Prof. Sophie Bourgault
June 13th, 2012
Creon: The Complicated Tyrant
Since the beginning of political thought, the issues surrounding the ‘ideal’ regime and the ‘ideal’ ruler have been hotly contested. These issues have been manifested in various works ranging from ancient plays to philosophical dialogues. How various thinkers argued the ‘ideal’ was to juxtapose it with the opposite – the rule of a tyrant. The philosopher Plato, in his Socratic Dialogue The Republic, describes the psychological make-up of this ruler. The character of Creon in Sophocles’ play Antigone shares some of the personality flaws and actions described by Plato. If Plato had read Antigone he would have considered Creon a tyrant because of decisions and swift actions against the citizens of his city-state. The image of the tyrant was fully developed in Plato's The Republic. In the five-fold arrangement of constitutions set forth in his work, tyranny occupied the lowest place. It embodied the principles of pure injustice and utmost unhappiness (Republic 573a-573d). In his lifetime, Plato had only seen tyrants driven by their lust and greed. His portrait of the tyrant is reflective of this. The character Creon, although not inspired by lust or greed in the sensual sense, was a driven by the need for power and order. His use of reason initially was the driving force that led to injustice and his tyrannical decree, particular in the case of his own family. As a new king, Creon figured that it necessary to prove himself as a capable leader. Creon is initially inexperienced, stubborn, and has much to learn before the people accept him. He has chosen fear as his main tool to influence the people. This is shown in how he decided to deal with his nephew’s treachery. His first decree is that no one may “bury” nor “mourn” Polynices, as he is to be left as a “feast for birds and dogs” (Antigone line 206). It seems that Creon is starved for the respect of...
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