I disagree, in every respect, with this statement, for it is overtly shortsighted and ambiguous to hastily come to such conclusion. Although Sophocles names his play after Antigone, he aptly incorporates not just her but also the character Creon as potential tragic heroes. Creon and Antigone both have common typical tragic features, elucidating Sophocles’ inclusion of a duo of tragic hero’s incarnations. To decide between these two personae is a strenuous tug-of-war, for both sides manifest essential flaws, distinctive virtues and ultimate downfalls that fit into Aristotle’s ideology of tragedy. Nonetheless, regardless of their potentials of being tragic heroes, at the end, both characters only remain mere characters.
Sophocles’ portrayals of begin with the trivial, being nobleness, and end with the prominent, being the more significant features like tragic flaws. Foremost are Sophocles’ elitist portraits of both characters, with Antigone being of noble birth and Creon of noble standing. Then, he tints them with more explicit characterisation, disclosing exactly why they’re both not tragic heroes.
The reason why both characters are false tragic heroes is because their shortcomings outweigh their virtues. Sophocles builds these characters on very feeble base of righteousness, which are the essential characteristics of a tragic hero. According to Aristotle, a tragic hero needs to be virtuous in nature. The two characters only appear at first sight to fulfil this requirement. On one hand is Antigone who possesses a righteous reverence to the “laws honoured by the Gods” and a justified obligation to family duties. On the other is Creon who prioritizes his country and the eradication of anything that’s “threatening the safety of [his] citizens.” However, this is the extent of their virtuousness. Their limited scope of good qualities is prevailed over by their flaws, defying Aristotle’s ideology. Both Antigone and Creon have too little strong points to be tragic heroes.
Moreover, Antigone and Creon both are not tragic heroes for they have failed to successfully achieve a self-awareness of their downfalls, which is a key quality in a tragic hero. Although Sophocles effectively brings about peripeteia, he scorns both characters by manifesting a morphed image of anagrorisis – through which he describes them as too imperceptive to realize their mistakes. Antigone and Creon both discovered fate by the aftermath of their actions but not by actions themselves. This makes neither of them an inherent tragic hero.
Antigone continues to blame anyone but herself for her downfall, elucidating the aforesaid assertion. As death approaches, she still does not recognize her tragic error. Her lack of self-knowledge accounts for her alleging the “thrice-told doom of [her] father.” Instead of acknowledging her wrongful actions, she dumps responsibility upon the “entire destiny” of her cursed family.
Simultaneously, Creon fails to gain an increasing self-awareness. In fact, he remains oblivious of his tragic flaw until the very end of the play. One has to put this under a microscope to detect Creon’s stupefaction as Sophocles misleads the audience by deceiving them into believing Creon has recognized his mistakes with the inclusion of Creon’s regretful exclamation: “Oh! Stubborn and fatal errors of a mind without reason!” Regardless, traces of Creon’s senselessness still surface. The audience would notice how Creon stubbornly and continually dismisses Teiresias’ prophecy until the point where he learns about the fatal consequences of his acts. When he finally accepts the “profound truth,” Creon only does it to avoid “harm” and the “a corpse in exchange for corpses” scenario. Sophocles clearly depicts Creon to “yield” only for his personal gain, which defies the rudimentary selfless anagrorisis of a tragic hero.
Once he has established that they’re both not inborn tragic heroes, Sophocles focuses more on the imperfection of Antigone and Creon, accentuating the hamartia in their characters. He has successfully weaved the subject of hubris into the depiction of their tragic errors, both of which are evidently related to overweening pride.
Antigone’s hubris manifests itself through her desperate search for glory. She proceeds with the action of defying State regulations and risking her life to honour her brother. This can perhaps be justified by Greek’s customs: it is a duty to pay tribute to a dead family member. However, this virtue is overweighed by Antigone’s apparent hubris. It remains her gravest flaw, as it is most probable that she has done this for a “noble” death, not for reverence or sustainment of family customs. Antigone is clearly far more fixated upon the idea of glory than reverence. Her idï¿½e fixe revolves around her obsessive declarations: “it is noble for me to die doing this” and “I will [not] suffer… an ignoble death.” To her, it is crucial to flaunt herself affectedly, showing that she is “noble by birth” and not “a coward from a noble family.”
Meanwhile, Creon’s hubris morphs itself from steadfast command to extreme dictatorship, encapsulating how he’s increasingly sucked into this flaw. Throughout the play, Sophocles positions Creon in a state of high-handed authority. Creon ceaselessly rules Thebes tyrannically, being the single “one command” that “[summons]” a vast “council of elders.” Continually he goes on being the only man in absolute power, creating his own policies and obstinately barking “Such is my will!” Not only does he epitomize tyranny, Creon also reacts badly towards advices and criticisms. The slightest disparagement like “it is a terrible thing when someone with the power to judge judges wrongly” results in a tantrum in which Creon is blinded with incredulity. This is most evident in his arrogant remarks towards advices, such as “you will prove yourself insane as well as senile” or “are men my age to be taught sense by a man of his?”
From Sophocles’ illustration of their bad sides overweighing their good sides, it can be deduced that both Antigone and Creon are the antithesis of tragic heroes. Both lack good quality and virtues that are crucial in a conventional tragic hero. Although the audience would empathise with them for their reversals of fortune are not wholly deserved, their antipathy and disliking towards these characters would be much more extreme than their sympathy and condolence.
What’s more, a modern audience can go even further to interpret these characters as antiheroes, seeing as Sophocles’ emphasis on their hamartias is significantly more intense than his constructions of their virtues. This might not have been a trope in Greek tragedy, but both characters coincide with the description of a modern antihero. Despite their good intentions, their imperfections and deficiency have from the start foreshadowed their resemblance to villains. Either way, the audience would not perceive either as an innate tragic hero.
If neither Antigone nor Creon is tragic hero, what is Sophocles’ true intention by incorporating them into his play? I believe both characters are the playwright’s instruments to explore the themes of his play.
Glory is a notable theme as it was the aim of various Homeric tragic heroes, namely Achilles, and it appears so that Sophocles’ Antigone lies amongst them. She is preoccupied with renown to the extent that she immodestly compares her mortal self to a goddess as she claims “Fate puts me to sleep just like [Niobe].”
At the same time, politics is especially one of the most prominent themes in Greek tragedy, for the heart of many Greek plays revolves around political vortexes. In Antigone, Sophocles raises the question of democracy, most probably influenced by Pericles, by deriding Creon’s autocracy, satirically condemning that “one of the blessings of tyranny is its freedom to do and say what it likes.”
Most likely influenced by Socrates’ principles of piety and ethics, Sophocles’ play also fixates upon the theme of ethical conceptions. The play rotates around the conflicts between religious, family and state duties, which are established in Antigone and Creon. Sophocles uses these characters – who lack of balance between piety and state duties – as the tool to highlight the issue raised by the second choral ode: human needs to “[combine] the laws of his country with the justice of the gods he is sworn to.” Creon is responsible for prioritize his state and his will before the Gods, thus the blasphemous statement “you will not bury that man in a tomb, not even if the eagles of Zeus care to plunder the carrion body and take it to the throne of Zeus.” On the contrary, Antigone prioritizes the honouring of the Gods before state duties, for she risks “[transgressing] the decree and power of the king” to honour “the laws [of] the Gods.”
To draw to a conclusion, neither character – Creon or Antigone – is an inherent tragic hero of Sophocles’ play. Each of them is illustrated to be closer to the characterization of an antagonist than a protagonist, for their flaws overweigh their virtues. The reason why Sophocles has embodied such unorthodox portrayal is because it helps him to vividly capture the truly prominent themes of both 442 BC Greece in particular and the universe as a whole that are the issues about political power, celestial glory, gender, family duties, and morals. By highlighting both characters’ errors, he brings to the fore the battle between law and nature, mortal and immortal, state and religion. He also accentuates their fatal flaws to embody human finitude.