Prevalence of villains and heroes in Antigone
Antigone was a tragedy written by Sophocles during 441 BC. Chronologically, it was the first of three Theban plays that was published by the same author. The play expounded on the Theban myth that predated it and continued the plot where the story Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus ends. Before the play started, the two brothers that led the conflicting sides in Thebes’ civil war while each was trying to assume the throne. The new ruler of Thebes, Creon had decided that Eteocles would be honored and Polyneices would be put to shame publicly. The rebellious dead brother’s body would lay unburied and thrown in a field, as this was the worst punishment during that period. When the play opened, Antigone brought Ismene to the outer palace gates at late in the night for a clandestine meeting.
Antigone wanted to bury Polyneices’ body, in defiance the customs of the land. Ismene refused her proposal because of the consequences that included the death penalty. However, she was unable to stop Antigone from burying her brother, causing Antigone to disown her. Throughout the play, Antigone was displayed as having a strong will and a virtuous character that would sacrifice her life for family even if it meant going against her traditions, customs and even the king, Creon. All the positive and admirable traits are awarded to her but assuming that Creon becomes the villain.
In the play Antigone, there was explicitly one tragic hero and one villain illustrated by the author. In Antigone, the villain was Creon and several actions in the play prove he was especially ill intentioned. One of the criminal actions by Creon was his planned execution of Antigone and his major contribution towards his son’s death. His corrupt attitude was central in denying Antigone the opportunity to bury her own brother. One very significant motive that would brand Creon a villain was because he murdered Antigone. He first deposited her in a cave and did not even think about giving her a respectable lifestyle with food or water. Technically, this would amount to starving her, which is a type of assassination. After a while, Creon went back to check on Antigone who had already committed suicide. This would be considered as a large contribution towards Antigone’s death. While he had the right intentions, Creon orchestrated the killing of an innocent woman in the process.
In his defense, Creon had been unexpectedly placed into the position where he had to assume leadership immediately after his two relatives killed each other. He was forced to exert his authority over the citizens of Thebes, which meant he had to implement the law in a manner that was not pleasing. The constitution is very clear concerning traitors and other illegal activities such as murder that may become reasonable only when the king perpetrates them. Polyneices was painted as being the mastermind and administrator of horrible deeds that threatened Creon’s legacy and city. In line 173-179, the author stated “…for Polyneices, He came from exile eager to consume The city of his fathers with his fire and all the temples of his fathers’ gods Eager to drink deep of his kindred’s blood, Eager to drag us off to slavery.” (Sophocles 173-179)
Polyneices not only desired to annihilate the metropolis, but he also wanted to disobey the customs. These were the same traditions that Antigone was trying to bide to when she wanted to bury him appropriately. Antigone also did not believe that Creon held as much power as the gods did, “I do not think your edicts have such power/That they can override the laws of heaven,” (Sophocles 409-410). Antigone went against Creon’s direct authority while he was trying to institute some form of order, which would make Creon seem like the victim. However, his actions contradicted his intentions in that playing a role in killing Antigone.
Other instances within the play also authenticate Creon’s role as a villain. Creon claimed that he took pleasure in his unlimited power that came without any responsibility at the time when he was convicted of conspiracy with the prophet Tiresias. His treatment of Antigone’s dead body was a clear sign that the king had little respect for human beings. When he was pricking her eyes, he commented “…how can I look them in the eyes in the afterlife” “how can I ever see joy again” and” how can I look my cursed daughters in the eyes knowing nobody will ever marry them” (Sophocles 143).
Creon also shows trickery and dishonesty in the way he deals with Oedipus. His antagonistic nature comes out when he heard the tragedy that would befall the city and attempted to deceive Oedipus into coming back to Thebes. Creon went as far as kidnapping his children and moving them to Thebes in the hope that Oedipus would follow in a desperate rush. His manipulative and deceptive nature enhances Creon’s villain role and made him the evil character in the play. Conversely, there is a lot of controversy on who was the hero in the play. A section of analysts however believed that Creon had all the traits of a hero. Most of the audience gave him compassion, acknowledged his flaws and his failures from his own self-esteem, persistence, and controlling requirements. Though the viewers realized how villainous Creon was, they still showed empathy towards him. They understood that Creon brought all the problems on himself and complicated life in their city. Creon’s righteous trait was his caring nature toward Antigone and Ismene. However, he had a strong self-esteem about himself and his method of ruling the city.
Sophocles. Antigone. Champaign, Ill: Project Gutenberg, 1990.