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An ideal tragic hero

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1736 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The play titled Antigone, written by Sophocles is a Greek Tragic piece that emphasizes the use of power and mortality in opposition to the law. In every tragedy there is a tragic hero. A tragic hero is a character of noble stature that is considered pre-eminently great. Tragic heroes are characters who embody nobility and virtue as part of their innate character, and although they have greatness, they are essentially humans like any of us. A true tragic hero possesses a character flaw usually involving the character’s hubris. A tragic hero also suffers from a downfall which is often the result of this character flaw. Nevertheless, this fall is not always of pure loss as the character discovers and learns something new about themselves which, in turn, increases their awareness and self-knowledge. A tragic hero enables the audience to experience catharsis as they experience the sorrow of these overwhelmed characters. In Sophocles’ tragedy, Antigone showed many characteristics of the tragic hero, nonetheless, Kreon exemplifies these standards to a higher degree which qualifies him as the true tragic hero of the play. In the Greek tragedy of Antigone, Kreon is the tragic hero due to his high status position and noble stature, character flaw, and the greater extent of his downfall in which he detects his faults.

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Kreon qualifies as the tragic hero of Antigone on account of his noble qualities. Kreon is the tragic hero of the play because he occupied a high status position and also embodied nobility and virtue as part of his innate character. At the beginning of the play the chorus welcomes Kreon by saying, “But look, the new king of the country, Kreon, is coming” (Sophocles, 196-197). This shows that Kreon inhabits a high status position and reputation of nobility amongst the city of Thebes. In addition, Kreon’s instinctive character embodies virtue and nobility. For example, when talking to the Chorus at the beginning of the play, Kreon pronounces, “I shall not stay silent if I see disaster marching against our citizens” (Sophocles, 224-225). This statement shows that Kreon would do anything to protect his people as well as his country and would not be still if he sees “disaster marching”. He sets principles to the point where he would place his country above everything else. Furthermore, Kreon displays his noble qualities and love for his country when he asserts, “…and I shall not befriend the enemy of this land” (Sophocles, 226). Through this, Kreon shows his noble feature in the fact that he values his country above all else and would hold all those against it in hatred. This concerns Polyneices who attacked Kreon’s dearly loved country, Thebes, and is hence considered the enemy. Action taken against this involves Kreon’s high sense of morality in which he decided to properly bury Antigone’s brother Eteocles, and leave Polyneices unburied so that he can “be ripped for food by dogs and vultures” (Sophocles, 242). Correspondingly, Kreon is a good ruler to his people because he would punish evil and reward good as would any ideal leader. Accordingly, Creon’s noble character displayed through his patriotism, virtuous decision to punish Polyneices, and through his good leadership qualifies him for being a tragic hero.

Likewise, Kreon is the true tragic hero of the play because of his character flaw which involves his hubris. While Kreon possesses many excellent qualities, he possesses a character flaw as well which lies in his self-confidence and extreme pride. Kreon’s pride and arrogance is present in every decision he makes throughout the play. For instance, after Koryphaios and Haemon try to convince Kreon into forgiving Antigone, Kreon replies, “Will the nation tell me what orders I can give? It’s my job to rule this land. There is no one else” (Sophocles, 883-886). He says this with a fixed state of mind and would not change his mind about punishing Antigone even for his son Haemon, who was betrothed to Antigone. In his argument, Kreon also adds, “Nations belong to the men with power. That’s common knowledge” (Sophocles, 888-889). This is a weak spot in Kreon’s character wherein he sees himself as greater as and more superior than everyone else. Another example of Kreon’s tragic flaw is shown when Kreon orders the guards to take Antigone away, “Take her away. Hurry! Shut the tomb where it arches over, the way I told you; leave her there, alone. Either she’ll die, or, if she likes her new house, she can live in it, buried” (Sophocles, 1034-1037). This quotation illustrates Kreon’s feelings in which he believes that the law should come first at all times, even if the person directed at is family. Consequently, When Haemon tries to convince his father not to kill Antigone, Kreon’s self-worth and pride come into full context when he says, “So, men our age, we’re to be lectured, are we? – schooled by a boy his age?” (Sophocles, 876). These lines show that Kreon feels he can in no way learn or benefit from the wisdom of his son or anyone else. Moreover, Kreon’s pride creates an obstacle from allowing him to do what is right and burying Polyneices. This can be clearly seen in his speech with Tiresias, when he claims, “But bury that man, no! No, not if the eagles rip him for food. Not if they carry him to the throne of Zeus! I’m not afraid even of that, I won’t let you bury him” (Sophocles, 1201-1204). Kreon’s excessive pride and arrogance in this passage are in full force because Kreon is placing himself on the same level of the gods. He is basically saying that no human or god can or will stop him from doing what he believes he should do. Kreon egoistically feels that he is the one who makes the final decision and is the leader of both himself and the country. Kreon’s tragic flaw displayed through his over excessive pride, self confidence, and ignorance when ruling his country meets the criteria of being a tragic hero and hence qualifies him for the position.

Furthermore, Kreon is the true tragic hero of the play because of the greater extent of his downfall. Although his punishment over exceeds his crime, Kreon’s misfortune is not wholly deserved because he realizes his mistake towards the end of the play. For example, a while after sentencing Antigone Kreon abruptly becomes aware of his self-pride and stubborn personality when making his decision. Hence, he tries to correct his wrong by saying, “Oh, it’s hard. This is not what I hoped. I’ll do as you say. I must not fight wrongly, only to be defeated, against fate…Attendants! Hurry, bring axes! I’ll lead the way. I’ve changed my mind. I did it and I’ll undo it” (Sophocles, 1286-1290). This statement shows that Kreon is aware of his mistake and needs to correct it. Unfortunately, it was too late to reverse his actions because Antigone had already hung herself. Another example that proves Kreon’s downfall was not of pure loss is when he weeps over his dead son’s body and says, “I have learned, and am ruined…Nobody else; it’s my fault. I killed you. Me, really me” (Sophocles, 1466-1468). Here, Kreon recognizes his mistake and its penalty. However, it is too late because fate has already occurred. Furthermore, to show everyone that he takes complete responsibility for the deaths of Antigone, Haemon, and his wife, Kreon asserts, “Mindless, hard, deadly crime! Look: the killer and kill, a father and son. Poor and worthless counsel, my own. My boy, young, And death comes soon. Gone, gone! I was wrong, not you” (Sophocles, 1458-1464). This passage shows the reader that Kreon now sees himself as a mindless man who was blinded by pride and arrogance along with the inability to admit his wrong actions. When Kreon calls himself “the killer”, he reaches his ultimate peak of enlightenment and understands he was wrong (Sophocles True Tragic Hero Creon, 4). Although he admits his fault, Kreon still receives punishment from fate which is to live his lonely life hated by his own people. He not only lost his only son and wife, but he also lost his much-loved country in the process. With every demolition, Kreon himself is destroyed as reveled when he tells the messenger, “Why, when I am destroyed, destroy me again?” (Sophocles, 1479). Even though Kreon punished Antigone, the misfortune he receives is undoubtedly greater than what he deserves. His crime was of pride and arrogance, his punishment was one of a lonely and hated life (Creon of Antigone: An IdealTragic Hero, 1). The greater extent of Creon’s downfall in which his punishment was greater than what he deserved endows him as tragic hero of the play since he learns from his mistakes as well.

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In the play titled Antigone, written by Sophocles, Antigone showed many characteristics of a tragic hero, nevertheless, Kreon meets all of the criterions of a tragic hero entirely and exemplifies these conditions to a much higher degree. Hence, Kreon is most suitable as the tragic hero of this play. Kreon is the tragic hero in Antigone because of his high status position and noble qualities, character flaw, and the greater extent of his downfall in which he realizes his mistakes. Although the story is titled Antigone, it is not necessary that Antigone be the tragic hero. Both Antigone and Kreon fulfill all of the criteria of a tragic hero. They both are neither fully good nor evil in the extreme but just a human like any of us. They are both born of a high social status than most of us, and both have a flaw in their characters. Nevertheless, other criteria that only Kreon’s character fits in are that the tragic hero should be responsible for their downfall, the misfortune they get should be greater than what they deserve, and they should also discover something about themselves that proves their downfall was not of pure loss. Kreon’s high status position and nobility, character flaw involving his hubris, and the greater extent of his downfall in which he recognizes his errors certifies Kreon as the true tragic hero of Antigone.


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