Explore the Theme of Kingship and Ruling in Sophocles’ Antigone.

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  • Topic: Sophocles, Human, Oedipus
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  • Published : April 17, 2013
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In Sophocles’ Antigone, the audience experiences a catharsis wherein sympathy and fear is evoked for Creon, a tragic hero whose Kingship was spoilt by corruption, human fallibility and pride. Throughout the play, Creon has demonstrated how even rulers with a strong moral stance can still fail in their attempts to do good, unfortunately due to exceeding the limits of their humanity.

To begin, the tragedy that befalls Creon as a man devoted to his country and to his religion seems to feel undeserved. Creon declares “whoever places a friend above the good of his own country, he is nothing” as an expression of his loyalty to his State; the dramatic element is accentuated through the term “nothing” which reverberates off the script in an echo that demands the viewer’s reverence and attention. In this way, Creon’s stance on leadership is magnanimous because Creon no longer works on the order of his family’s needs but on the order of the Gods and his state. To highlight this, we see the chorus exclaim: “the king of the realm is coming… whatever the gods are sending now… / what new plan will he launch” The significance of this “realm” is interpreted as something divine yet disconnected from humanity, so as to highlight Creon as merely a servant to the Gods. In this sense, Creon is a character that is empathized with for his respect towards the Gods, thus his actions can be attributed to the will of the Gods. “Exactly when did you last see the gods celebrating traitors? Inconceivable!” exclaims Creon, whose actions are characterised by a morality modeled after their will. A modern audience will interpret the duty of the King to come as a direct order from the Gods, therefore whatever law Creon enacts, and whatever cause he chooses to pursue, would have been the Gods’ law. The question thus arises: was Creon’s tragedy truly of his own doing? The authority of the King diminishes when put into perspective with the Gods, and the audience can view how even a man of superior rank can still be thwarted by the almighty powers of God. This, as a result, can reinforce a feeling of fear, or caution for those watching.

However, one question seems to question the purity of his intentions: “Am I to rule this land for others—or myself?” Although, contextually speaking, this question was meant to demonstrate his loyalty to the state, it does include dark, subtle undertones that could reveal Creon’s hidden intention. The hyphen in the ending of the question “—or myself?” seems to delay the response and give a slight hesitance to Creon’s speech. The question stands: does Creon make decision because he believes it is best for his country? Or does he rule because the influence of power has enabled him to act upon his own bias?

Creon’s kingship creates an extension of itself with Haemon, whose “flesh and blood” describes how profoundly connected Haemon is to his father. The tie between Creon and Haemon explores how kingship challenges both the emotional and human relationship between father and son. Perhaps he invests so much of himself into the idea of “father and son, the same blood” that a part of him equally dies with his son. Haemon has been included into Creon’s life as an indispensable structure, a piece inseparable piece from the framework of Creon himself. In fact, Creon cries to the “harbor of Death” asking “why me? why are you killing me?”, thereby portraying how the blood link that connects both father and son is interwoven in their lives so that one life is married to the other. Creon describes himself as a “shattered” man after the death of his son, thereby illuminating his vulnerability as a flawed human being. As such, the audience, witnessing his fall, can experience a heightened catharsis knowing a man of such supremacy can crumple so easily and in such a wretched fashion.

It is implied that Creon himself has the power to shape Haemon’s destiny and his duty as a person by “produc[ing] good sons—a household full of them,...
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