How is Creon’s character introduced through his opening speech in the First Episode (lines 159-195) and how does this speech create tension?
The bestowal of ruling legitimacy upon Creon sparks off the Greek tragedy. Polyneices and Eteocles, brothers of Antigone killed each other during their fateful battle for the Theban throne and Creon, as the closest surviving kinsman, rules as the Theban king. Creon then approaches the chorus of elders privately and pronounces his first speech, wishing to draw himself support from the group of elite elders to prevent further mutiny against his rule among the Theban public. Through declaring his legitimacy as a ruler, establishing his authority and outlining his manifesto in his speech, Creon aims to mask himself as an apt leader; yet unconsciously exposes his flawed authentic self as a polarized absolutist and an arrogant ruler through the language, the uses of rhetorical and literary techniques, the syntactic and the overall structures of his opening speech. Tension is generated by the speech through the juxtaposition of Antigone and Creons’ equally headstrong character but opposing beliefs- man- made laws which Creon values and that of divine laws that Antigone reveres, presenting to the audience the conflicting concepts of philos and loyalty to polis.
Creon as a demagogue employs various rhetorical techniques in his opening speech, including the uses of flattery, pronouns and declaratives to convince the chorus of elders of his beliefs through appealing to their emotions rather than their logic, in turn exhibiting his political astuteness, absolutist and hypocritical nature. At the outset of his speech, Creon commends the chorus on their ‘unwavering loyalty’ in ‘I know you always respected the power of Laius’ throne… when he died, you still stood by his children with unwavering loyalty’ (lines 162- 165). He flatters the chorus with praises on their loyalty to the country and the ruler, leaving a positive impression on the chorus and increases his appeal as a leader. Creon is denoted as an astute and shrewd politician as he understood that flattery will mould himself a more favorable condition to progress on in asking for their support as the chorus feels gratified at the flattery that Creon has bestowed upon them. Thus, Creon will be more likely to achieve his primary goal to draw support from the chorus. In addition, Creon also used the inclusive pronoun ‘our’ in ‘our city’ (line 159) and ‘our city is our safety’ (line 178) in the course of his speech. This on one hand creates a sense of unity and Creon, by using the pronoun ‘we’, identifies himself as a democratic ruler that shares the rule of the nation with his people and as a caring king that sides with his people, considering the common good of his nation; on the other hand, Creon also establishes familiarity and good relations with the chorus by the inclusive pronoun ‘we’, enabling himself to continue on with his speech and gaining trust among the elders and consequentially his subjects, appealing to their emotions. However, it should be noted that the pronoun has changed to ‘my’ at the close of his speech in ‘by my consent’ (line 193) and ‘honoured by me’ (line 194). Creon clearly believes that the city belongs to the ruler by law as shown later on in the Third Episode and hence, the autocratic and absolute nature of Creon is revealed, which he has sought to conceal by the use of the inclusive pronoun at the previous parts of his speech. More vitally, his character is shown to be hypocritical as he soon defies his own proposed principles. Also, declaratives are present in his speech throughout, as in ‘A man in command of an entire city, who does not adhere to the best policies, but keeps his mouth closed through fear, is worthless’ (lines 170-172). Creon uses a series of declaratives in laying down his laws and principles as a ruler in his entire speech; as in the above...
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