Defeat, something that you experience when you lose something, whether it is that you lose someone dear to you, lose in a contest or a game, or lose a battle that was hard fought for, but there are different ways to look at it. To embrace defeat is to realize that your actions were immoral or inadequate, and allow yourself to grow stronger and wiser from this situation, and to accept defeat is to not learn from your mistakes and to blame someone else for what happened. This is the basis of the concept of a tragic hero, introduced by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle.
In Antigone by the Greek playwright Sophocles, it is established that Creon is not a tragic hero of the play. Creon was shown to blame others for the outcome of his own mistakes, which prevents him from meeting the requirements of a tragic hero. In order for someone to be a tragic hero, one must go through the four stages: high status, tragic flaw or mistake, retribution, and the gain of wisdom. For one to be a tragic hero, they must start out in a high status, then make a critical mistake which will later lead to their downfall. In Antigone, the messenger admits that “Creon was once happy,…
Victorious in battle, sole governor of the land, Fortunate father of children nobly born” (E. 7). Creon began in a state of power and happiness. He lived with a proud and stubborn demeanor, refusing to listen to others when they disagreed with his decisions. Though he was a just leader, he was also very dogmatic, often showing this in situations when it would benefit him more to accept the advice of others especially when their view is more pious. As a leader, Creon had a responsibility to the state to demonstrate their cultures virtues, which he does not fulfill. Likewise, high status eventually leads to a hamartia or a flaw.
When Haemon, Creon’s son who is engaged to Antigone, is brought to Creon’s attention, he states, “Whoever is chosen to govern should be obeyed – must be obeyed, in all things, great and small” (3. 35-36). Creon demonstrates his defilement to the Greek virtue, Piety, by ruling that man’s laws should be prioritized over the “unrecorded laws of god” (2. 61). Creon does not only violate the Greek virtue, piety, but he also lacks the mental virtue of firmness. He is very dogmatic towards others and generally does not accept other’s ideas or teachings, which makes it very hard to achieve the welldesired state of arete.
Likewise, some may say that Creon is lacking humility. Although, it is very true that Creon is likely to become arrogant towards his subjects, firmness would best describe what Creon was lacking. Firmness best describes one of Creon’s hamartia due to the fact that his stubbornness and rigidness is the flaw that decides whether he gains wisdom or not. Creon, who begun with high status and sophrosune, demonstrates a major flaw through the dishonor of the Greek virtue of Piety and the lack of firmness, thus leading to his eventual downfall from his actions through the stages of nemesis and wisdom.
Additionally, a next way that Antigone shows how Creon is not a tragic hero is from the stages of nemesis and wisdom. The nemesis stage is where the goddess of retribution and punishment, Nemesis, punishes the tragic hero for his actions in some form of way. However, in Antigone, when Creon realizes what he is going to be punished for, he says,” Oh it is hard to give in! But it is worse to risk everything for stubborn pride” (5. 92-93). Creon, realizing what he needs to do, tries to undo his wrongs by burying Polyneices and freeing Antigone, avoiding Nemesis, and avoiding his punishment in the afterlife.
Furthermore, another way Antigone shows Creon is not a tragic hero is through his failure to gain wisdom. After the death of Creon’s family, he tells the Choragus that “Fate has brought all my pride to a thought of dust” (Exodus 138). This is Creon’s last statement in the play, and he is blaming the gods for his loss of pride, which shows he hasn’t become wise because he still has not fully accepted the consequences of his actions. Creon is displaying failure to meet the mental virtue of humility, by blaming the gods and fate for the loss of his pride, even though it was his fault.
Creon is letting his ego get in the way instead of being humble and accepting the deaths as his fault. A contradicting opinion might argue that Creon is a tragic hero and has become wise. One way is when Creon has discovered the death of his son and wife and says “It is right as it should be. I alone am guilty” (Exodus 121). Creon is realizing that he is responsible for the deaths of his family, but isn’t close to truly accepting it in order to become a leader who is capable of making wise decisions and rules that honor the gods before the state. Yet, Creon chooses not to live up to his potential of being a wise man.
Creon hasn’t met the Greek virtue of Sophrosune (moderation), and found the median between himself and the state. Creon hasn’t put others first, even though he may say he is doing things for the good of the people, he is truly doing it for status. Which shows he hasn’t met Sophrosune. Plus, he can’t think rationally about the deaths of his family members. In order to become wise, Creon needs to accept and move on, which he has not done. Overall, not only is Creon not a tragic hero due to his punishment which forced him into grief, but also his lack of Sophrosune and failure to become wise.
Although Creon can make people believe that he can be a tragic hero at times, it can be concluded that he’s not a tragic hero because of the way he reacted to the tragedies that occurred in his life. Even though Creon seemed to follow the way of becoming a tragic hero, in the end he doesn’t embrace what he lost, and is barely struggling to accept it. For anyone who has ever suffered the loss of a family member, time is necessary to heal the wounds. But some never go away, and they must learn to embrace the scar left behind. Eventually they can end up becoming wiser, but first they must deal with the emotions of the present moment.