Antigone by Sophocles - The Characters Analisis

Antigone is story of divine retribution and human imperfectness. In this tragedy a powerful king, Creon is brought down by the Gods because of his contempt against their divine laws and true justice is shown to triumph at the end. Creon makes the mistake of putting his personal views over and above the divine laws and fails in the eyes of the Gods. He makes the mistake of testing the Gods' power and the remaining story is basically the degeneration of Creon. After the 'crime' of Antigone, Creon is increasingly shown to be lone warrior in his cause and family and well wishers start deserting him. As the tragedy progresses Creon becomes increasingly more hostile and finally by the destruction of his own family he is justly punished by the Gods. Antigone on the other hand, is shown to be an instrument of Creon's doom as it is her death that sets of a chain reaction to the former.

Antigone has two brothers: - Eteocles and Polynices', both of them fighting for opposite sides in the Theban war. Whereas Eteocles is fighting for the protection of Thebes, Polynices' is fighting to conquer it. At the end of the war and the beginning of the story it is shown that Thebes has won but both the brothers have perished. The story moves on to state that Polynices' has been condemned a traitor by Creon(and the city's edicts) whereas Eteocles is hailed as a Hero and a martyr. The refusal of burial of one brother and his condemnation to a worse afterlife forces Antigone to sacrifice herself for his sake.

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Both the protagonist, Antigone and the antagonist, Creon are driven towards their destruction due to their own flaws in judgements and their seeming infallibility in their belief. Both are to some extent right in their thinking but in the end both are shown to be mere humans in the eyes of God and fail to rise beyond their puny existence.

At the beginning of the play, Thebes has fought back an armed attack and the brothers, Eteocles and Polynices have died; Creon crowns himself the king and issues edicts to proclaim Eteocles a hero to be buried with full military honours and decrees that the body of the traitor, Polynices' be refused burial and left to rot. He issues warns that any person disobeying his edicts will be put to death. However, his edicts clash with the divine laws which explicitly state that every dead body deserves a burial, even that of a traitor. Creon thus starts the chain of his own destruction. He considers himself to be paramount in his ideals and expects everyone to obey his edicts without question. And for this, he is willing to risk everything he has :- his prestige, his son, throne and his own life at the altar of his pride. And in the end, he loses.

The Gods however give a number of chances to Creon to remedy his folly of judgement but he misses every one of them. When Creon gets the news of Polynices' burial he hastily judges that the sentry or the sentries have been bribed and is on the verge of having the latter tortured or even killed. In his illogical state of mind he accuses the Chorus of lunacy and illogical behaviour by their mere suggestion that the burial may be the work of The Gods to correct the human error. He accuses them of contempt against him and chides them for being in the wrong.

On the discovery of Antigone's 'crime' Creon first passes the death sentence and then proceeds to have her tortured further by forcing her to live a living death. He decrees that she be banished from the city and live in isolation beyond the city limits, a scenario worse than death itself. This action on his part alienates him from the citizens of Thebes as they hold her deed in high esteem and even necessary. He accuses his son's report on the feelings of Theban citizens and accuses him for being a woman's slave and is about to have Antigone killed in Haemon's presence to teach 'him' a lesson. This action on his part makes him fall out of favour with his own son who later spits on his face, tries to kill him and failing to do so takes his own life. Thus, Creon's tyrannical attitude prevents him from bending down his own decree and leads him to his own doom.

In his pumped-up self importance Creon he even refuses to believe Tieresias and has disgusting verbal alteraction with the God's medium. His willing stupidity his path to destruction comes when this foolishness on his part earns him a curse from the Tierisias and finally seems to put him on the right path to self-correction. But here again he fails to do the first things first and places the dead over the living. This final mistake is the "last straw that breaks the camel's back". He goes on to bury Polynices' first when logically speaking his first impulse should have been to release Antigone. Had he done so the outcome of the story would have been totally different. Creon fails to take the right turn even when he finally sees the light f knowledge and brings misery upon himself. If he had released Antigone first then he would have saved her life as well as the lives of Haemon and Eurydice.Creon thus becomes a victim of his own morals and fails in the eyes of the Gods. This willful attitude (stupidity) to stick to his wrong decisions inspite of heavy criticism takes its toll on Creon and breaks him as a man, as a father, as a husband and as a king.

This is not to say that Antigone is without faults. She too is shown to be a mere human and imperfect in her judgements. At first, she tries to justify her actions (crime) by abusing Creon of debasing his authority. She accuses him of passing edicts which are counter to the sacred Divine Laws. The Divine laws which prescribe burial for all' including Traitors. She glorifies her actions as her sacred duty to bury her dead brother. However, in her last moments in the play she laments over her accursed life, her missed chances of having a family and prays to be united with her dead family. She further goes on to state that she would have committed such a 'heinous' act only for a dead brother and not for a husband or a child. By this very statement she places the love of a brother over Devotion to God. At this moment, her previous claims of glorification sound hollow and she is reduced to being a mere human devoid of any heroic qualities.

At the end when she commits suicide to end her life she shows that how vulnerable her belief in God is. She kills herself setting of a chain reaction which claims the life of Haemon as well as Eurydice and finally ends in the destruction of Creon himself. She forgets that suicide too is a crime in the eyes of the Gods. By this action on her part, she starts believing in the fallibility of the Gods. Towards the end, it is too late for both Antigone and Creon to save themselves and the destruction of one initiates the destruction of other.

Antigone is also shown to have a firm belief in her own righteousness to interpret the divine laws and seems to belittle Tierisias'
presence. Her firm belief to do the right without waiting for Godly intervention drives her to perform the rites for her brother before
Tierisias can come and warn Creon of his folly. Had she waited for the God's to have their say then she would have saved her life as well as prevented this whole tragedy but her insistence on jumping the gun' with or without God's 'approval' seems to drive her to her doom.

Antigone as well as Creon firmly believe in their own interpretation of the Divine Laws and both are correct to some extent. But both are shown to be wrong towards the end of the play and suffer due to the faults in their own judgements The only truly divine and correct interpretation of the Laws comes from the prophet Tierisias who warns Creon of his folly and finally makes the former see the truth. Antigone, Haemon and Eurydice are shown as the instruments for Creon's destruction. Their death sends the final message of God's disapproval to Creon's actions and they die due to Creon's faults. At the end, Creon himself is forced to backnowledge his guilt and banishes himself from the society by his own decree. This is the only time in the play when Creon actually acts like a true King and not just by mere words. So, the king who banishes a women for her 'sins' is forced to pass the same judgement on himself on realization of his faults.

The Final Destruction of both the characters is a culmination of their blind belief in their own morals as well as their insistence on their impulsive decision making in defence of their ideals. They are a victim of their own misjudgements.

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