Antigone – Strong and Powerful or Spoiled and Stubborn?
Of the tragic figures in Antigone, Creon is the most obviously evil because his motives are self-serving and his fate the worst. As the play begins, we learn that Antigone has defied Creon's royal decree by performing sacred burial rites for her exiled brother, Polyneices. Polyneices has been declared an enemy of the state by Creon. The sentence for anyone attempting to bury him is death by stoning.
Creon has become King of Thebes by default, as a result of Oedipus' fate as previously predicted by the Oracle at Delphi: Oedipus murders his father and unknowingly marries his mother. Jocaste, his mother and wife and Creon's sister, commits suicide upon learning the truth. Between Oedipus' two sons, Creon sides with Etocles in his claim for Oedipus' throne and exiles Polyneices. Polyneices, in exile, raises an army against Thebes, attempting to seize the throne for himself. The two brothers fight and slay one another. Etocles is awarded an honorable burial by Creon for bravely defending the city, but Polyneices is denied any burial because of his act of treason. Denial of a ritual burial was damming and nearly sacrilegious to the ancient Greeks.
Creon is enraged to discover his decree has been disobeyed. When he learns it is Antigone, his niece, he asks her if she has heard the decree. She says yes, that the decree was declared publicly and openly -- she answers that she understands the consequences. Creon further asks Antigone if she is blatantly defying him. She replies that she is answering and obeying a higher law. Creon condemns her, and in doing so violates the unspoken law of loyalty to the family. Creon's will be done!
Creon: Do you want me to show myself weak before the people?
Or to break my sworn word? No, and I will not.
The woman dies.
I suppose she'll plead "family ties." Well, let her.
If I permit my own family to rebel,
How shall I earn the world's obedience?
Beginning with the Messenger, who brings news of Polyneice's burial, Creon repeatedly accuses everyone, including his advisors, the Chorus, and Teiresias of accepting bribes. These paranoid and constant accusations raise questions concerning Creon's motives.
Creon: No, from the very beginning
There have been those who have whispered together,
Stiff-necked anarchists, putting their heads together,
Scheming against me in alleys. These are the men,
And they have bribed my own guard to do this thing.
There's nothing in the world so demoralizing as money.
Has Creon deliberately created the conflict between the brothers by siding with one and exiling the other? Is it not better for Creon if the sons of Oedipus fight each other rather than him for the throne? Has Creon usurped the throne by planning their conflict and deaths? This is evil and premeditated murder. We also learn later in the...