The word protagonist, or in Ancient Greek, protagonistes, means, “one who plays the chief part.” In Greek tragedies, this was commonly viewed as the first character to actively address the chorus. It is for this reason and relations between his character and the characteristics of a protagonist that I believe Creon is the true main character of Sophocles’ Antigone. According to Aristotle’s Poetics, the four characteristics of a tragic hero, most often in ancient Greek tragedies the protagonist, boil down to position, tragic flaw, reversal, and recognition. In the beginning of the play, Creon is in a station of high power as the king. However, when faced with the problem of Antigone’s punishment, he makes a tragic error which can be blamed on his pride. At this point he hits his reversal and recognition in the span of a few pages, as can be seen in the following quote:
So senseless, so insane… my crimes,
My stubborn, deadly—
Look at us, the killer, the killed,
Father and son, the same blood—the misery!
My plans, my mad fanatic heart,
My son, cut off so young!
Ai, dead, lost to the world,
Not through your stupidity, no, my own.”
Creon obviously recognizes he has made a huge mistake, but much too late. His four stages of becoming recognizable as a tragic hero differ him greatly from Antigone and cause me to believe it is he and not Antigone who is the protagonist of this ancient play.