The Tragic Hero in Antigone
Aristotle’s theories on tragedy were first established during the fourth century in the Poetics, where he defines what makes a tragic hero. Aristotle suggests that a tragic hero is a character who has a high social standing and embodies great nobility in his/her personality. They are neither a villain nor are they entirely good, but a person somewhat like us, raised to a higher position in society. In addition, the downfall of a tragic hero is caused by fault of their own, often through arrogance or pride, as the result of free will.
It is triggered by a weakness in their character or an error of their judgment, which is known as their tragic flaw, or hamartia. The tragic hero’s misfortune also exceeds the mistake they made, which evokes emotions of pity and fear in the audience. Their downfall is not pure loss, however, as the tragic hero experiences self- awareness or knowledge of their wrongdoing. With this being stated, the definition of a tragic hero is best supported by King Creon in Antigone.
His downfall is caused by his incredible amount of pride, his tragic flaw, and he arouses our pity and fear because he suffers the most and recognizes his blunder when it is too late. To begin with, Creon was born into nobility as the king of Thebes. Creon’s tyrannous personality is illustrated through his disregard of family and strong devotion to the law at the beginning of the play. The tragedy begins with Creon’s edict to let the body of Polyneices, his own nephew, to rot and be devoured by animals. Anyone who tried to bury him would be sentenced to death.
Creon believed that this was just because he was a traitor to Thebes, and he considered the laws of men to be higher than those of the gods. As the king, the citizens of Thebes looked to him for all the answers, which made him suppose that everything he did was right. The quote, “My voice is the one voice giving orders in this City! ” by Creon himself further demonstrates his overconfidence. His pride turns out to be his tragic flaw as his edict instigated a string of events that led to several deaths of Creon’s family members because Antigone defied his law, which he punished her for.
Creon made an error in his judgment in determining whether Antigone should be punished because he was too concerned for his public image; he didn’t want to be surmounted by a woman. Because Creon was of prodigious rank and his downfall was caused by his tragic flaw, being blinded by his pride, his character leads the audience to believe that he is the tragic hero. Antigone does not meet this criterion because she knew that by burying Polyneices, she was willing to risk her life and endure punishment if she had to.
On her part, her decision was not a weakness of character, but rather the opposite. Moreover, Aristotle argues that the end goal of a tragedy is to entice pity and fear through a catharsis, which comes from watching the tragic hero’s awful fate. In Antigone, this is achieved through Creon because he suffers the most and genuinely feels remorse for his actions at the end of the play. In Exodus, the messenger says, “Creon was happy once, as I count happiness: Victorious in battle, sole governor of the land, fortunate father of children nobly born. And now it has all gone from him!
Who can say that a man is still alive when his life’s joy fails? He is a walking dead man. ” This quote proclaims that all was well in Creon’s world until he made his tragic flaw. Now, he might as well be dead because he lost his wife and son, the respect of his citizens, and the possibility of a good afterlife. Teiresias warned Creon that gods were displeased with his edict and would punish him for his pride, refusing to accept any form of repentance. Unlike Creon, Antigone sided with the gods in granting Polyneices a proper burial, so she is expected to have a better afterlife.
She did not suffer as much as Creon because she ended her life abruptly by hanging herself as opposed to letting nature take its course in the cave, which would have been more painful for her. Because Creon is the most responsible for the all the dark turns in this play, he is left to suffer for the consequences for his actions even after death, which exceed his tragic flaw. He had the most to lose, thus evoking feelings of pity and fear in the audience. Creon recognizes his mistake only when he loses it all and it is too late to reverse the consequences of his actions.
He undergoes a drastic change of character, supported by his final statements in the play: “I have been rash and foolish… Fate has brought all my pride to a thought of dust. ” In this quote, Creon realizes that he is at fault because he can’t control fate and his pride took him nowhere. He even goes as far to admit that he killed his son and wife. The audience feels sorry for Creon because now he is alone and lost all of his pride and glory as king. Creon undergoes much loss because of his tragic flaw and the audience stimulates our pity and fear for him, making him the epitome of a tragic hero.
His pride led to his ultimate downfall and he does not comply to Teiresias’ warning until it is too late. Creon shows all of the characteristics of a tragic hero, from being born into a high social stature to experiencing misfortune that isn’t entirely deserved. In the end, the laws of the gods overcome the laws of men, which Creon has failed to see. Creon ends up suffering due to his pride, which teaches an important lesson on what it means to have the right attitude and make the right decisions.