Raygan DeFillippo
ENG 101
Kreitzer
June 17, 1996
Antigone
Critics have traditionally divided over the question of whether Antigone or Creon is the protagonist in the play, Antigone, by Sophocles. The answer lies in ones interpretation of the play. Is it a play about a woman doomed by the sins of her father,
r is it a play about a king who holds himself more powerful than the gods?
Antigone is the daughter of Oedipus. Oedipus, once the king of Thebes, unwittingly killed his father and married his mother. Four children, Polyneices, Etocles, Antigone, and Ismene were the products of that union. When Oedipus learns the true ident
y of Iocaste, his wife and mother, he blinds himself and leaves Thebes. His two sons, Polyneices and Etocles, wage war over the control of Thebes, and kill each other in doing so.

When the play opens, Antigone is speaking with her sister, Ismene, about Creon’s (present king of Thebes) decree that Polyneices be denied a burial. Polyneices’ body will be put into the fields, unburied, as punishment for his attack on Thebes. Antig
e decides she must bury the body.

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If Antigone is the protagonist of this play, then the action is a further saga in the chapter of Oedipus. Oedipus and his family are doomed for his sin against the gods. Sophocles describes this in Ode II:
Where once the anger of heaven has struck, that house has shaken
For ever: damnation rises behind each child
Like a wave cresting out of the black northeast,
When the long darkness under sea roars up
And bursts drumming death upon the whindwhipped sand (336).


Creon becomes a tool of the gods used to further the doom of the family of Oedipus.

Antigone knows that she is cursed. In the prologue, Antigone says, ” . . . You would think that we had already suffered enough for the curse on Oedipus . . .” (322). She decides that it is her duty to defy Creon’s proclamation and bury her brother, P
yneices, so that his soul can rest in peace in the Underworld. Antigone is not concerned with the punishment of death that he (Creon) has promised to impose on anyone who dares defy his edict, because her death has been foretold by the gods. Antigone
ooses to bury Polyneices so that they can both die with honor. She notes that life is short, but that death is forever. Antigone remarks, “It will not be the worst of deaths – death without honor” (325).

If Antigone is the protagonist, all the action of the play is derived from this choice. Creon is the antagonist, the means by which Antigone makes the choice to die with honor. Creon becomes a pawn between the struggle of Antigone and the gods. Ant
one chooses to make her peace with the gods by sacrificing her life to uphold their laws of burial. She tells Creon ” . . . all your strength is weakness itself against the immortal unrecorded laws of the gods” (333).

If Creon is the protagonist, this is a play about the hubris of a man who thinks himself more powerful, and more important than the gods. He has decreed that Polyneices remain unburied to pay for his crimes against the state. But in making this procl
ation, Creon defies the laws of the gods and prevents the gods from claiming Polyneices, after his death. When Antigone is brought to Creon, after her crime has been discovered, Creon is enraged. Antigone explains that there is a higher law than his,
at of the gods, and she is obeying the gods proclamation. But Creon can only see that she has broken his laws:
The girl is guilty of double insolence,
Breaking the given laws and boasting of it.

Who is the man here,
She or I, if this crime goes unpunished (334)?
He condemns Antigone to death by entombing her in stone. With this action, Creon seals his fate.

Creon listens to no ones advice. His son Haimon and Charagos warn him against challenging the gods. Creon, however, can not see past his own pride. Teserias finally convinces him of his foolishness. He tells Creon that ” . . . the Furies and the da
gods of Hell are swift with terrible punishment for you” (347). Creon goes to set Antigone free, but it is too late, his fate has been written. Antigone has hung herself, and Haimon is grief stricken that his love has taken her own life. Haimon atte
ts to kill his father, but fails, and kills himself. Creon returns home to find that his wife, grief stricken by her son’s death, has also killed herself. Creon realizes that all that has happened is a result of his arrogance. “Fate has brought all m
pride to a thought of dust” (354).

If Creon is the protagonist, the action of the play is derived from Creon’s choice to make his laws more important than the laws of the gods. Antigone is the antagonist, the means by which Creon defies the gods. He chooses to hold himself above the g
s, and is severely punished for this action.

While there is evidence for both Antigone and Creon being the protagonists, I believe the action of the play is centered around Creon. While Antigone’s basic character remains the same, Creon’s character undergoes a profound change. He begins as an a
ogant, proud king, and ends as a broken humble man. Choragos states the theme of the play:
There is no happiness where there is no wisdom;
No wisdom but in submission to the gods.

Big words are always punished,
And proud men in old age learn to be wise (354).


Category: Mythology

Author

ee cummings once said, to be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody elsemeans to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight. That quotation is exemplified in many works of literature, but the opposite is too. No matter what people try to be or not to be, they dont always succeed. For example, in the play, Antigone, by Sophocles, the character, Antigone displays the idea of being her own person, but Creon displays the opposite of that.

In the prologue, Antigone tells Ismene that she will do whatever she wants pertaining to their brother, whether or not Ismene agrees and wants to do the same. Antigone tells Ismene, If that is what you think, I should not want you, even if you asked to come. You have made your choice, you can be what you want to be. Antigone displays ee cummings thought. The gods want her to think and act a certain way  their laws  but she has her own belief that her brother, Polyneices, should be buried and his spirit should have the proper life, instead of being punished. Even if he was brave, he should be punished. But Antigone doesnt believe in that. No matter what the consequences, she fights it and does what she thinks is right.

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Creon, the king of Thebes, exhibits cummings idea. Kings are always supposed to be these big, mighty, terrors that triumph over all and tell their kingdom what to do. Even if Creon did not want to commit someone to demise, he would, because thats what hes supposed to do. Creon may be trying to stray from being everyone else, and be his own person, but hes not succeeding. He is what everyone else wants him to be: a controller over everyone. Creon believes that, this is his command, and you can see the wisdom behind it. As long as he is King, no traitor is going to be honored with the loyal man. But whoever shows by word and deed that he is on the side of the State, –he shall his Creons respect while he is living, and his reverence when he is dead (Scene 1, line 38).But he doesnt follow through on that statement. If Creon were to commit someone to his death, he would not give him respect when hes dead. If a citizen were to commit a wrongdoing, Creon would punish them no matter what. Therefore, Creon is an example of ee cummings quotation.

Clearly, throughout this work, one can see the various ways in which characters act. They may be their own person, or conform to the rest. Some succumb to the pressure of others, some can resist it. The only question is, whos who? Is the character who they appear to be, or are they just one among the rest?
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