The True Tragic Hero in Sophocles’AntigoneIn Master Sophocles’ Antigone, the questionof who the tragic hero really is has been a subject of debate for a greatnumber years. Creon does possess some of the qualities that constitutea tragic hero but unfortunately does not completely fit into the role.
Antigone, however, possesses all the aspects of a tragic hero. These are,in no particular order, having a high social position, not being overlygood or bad, being tenacious in their actions, arousing pity in the audience,a revelatory manifestation, and having a single flaw that brings abouttheir own demise and the demise of others around them.
Antigone possessesall of these traits therefore qualifying as the tragic hero.
The first qualifying aspect is that Antigoneis of a high social standing in Thebes. Creon himself refers to her asa princess though she is technically no longer one. Because of her highstanding she is capable of great suffering, in that she has a lot of fameand regard to lose.
Those who say Creon is the tragic hero state say thatAntigone is no longer in a high position in the society, therefore doesnot qualify on that account. If the character had needed to be in a highpolitical position this would be true, but they need only have a greatdeal to lose in their downfall. Although she may no longer hold politicalpower Antigone is still a powerful figure in Thebes, since she was to bemarried to Creon’s son Haemon and the whole city seemed to know how tragicher life had become.
Antigone and Creon would qualify as thetragic hero if the only requirement was not being overly good or bad. Creonshows his negative side when he refuses to bury Polyneices and when hespeaks to the sentry. His positive side is shown in his obvious affectionfor Antigone and Ismene, whom he has attempted to raise since their fathersdeath. Antigone’s ungodly side is shown by her incestuous behavior withher brother Polyneices. Her positive side is shown by the way the she insistson respecting his right to be buried in the religious tradition of Greeceso that his soul may live on in the afterlife.
Another aspect of a tragic hero is an unwaveringcourse of action, most likely caused by their flaw, that brings about theirdemise and the demise of those around them. Antigone’s flaw is her rashand headstrong behavior. This is the source of the conflict in the play.
Had Antigone asked Creon for permission to bury Polyneices in observanceof the Greek role in religious life he would have probably allowed it.
Instead, she rashly decided to take matters into her own hands, most likelybecause of her anger in losing the true love of her life. This aspect alsoemerges later in the play, when Antigone decides to kill herself in thecave rather than give Creon the satisfaction of the deed. Had she not beenso imprudently hasty she would have been spared her life by Creon, whowas on his way to free Antigone and have Polyneices given a proper burial.
Creon does not have a tenacious nature,and therefore could not be the Aristotelian tragic hero. His ineptnessas a ruler is prevalent in the way he wavers on the topic of Polyneicesburial. In the beginning he seems very stubborn, which some say is oneof the fatal flaws that qualify him as a tragic hero, but later changeshis mind. The true tragic hero would stick to their fatal flaw, like Antigonedid, until their complete demise.
As far as the issue of arising pity inthe audience and in other characters, it is clear that Antigone clearlywins over Creon in the arena of intensity of emotion. All of Thebes sympathizeswith Antigone, especially after she has been sentenced to death. Haemonhimself tells his father “And I have heard them, muttering and whispering…Theysay no woman has ever, so unreasonably, died so shameful a death for agenerous act.” It is obvious that she had the pity of the entire city exceptfor Creon. Creon, however, is not sympathized with at all except for thechorus, which always agrees with the last point of view presented. Somereaders may be inclined to side with him, but the entire city is opposedto him during the play disqualifying him as the tragic hero.
Another issue that has been brought upin the debate is the necessary presence of a epiphany, or revelatory manifestationof to the tragic hero. Creon is supposed to have received his when Tiresiasdelivers his prophecy, proclaiming that the Gods have decided he was wrongin what he did. But the true epiphany in this play would have been rightbefore Antigone hanged herself, when she realized what has become of herlife due to her own fatal flaw.
Since the tragic hero has been proven tobe Antigone, her choice to bury Polyneices is what the play revolves around.
Her impetuous personality and incestuous love drives her to disregard thewill of the struggling King Creon and bury her brother. The consequencesof her actions cause the demise of not only herself, but Creon’s son andher groom to be Haemon, who kills himself once he hears of her death.
In closing, upon a close analyses of theplay Antigone the tragic hero would have to be Antigone herself, sinceshe has all the aspects that a tragic hero must have. These are, in noparticular order, having a high social position, not being overly goodor bad, being tenacious in their actions, arousing pity in the audience,a revelatory manifestation, and having a single flaw that brings abouttheir own demise and the demise of others around them. Creon does not havetenaciousness, arousal of pity from characters and audience, and a singleflaw which brings about the demise of himself and everyone around him.
Although Creon closely resembles what a tragic hero must be, it is clearthat Antigone is the tragic hero in Master Sophocles’ Antigone.
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