Since the inception of Sophocles’ Antigone, there has been an argument regarding the true tragic hero of the play. It is a commonly held certainty that Antigone must be the tragic character merely because she and the drama share the same name. This is, of course, a very reasonable supposition. Surely Sophocles must have intended her to be viewed as the protagonist; otherwise, he would not have given her the name as the play’s title. However, analytically speaking, Creon seems to fit the category of a tragic hero more accurately.
There is no doubt that the nature of the work is tragedy. Along with this genre come ascertained requirements and Creon is the character that fits them all. A character must possess certain qualities in order to be characterized as a tragic hero. Ideally, the subject is a person of wealth and powerful, someone with much to lose. Granted, Antigone is a member of the royal ancestry, but we must remember that she remains as the daughter of incest, a hardly glamorous position to begin with.
In Oedipus Tyrannus, Antigone was indirectly humiliated while Creon was rising in power by inheriting the kingship from Oedipus. Also, Creon’s kingship comparatively trumps Antigone’s lesser status of an orphaned daughter. While this objectively proves nothing, at a minimum, it does make Creon the more fitting choice for a tragic hero. Another necessary factor of a tragic hero is that of the “tragic flaw”: a flaw that causes the inevitable overthrow of the character. A case could possibly be made for Antigone’s hamartia being obduracy.
This orphaned daughter was an old hand at audacity, and, according to the chorus leader, she has not learned to bend before adversity. Yet the judgment of detractors should not be taken for absolute certainty. Observing her actions and personality tells an impartially different story. A trademark of a stubborn personality type is not merely arguing in the face of antagonism, but retaining validity, even after being upheld incorrect. No evidence supports that Antigone would act in such manner were she proven wrong.
In fact, every person except the king reinforces her righteousness. Haemon, Ismene, the Chorus, the gods, and Tiresias all believe that Antigone has righteousness on her side, and is worthy of no punishment. Thus, she is clear of having any real character deficiency. She does the correct thing, and for the correct reasons. On the other hand, Creon possesses a tragic hero character trait the classic flaw: hubris. Creon’s arrogance blocks his judgment and the good sense of Haemon and Tiresias, two sources the king should know have no hidden agendas.
Conceit is often an outgrowth of a personal insecurity. As a new king, Creon felt he needed to attest himself as an authority, and decided to ruin Antigone for her defiance. This deprived judgment, uttered by ego, was ordained to devastate Creon from the beginning till end of the play. Tragedy always finishes with an ironic reversal of riches, leaving the unfortunate dignified and the appreciated belittled. Since the tragic hero in the beginning of the play starts out with everything, he or she must finish the play with nothing.
During the end of Antigone, Creon lost his family, his empire, and his free will to live, and he is now destined to live on with the awareness of him knowing he has the culpability for all his pain. In fact, Antigone does lose her life, but she does so with a glorious honor. While in the beginning, Antigone was evidently seeking suffering: “How beautiful to die in such pursuit! ” (Antigone, 194). Antigone has grown the moral graces of the people and of the gods. The audience does not disappoint her because she successfully commits to the burial of her brother, and she can now rest beside him.
The closing element of the tragic hero in Greek tragedy is the recognition of culpabilities and wrong decisions. Antigone certainly did not have such epiphany merely because she did not do wrong. Antigone does not need redemption because she has done no great misdeed. However, Creon now sees his crucial mistakes after he has collapsed from grace. After his disastrous downfall, Creon repents, and has even brought him to the border of suicide. Similar to all tragic heroes, he can only grasp his immorality once everything has been taken away from him.
As a powerful, wealthy king, and a controlling human, Creon still remains a human with flaws nevertheless. His only people follow him devotedly; this devotion is demonstrated when they followed his order on Polyneices’ burial. The Choragos, who embodies the people, speaks for them and says, “If that is your will, Creon son of Menoikus, you have the right to enforce it: we are yours”(Literature for Composition. Scene 1. Page 444. Line 37). The powerful and wealthy royal is a factor of his character that makes him a natural fit for the definition of a tragic hero.
So who was intended to be the central character of Antigone? Antigone. So who is main tragic character of Antigone? Creon. Someplace along the line, Sophocles created a more difficult story of the insecure king than of the insolent noblewoman. Using Aristotle’s philosophy of Greek tragedy, which ironically was mainly based on Sophocles, Creon would be the only character who meets the criteria. Creon started from the top position, underwent the highest net losses, and possesses only the inarguable flaw. The mythical content speaks for itself.