A subject of debate in Sophocles play Antigone is which character complies with the characteristics of a tragic hero. The qualities that constitute a tragic hero are, in no particular order, having a high social position, not being overly good or bad, isolation, being tenacious in their actions, arousing pity in the audience, a revelatory manifestation, and having a single flaw that brings about their own demise and the demise of others around them. Creon possesses some of these qualities but, does not completely fulfill them all.
Antigone does, however, conform to the persona of a tragic hero. The first qualifying aspect is that Antigone has a high social position. She is the daughter of Jocasta and Oedipus (the former king and queen of Thebes), and the niece of Creon (the present king of Thebes). Because of her stature she is capable of suffering more and losing the fame and regard she holds. Some may argue that because she had no political power she does not qualify to be a tragic hero but, she is still a powerful figure in Thebes.
She was to be wed to Creons son, Haemon, and it seemed as though the citizens of Thebes knew how tragic her life had become.
Both Creon and Antigone show that they are not overly good or bad. Creon shows his negative side when he creates a law against burying Polyneices. His positive side is that he has let Antigone and Ismene live with him and raise them after their father passed on. Antigone expresses her positive side when she insists on burying her brother who has been killed in battle.
Antigone isolates herself from others, a quality common among tragic heros. Ismene offers to share the crime of burying their brother but, Antigone denies the request by saying, No! Justice will not suffer that; for you Refused, and I gave you no part in it (Lines 538-539). The act of burying her brother was a form of isolation. No one else dared to go against Creons law that forbade the burial of Polyneices. Antigone went against the law and mourned her brother.
A tragic hero possesses a flaw that leads to their demise and the demise of others. Antigone never attempted to speak to Creon about the possibility of a burial for her brother. She broke the law. Ismene offered to take part in the blame but, Antigone was set against it. Refusing to let Creon get his way she took her own life. Had she waited a little longer she would have been released and her brother would have been given the proper respect. Antigone, being rash and quick to act, hung herself. Her flaw led to the death of her future husband and his mother (Eurydice). Haemon was enraged by his fathers actions against his bride to be and, his failed attempt to murder Creon was followed by his own suicide. Haemons mother heard of what her son had done and, took her own life. Though Haemon and Eurydice committed suicide it was Antigones actions that led to their self annihilation.
Creon is not tenacious in nature. He wavers on the burial of Polyneices throughout the play. He is stubborn against the burial but, changes his mind later on. A tragic hero would stick to their beliefs without teetering back and forth. Antigone stays with her story and beliefs. Even so, the god of Death demands these rites (Lines 517-518). She feels as though she had done nothing wrong. She is tenacious in nature. Tragic heros reach an epiphany. It could be considered that Creons epiphany was when he changed his mind about the burial after speaking to Tiresias. He agreed that the Gods decided he was wrong in his actions against Polyneices and Antigones sentence. Antigone reached the plays true epiphany when she was about to kill herself. Now, because to you, Polyneices, I have given burial, To me they give a recompense like this! Yet what I did, the wise will all approve (Lines 903-906). She realized that what has become of her life was due to her own fatal flaw. Antigone clearly captures the audiences pity. Creons stubbornness and lack of compassion do not win pity. When Creons wife and son die the pity is shifted to them not Creon. All of Thebes sympathizes with Antigone, especially after she has been sentenced to die. Haemon even tells Creon what people have said. And I have heard them, muttering and whisperingNo other woman, So they are saying, so undeservedly Has been condemned for such a glorious deed (Lines 693-695). It is obvious that she had the pity of the entire city except for Creon. Only the chorus sympathized with Creon at times. Not having pity disqualifies Creon as being the tragic hero.
From her tenacity and personal strength in defying the law to her tragic death, Antigone captures the audiences pity and sympathy. She is the tragic hero.
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