Creon as the Hero of Antigone
The dilemma of identifying the true hero, or heroine, of Sophocles’ Antigone has tortured students for years. It is indeed a difficult decision to make. The basis for this decision is what the reader perceives to be Sophocles’ dramatic issue in this play. The dramatic issue of the play is twofold: Antigone is a fanatic who is driven by her religious fever to bury the body of her criminal brother, Polyneices, against the edict of Creon. In the second part, Sophocles shows how the new King Creon’s refusal to change his decision in the face of adversity is admirable, but at the same time his political morals end up destroying his family. His fall from grace is tragic, whereas Antigone's fall is welcome. In this manner, Sophocles sympathizes with Creon, and thus he becomes the hero of the Antigone.
Contrary to the belief of Jebb, a critic of Antigone, Antigone cannot be the heroine of Antigone. There are several reasons for this: she is a one-dimensional character who does not go through any development during the course of the play, her behavior is illogical and does not evoke a sense of pity from the audience nor the chorus, and her personal vendetta outshines her religious goal. These same reasons are also basis for the dismissal of the claims of Hogan, another critic of Antigone who has Antigone and Creon as dual heroes.
Antigone’s character does not evolve in the play. Jebb sees her as enthusiastic, "at once steadfast and passionate, for the right as she sees it- for the performance of her duty," and having an "intense tenderness, purity, and depth of domestic
affection" (Jebb 1902 p.12); Calder and I disagree with this statement. Calder is a critic of the play who believes that Creon is to be portrayed as the tragic hero. Instead of steadfast and passionate, Antigone is fanatical; she has an "idée fixe" (Calder 1968 p.392). "It will be good to die, so doing (burying Polyneices). I shall lie by his side, loving him as he has loved me; I shall be a criminal- but a religious one" (Soph. Ant. 82-85), she confides to Ismene, her sister. This is her attitude throughout the play: bravado in the face of the death sentence she brought upon herself, unreasonably enthusiastic about the prospect of her own death. Even at the ultimate moment, she has no fear of what death will bring. "When I come to that other world my hope is strong that my coming will be a welcome to my father, and dear to you, my mother, and dear to you, my brother deeply loved" (Soph. Ant. 951-955). According to Jebb, she is "possessed by a burning indignation" (Jebb 1902 p.12) and it is this passion which clouds her vision. Antigone's defense that she is acting in the name of the gods has no basis in the reality of the play because there is no evidence of the gods taking part in the underlying actions of the play.
Antigone’s zealous behavior is the antithesis of Creon’s logical arguments. When...