Sophocles Tragic Hero: Creon The play Antigone written by Sophocles (496 B. C -406 B. C. ) was first performed around 441 B. C. Sophocles though it was important for this play to be performed during the time as he was witnessing society move away from the gods and toward a anthropocentric view, thinking that man and his abilities were more important. This all took place during what was called the Golden Age (480-430B. C. ) in Greece during which Pericles ruled (461-439B. C. ). The Olympics first took place in the Golden Age and was a contest to show man’s strength and abilities. Also, the New Science was being to take shape.
Protagoras was a part of the New Science and stated that “Man is the measure of all things. ” The Atomic Theorists also stated that “The physical universe is made up of small particles called atoms that have come together in random order to form the world. ” Hippocrates also began using the method of diagnosing, one man looking and judging another man’s health to see was ails him. Herodotus was also a part of the New Science and defined history as the actions of great men. These all are examples of denial of the gods during the Golden Age. Sophocles observed this happening and wrote the Theban plays in response.
He presents Creon, in the play Antigone, as a representation of the man centered world. Sophocles, by presenting Creon as a tragic hero, describing hubris, hamartia, arete, ate, and nemesis, shows he audience that gods are greater than man. Arete, or excellence, is an element of a classic tragic hero, which is a characteristic Creon displays many places throughout the story. Even before the Creon speaks we are shown his excellence and kingship through the Chorus’s lines 173-178. “Creon, the new man for the new day, Why this sudden call to the old men summoned at one command? These lines show his leadership as a new king as he summons the elders. Another good example is when is addresses the elders, specifically lines 198-202. “As I see it, whoever assumes the task, the awesome task of setting the city’s course and refuses to adopt the soundest policies but fearing someone, keeps his lips locked tight, he’s utterly worthless. ” This statement by Creon shows his belief that he must be in control of himself and his people. Moreover, it shows that without this control, his role as a ruler would serve no purpose. These lines show his strive for excellence in his kingship but also hints at ther personality traits he possesses. Hubris (pride) and hamartia (a personality flaw) are also seen in Creon. They go together as Creon’s personality flaw is his excessive pride, he believes whatever he says is right, no matter what. Early in the play we witness his pride as he states in line 193 “I now possess the throne and all its powers. ” He believes now he is all powerful and shows more pride when he issues the decree forbidding Polynices’s body to be buried in lines 222-235. “Stop before you make me choke with anger—the gods! You, you’re senile, must you be insane?
You say—why it’s intolerable—say the gods could have the slightest concern for that corpse? (Sophocles, 317-320)” These lines are a good example of Creon’s excessive pride as he puts down the gods, rejecting them. In this he is stating that he is more powerful than the gods. His excessive pride leads him to become tyrannical and paranoid as seen in lines 345-356. “Simple death won’t be enough for you, not till we string you up alive and wring the immortality out of you. (Sophocles, 348-350)” This line shows his tyrannical behavior from his pride as the next shows his paranoia about people around him being paid to go against him. You’ll have learned, at last, it doesn’t pay to itch for rewards from every hand that beckons. Filthy profits wreck most men, you’ll see—they’ll never save your life. (Sophocles, 353-356)” This excessive pride leads him towards actions that he will later regret. Reckless behavior, or ate, is also seen in Creon as he tries to exert his power over everyone. The first instance is at the very beginning of the play when Antigone explains Creon’s decree to Ismene, her sister. “But the body of Polynices, who died miserably—why, a city-wide proclamation, rumor has it, forbid anyone to bury, even mourn him.
He’s to be left unwept, unburied, a lovely treasure for birds that scan the field and feast to their hearts content (Sophocles, 32-36). ” This shows his recklessness and disregard for the god’s laws, thinking his own is more important and powerful. Another example that shows his reckless behavior is when he sentences Antigone to death, killing his son’s bride in lines 640-650. The chorus also hints at Creon’s reckless behavior when they state “Sooner or later foul is fair, fair is foul to the man the gods will ruin. (Sophocles, 696-698)” This also s meant to warn Creon that the gods are supreme and that he is going against the gods’ law with his reckless behavior. “I’ll take her down some wild, desolate path never trod by men, and wall her up alive in a rocky vault, and set out short rations. (Sophocles, 870-873)” He sentences her to starve to death or kill herself by some other means, showing more recklessness. Creon’s reckless behavior then leads to one last trait that is shown in the play. Nemesis, or the retribution of the gods for violation of law, is shown in many different examples after Creon’s recklessness.
First, the nemesis is foreshadowed when Tiresias is speaking with Creon, he also blames Creon’s pride for causing him to be reckless and offend the gods. “And it’s you—your high resolve that set this plague on Thebes…. Stubbornness brands you for stupidity—pride is a crime. (Sophocles, 1123; 1136)” Tiresias also foreshadows the death of Haemon as retribution for Creon’s crimes. “The chariot of the sun will not race through so many circuits more, before you have surrendered one born of your own loins, your own flesh and blood. Sophocles, 1182-1184)” Lastly, Tiresias foretells of the gods fury waiting in lines 1194-1197. We then see the prophecies of nemesis come true when Haemon kills himself after a scuffle with Creon and when the Queen, Eurydice, kills herself after hearing of Haemon’s death. “The queen is dead. The mother of this dead boy…mother to the end—poor thing, her wounds are fresh. (Sophocles, 1410)” The gods’ fury is shown when they take Creon’s family from him for putting his laws above theirs. “Wisdom is by far the greatest part of joy, and reverence toward the gods must be safeguarded.
The mighty words of the proud are paid in full with mighty blows of fate, and at long last those blows will teach us wisdom (Sophocles, 1466-1470). ” This line sums up the theme of the play and also shows the chorus’s last thoughts. Throughout the play their view point changed from believing in man’s laws to the power of the gods’ laws, but at the end they side with the gods, which is to warn the audience not to push away the gods. I believe the last lines give the play closure and sum up what happens to a classic tragic hero, such as Creon.