The role of the king in the time of Greek tragedies was simultaneouslydesired and dreaded because of the king’s responsibility to the people andbecause of the effects of the position on the king’s character. Creon revealssuch ambivalent thoughts towards the kingship in his speech defending himselffrom Oedipus’s conspiracy accusation in Oedipus the King; these ambivalentthoughts reveal much about the nature of the kingship, especially in conjunctionwith Creon’s later actions in Antigone.
In attempting to refute Oedipus’s assertion that Creon has taken part ina conspiracy to obtain the kingship, Creon evaluates the nature of the kingshipand of his present role.
First, he says, “Consider, first, if you think anyone/ would choose to rule and fear rather than rule and sleep” (36.584-585). Bythis, Creon means that the main difference between his position and the king’sis that of the accompanying action to ruling. In both positions, one is a rulerwho holds great power over the state. However, the king is placed in a greaterplace of accountability to the people.
This accountability is what Creon saysinspires “fear” in the king, for if affairs of state or of the people fall intodecline, the king is the first person whom the citizenry look to blame. This isanalogous to executive leaders throughout history, as one can see in looking atAmerican presidents and the correlation between the present conditions andevents of the nation to the public’s opinion of the president, regardless of theactual impact that his decisions may have made in these conditions. Creonmaintains that he has the same amount of power as the king but without theaccountability that inevitably leads a king to distress.
Creon’s reasoning concerning the equality between his power andOedipus’s leads him to state: I was not born with such a frantic yearning to be a king- but to do what kings do.
And so it is with every one who has learned wisdom and self-control.
(36.587-590)He means that he has never desired the position of king, because he sees noadvantage over his present position in the state. Rather, he sees thedisadvantage of the fear that accompanies the position of king. Creon hasevaluated this situation for his circumstances and then goes further in statingthat anyone with wisdom and self-control would come to such a conclusion as well.
This could be interpreted as an insult to Oedipus in two different ways. Creoncould mean that Oedipus and anyone else who desires and assumes the kingship areby nature not people of wisdom and self-control- or he could be saying that theposition of the kingship is one that strips an individual of his wisdom andself-control.
In support of the assertion that the kingship changes one’s character,one could point to the events of Antigone and Creon’s striking change incharacter in the play. In Oedipus the King, Creon reveals himself to be areasonable ruler, who makes rational decisions and is not quick to anger, as isrevealed by his calmness in his responses to Oedipus’s heated accusations.
However, in Antigone, Creon has become prideful and irrational. His dealingswith Antigone and Teiresias and his stubbornness in the play indicate a changein his character. In fact, his actions, especially in his dealings withTeiresias the prophet, are very similar to Oedipus’s actions in Oedipus the King.
Just as Oedipus had done before him, Creon refuses to completely believeTeiresias’s prophecies for the state. Creon also emulates his predecessor’sactions in his accusation of bribery directed towards Teiresias: “Out with it-/but only if your words are not for gain” (201. 1128-1129). Creon’s words andactions in Antigone indicate that he has taken on the negative characteristicsof king that he describes in his speech in Oedipus the King. He has same amountof power as king, but he now seems to have lost his wisdom and self-control.
This indicates that perhaps his words to Oedipus are, in fact, mainly an insultto the position of king and to what it evokes from a person’s character ratherthan an insult solely directed towards Oedipus.
Creon also feels that the king is generally not responsive to thedesires of the citizenry: “But if I were the king myself, I must/ do much thatwent against the grain” (36.590-591). By this, Creon means that in his presentposition, he is more apt than the king to know the will of the people and torespond accordingly. Again, this seems to be a flaw inherent in the kingshipbased on Creon’s actions in Antigone. As king Creon is blind to the fact thatthe people of Thebes are opposed to his actions concerning the punishment ofAntigone. One who is not king, Creon’s son Haemon, senses the will of thepeople: But what I can hear, in the dark,are things like these: the city mourns for this girl; they think she is dying most wrongly and most undeservedly of all womenkind, for the most glorious acts.
(188.746-749)Haemon has sensed that the people feel Creon’s actions are unjust, which issomething that Creon is not aware of. However, in his speech, Creon is alsoasserting that a king, even when aware of the will of the people, does notrespond accordingly. He demonstrates this in Antigone when he says, “Should thecity tell me how to rule them?” (189.794). Once again, Creon’s words in Oedipusthe King and actions in Antigone correspond and indicate that his speech revealscharacteristics that are inherent in the kingship and not just in Oedipus’s rule.
Creon finds these characteristics of a king to be despicable and prefershis own present position. “How should despotic rule seem sweeter to me/ thanpainless power and an assured authority?” (36.592-593). He is saying that hispresent power is less painful and even more effectual than that of a king. Itis less painful in that he is not held directly accountable for the conditionsof the state. It is more effectual both in that he has a better sense of thewill of the people and in that he is less likely to allow selfish interest andpride to interfere with his execution of the will of the people.
Creon’s speech serves two purposes, both effectively. First, it is aconvincing argument to prove that he is not involved a conspiracy to overthrowOedipus, although Oedipus’s pride does not allow him to be convinced by thisargument. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Creon’s speech gives insightinto the two-sided nature of the kingship, for although it is a position ofgreat honor and power, it is also a position that often corrupts the man whoholds it. Creon believes that there is a certain type of man who desires such aposition, a man who has not learned wisdom and self-control. He believes thathe is a man who has learned these attributes; thus, he would not be susceptibleto desire for the kingship and the corruption which would inevitably follow.
However, his actions in Antigone show that there are very few men who willreject the kingship if presented with the opportunity and even fewer men whowill not allow the kingship to corrupt them. Category: English
Cite this Creon’s Role Of King and His Responsibilities
Creon’s Role Of King and His Responsibilities. (2019, May 09). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/creons-role-of-king-and-his-responsibilities/