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Creon; A Tragic Hero
A tragic hero is defined in most cases as a literary character of great stature whose moral defect leads to tragedy but some self-awareness brings the character to make the right decision (World Literatures). That is why although Antigone portrays many characteristics of a tragic hero, the real tragic hero of this play is Creon. A tragic hero in the Greek world is very different from our perceptive of a hero in the modern world. When today’s society thinks of a hero they think of superpowers and modern heroes such as Spiderman, Superman, and ect... A tragic hero is an 'above average' person, who still has very human flaws and therefore performs very “un-heroic” actions. The hero part takes place in the realization of the wrongs they have done and the attempt to strive for the betterment of themselves because of it. The Tragic Hero often takes a little more than he can handle, and this always leads to their ultimate suffering, which in this time era was most often death. In the Greek play Antigone, by Sophocles, Antigone is often mistaken to be the tragic hero. After all, the play is named after her. However, after reading through the entire play, this is not the case. The genuine tragic hero is Creon, as his power, actions, and flaws are what set the tragedy into a downward spiral. What Antigone lacks is remorse for her actions. A huge part of being a tragic hero is knowing the wrong-doing and showing remorse for the act weather it be criminal or on an immoral level.
Creon is a king, a very wealthy and powerful human, but he still is a human with flaws nonetheless. His people follow him loyally; this loyalty is shown when they follow his order about Polyneices' burial. When the Choragos, who represents the people, speaks for them and says "If that is your will, Creon son of Menoikus, you have the right to enforce it: we are yours"(Literature for Composition. Scene 1. Page 444. Line 37). This power that Creon holds with the people plays an important role in the stories events. The royalty factor of his character makes him more of a natural fit for the textbook definition of a tragic hero. Another characteristic is the fear that Creon instills in his people. For example, when Antigone asks Ismene to break the law Ismene replies in fear saying "Think of how terrible than these deaths, our own death would be if we were to go against Creon." (Literature for Composition. Scene 1. Page 441. Line 42.) Again, this establishes Creon as not a leader, but even could be described as a dictator. It provides a path for the tragic swell of events that are set off by Creon's actions. Creon may be a well respected or feared king, but in Greek religion, kings have no power to question the laws of god, and that is exactly where Creon was testing the waters (associatedcontent.com). In a long speech, Creon delivers the command that "Polyneices...is to have no burial: no man is to touch him or say the least prayer for him; he shall lie on the plain, unburied"(Literature for Composition. Scene 1. Page 444. Line 29.) When Creon states this command he is in turn defying the ancient law of the Gods, which states that upon death, a proper burial is necessary. This action throws him into his fate of suffering. There wasn’t but one soul that would dare stand up to their king, Creon, due to the fear they had of him and what he would sentence them to for questioning him. However, Antigone seems to be immune to this fear. When asked if she "dared to defy the law"(Literature for Composition. Scene 1. Page 449. Line 7), she replies "Your edict king, was strong, but all your strength is weakness itself against the immortal unrecorded laws of God"(Literature for Composition. Scene 1. Page 449. Line 11). Although Antigone stands up to Creon, and questions his assumed authority, she is only one girl and this is not enough to stop him from making his command final, and because he is feared by the rest of the population, the only person that can stop Creon now, is himself. This puts Creon in a place where he can decided his wrong-doings and take credit for them, which would then make him a tragic hero.
Creon's human flaws and emotions such as pride and arrogance lead to his ultimate downfall, which ties into him being the tragic hero. Creon's ego prevents him from listening to any advice given to him. He states "My voice is the one voice giving orders in this city". Creon is not willing to listen to anybody, because he believes that going back on a decision will somehow destroy his pride. In an intense discussion with the prophet Teiresias, he warns Creon "a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong. The only crime is pride"(Literature for Composition. Scene 5. Page 459. Line 35). Creon however, does not heed to the warning and is too late in his attempt to reverse the watershed event that he has created. Creon's pride is the flaw that leads to his downfall.
Creon, unlike Antigone, shows all of the characteristics of a Greek tragic hero. He is an ordinary person, with way to much power. This is one situation as to why the sole ruler form of government was soon diminished. Creon’s actions derived from his human flaws or his fear of losing his place as king. Creon also ends up facing suffering because due to his prideful attitude, it caused the death of three loved ones, his son, niece, and wife. Even though a tragic hero is nothing like a hero we would hear being describe today, they both teach important lessons. A hero teaches the reader right decisions and the correct course, while a tragic hero focuses more on making all the wrong choices but having a point of self-realization in the end.
Barnet, Sylvan, William Burto, and William E. Cain. Literature for Composition: Reading and Writing Arguments about Essays, Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 8th ed. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2007. Print
"Creon: The Real Tragic Hero, Page 1 of 2 -." Associated Content - Associatedcontent.com. A N, 03 Mar. 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2010. <http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1518588/creon_the_real_tragic_hero_pg2.html?cat=38>.
McKinney, Beth E. "The Tragic Hero in Literature: Oedipus, Othello and Willy Loman." World Literatures. 05 Feb. 2010. Web. 31 Mar. 2010. <http://worldliteratures.suite101.com/article.cfm/the-definition-of-a-tragic-hero#ixzz0jj0j3tTD>.