Antigone (or Creon’s Rotten, No-Good, All Around Crappy Day)

In Antigone, a tragic play written by Sophocles around 441 BCE, the titular character is not actually the protagonist. Although the actions of Antigone, daughter of Oedipus, do serve as a semi-inciting incident, I interpreted the real main character to be Creon, who I originally expected to fill the role of antagonist. Creon, entirely through his own decisions and actions, loses his son, his wife, and his niece, all over the course of the day.

Despite this, and despite being the play’s protagonist, Creon is definitely not a sympathetic character, meaning he doesn’t fit the generally accepted definition of a tragic hero. This play is a tragedy, not because of Creon’s suffering, but because of the suffering his selfish actions cause the innocent people around him. At the end of the day, almost all of Creon’s family is dead, not through their actions but his own, and the play’s depiction of his grief and regret is extremely powerful.

Initially, I found the narrative of this play extremely underwhelming. The differences between the Creon portrayed in Oedipus Rex and the Creon portrayed in Antigone annoyed me personally, since I couldn’t understand how such a drastic change in attitude could have come about. However, with my new perspective of Creon being the protagonist rather than the antagonist, combined with the punch packed by the dramatic conclusion, this play left an impression on me much greater than the one left by Oedipus Rex.

5 thoughts on “Antigone (or Creon’s Rotten, No-Good, All Around Crappy Day)”

  1. Hi Ben, good response. I agree that Creon doesn’t quite fit the description of a tragic hero. However, I disagree that Antigone isn’t the protagonist (as argued in my personal response). Despite this, I do agree that the protagonist is unclear as the perspective changes between characters throughout most of the play.

  2. Hi Ben, I like your thoughts on this play, however, I have some of my own thoughts. You say that everything that came upon Creon was his own doing, but was it really? In the eyes of Creon, Polynices (Creon’s nephew) is only attacking Thebes because of a wounded ego, the fact that he was ‘booted’ from the throne. This means when the battle ended Creon thought of Polynices not as his own blood, but as a traitor, and enemy to Thebes. So when Creon decrees the burial of Polynices illegal it can be summarized as nothing more than “bad sportsmanship” and not a crime that would guarantee the death of all he loved.

    1. You make a good point. Creon’s refusal to bury Polynices isn’t necessarily a condemnable crime (at least not by our contemporary standards). However, over the course of the play he continued to dig himself deeper by ignoring the warnings of his son, the prophet Tiresias, and even what were implied to be the Gods themselves. At that point he was kind of asking for it.

      1. This is very true Ben. However, in your response you call Creon’s actions “selfish” and I continue to fail to see the selfishness and instead see ignorance. Maybe you disagree but this is my personal opinion.

  3. Your personal response is very clear, and precise, your analysis of Antigone position of weather, or not a protagonist, with the comparison with Oedipus Rex is insightful, and I do agree with you on that.

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