother who died defending the city was celebrated as a hero. Creon decreed at the beginning of the play Antigone that no one was to bury the body of traitorous Polynices. Antigone felt that it was here responsibility to bury the body because he was still a member of her family. This led to a huge argument with Creon who felt he shouldn’t be crossed because he was the leader of the state. Eventually both Creon and Antigone are destroyed by the gods (and by each other) through their own actions.

Antigone is a powerful character, strong-willed, determined and at times self-righteous. She is contrasted by her sister Ismene, who is weak and powerless. Though Antigone is a powerful character, she has no real political power and is dominated by one man, Creon. Creon is both the ruler of the state as well as the patriarch of her family. Antigone was raised by Creon’s house after her own father went in to exile. Antigone is betrothed to Creon’s son, Haemon, further cementing Creon’s power over her. There is one aspect of life that Antigone does have legitimate power in and that is her family, especially her blood line. In ancient-Greek culture the women’s place was in the home, she was responsible for household things and often wasn’t even allowed to leave the house. It is because of this responsibility that Antigone needed to bury her brother Polynices even though it went against the decree of Creon. Antigone also had the gods on her side. It was an unwritten rule of ancient Greek society that the dead must be buried, otherwise bad things may happen. This rule, because it was unwritten and therefore innate, was protected by the gods, specifically Hades, the god of the underworld and family.

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In crossing Creon to appeal to Hades and her family Antigone breaks the rule of another god, Zeus. Zeus is the grand arbiter and god of order of gods and extends his power symbolically in the position of king. Kings in ancient-Greek society had the authority of Zeus to make decisions in the mortal world. Ancient Greeks placed a great deal of emphasis on order and Creon was the head of order in the mortal world. Because Antigone usurped this order and defied the decree of Creon she was to be destroyed by the gods. But Antigone is clever and uses this destruction to further her own ends. Throughout the play Antigone embraces the concept of death, often pining for it. She uses the power over her own life to challenge Creon. Because she does not fear death Antigone becomes all that Creon hated; a symbol of usurped power and order. Antigone negates Creon’s power because she takes her life in to her own hand, taking it away from the state and from Creon. So Antigone destroys herself, because she must in order to destroy Creon.

Creon is a powerful character as well. He is posses the ultimate power of the mortal world because he rules the state. The authority of Zeus to make judgments was instilled by the position of king. Yet through all his political power, Creon does not have any authority in the world. Throughout the play he makes decrees and decision and not one of them ends successfully or in his favor. Creon uses his political power so excessively that is cancels itself out. He decrees that Polynices not be buried, and the people of the city obey only out of fear of punishment. The body is buried anyways by Antigone. Creon tries to execute Ismene, but is convinced against that. He tries to execute Antigone, but changes his mind and tries to execute her by proxy. Again he changes his mind at the very end of the play and decides not to execute her, but she dies anyway. Creon also has no power over his family. He cannot convince his son Haemon that his decree was just. Nor can he stop his whole family from killing themselves. Creon is impotent as a ruler, and because of that the gods destroy him. He says that men are tested by the way they rule and he failed the test. Creon is also blind to the world beyond himself. He does not see that he too is a citizen of the state as well as its ruler. He puts his own selfish desires above those of the state even though during the entire play he says that the state should come before all things. He abuses his power when he threatens to execute Antigone in front of her fiancé out of anger. He also refuses, either out of anger or out of cruelty, to give Antigone a proper execution and instead banishes her to a cave to die. Creon is so blind he does not see the when the gods signal that the body of Polynices must be buried. First the gods unleash a dust storm, which Creon dismisses, then all the animals in his kingdom go nuts and he still ignores it. Creon refuses to listen to anybody, guards, his son or prophets. Because of his one sidedness he is left with the only thing he could see, himself.

Antigone and Creon through their own devices end up killing each other and themselves. Antigone ignored Zeus and defied Creon, but uses her defeat to help defeat Creon. Creon ignored Hades and everyone but Zeus, whom he failed. Creon was a blind leader, trying to lead with lecture and ideology rather than with his heart and mind. Antigone and Creon are mirrors of each other, Antigone only action and Creon only ideology and because of their shortfalls they both died.


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