Tragedy in Sophocles' Oedipus The King and Antigone
The Greeks considered tragedy the greatest form for literature. However, the tragic ends for the characters were not ordained or set by fate, but rather caused by certain characteristics belonging to that person. Such is the case with the characters of Sophocles' plays Oedipus the King and Antigone. Oedipus from King Oedipus, and Antigone and Creon from Antigone posses characteristics, especially pride, that caused their tragic ends. As the play progress, other characteristics appear and further add to the problem to such a point that it is inevitable that it will end in tragedy. Therefore the tragedies were not a result of a plot by the fates, but rather a result of the characteristics that the characters possessed.
The characters posses a multitude of traits, some of them common to all of them. Pride is especially prevalent. This characteristic seems to be the major tragic flaw or hamartia that eventually causes the downfall. Oedipus exhibits a vast amount of pride, which seems to border on sheer arrogance. This is demonstrated in the beginning of the play where he states, "I, Oedipus, whose name is known afar."(p. 25). This is reinforced by the priest's replies of, "Oedipus great and glorious,"(p.26) and, "O greatest of men."(p.26). Therefore it may be concluded that Oedipus obviously posses a large amount of pride. Antigone, daughter and sister of Oedipus also posses the same trait. Creon acknowledges this when he says, "This girl's proud spirit,"(p.139) and Antigone confirms this with her grand speech to Creon, where she states, "I knew that I should have to die... living in daily torment as I do, who would not be glad to die?" (p.138). Thus the pride of father and daughter runs strong. Finally, Creon's pride, stronger than his niece's and Oedipus, is unyielding and unforgiving. His confrontation with Antigone brings to light this trait, where he speaks, "We'll have no woman's law here, while I live."(p.140) and "But, as I live, she shall not flout my orders with impunity."(p.139). His pride becomes even stronger when others attempt to defy his will. His heated argument with his son, Haemon, demonstrates this where he states, "Better be beaten, if need be, by a man, than let a woman get the better of us."(p.144) and when he asks, "Since when do I take orders from the people of Thebes?" (p.146). Therefore Creon demonstrates the strong pride of the whole family, perhaps stronger than both Oedipus and Antigone. Nonetheless pride amongst this tragic family is their flaw or hamartia, and it leads to all their tragic ends.
However, pride is not the only characteristic, which contributes to their tragic end. For Oedipus, there exists his temper, his unrelenting pursuit of the truth and his suspicion. His temper is exhibited in the argument between Teiresias and himself, where Teiresias states the truth and Oedipus replies, "Do you think you can say such...