The Tragic Figure of Antigone
When people recall tragedies, they often think Shakespearean. These tragedies were usually named after their tragic protagonists (e.g., Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Othello). However, many tragic characters did not have an eponymous play. For example, in Antigone, a woman loses her life trying to honor her fallen brother and inadvertently causes Creon, the king, to lose his wife and daughter. Since we have two important characters’ detriments, we must choose which one is the tragic hero. Given that tragedies originated from Greece, we can use Aristotle’s definition and description to select the tragic hero (Ridgeway). According to Aristotle’s teachings, Creon is the tragic hero, regardless of the title.
First, let us layout Aristotle’s tragic hero. His tragic hero was always a man of noble stature and greatness and his destruction had a lesson for the audience (Elements of a Tragic Hero in Literature). The hero’s aggressive goal would lead to his decline by his flaw, the will of the gods through prophets, and/or fate (Aristotle and The Elements of Tragedy). Also, only until he saw the root of his downfall could he become a hero. Lastly, the audience must feel pity and fear for him (Elements of a Tragic Hero in Literature). With all of these attributes, we can identify Creon as the tragic hero.
First, we can match up Creon’s qualities to those of Aristotle’s tragic hero. Creon introduces himself to the Chorus as a worthy king of his city-state, Thebes. Next, we hear Creon’s tenacious goal, which he establishes as law: Polyneices, the traitorous brother of Antigone, is not to receive a proper burial. However, the Greeks believed that proper burials were necessary so that the psyche, or the spirit of the dead, could leave the physical body. Improper burials meant the individual’s suffering between worlds (Ancient Greek Burial Rituals). Thus, Creon’s law violates the rules of the afterlife and the will of...
Cited: "Ancient Greek Burial Rituals." Wikispaces. Tangient LLC, 2008. Web. 2 Mar. 2014. .
"ARISTOTLE & THE ELEMENTS OF TRAGEDY." Ohio Edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. .
Lucyinthesky. "Elements of a tragic hero in literature." Nuvvo. Savvica, Inc, n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. .
Ridgeway, William. "THE ORIGIN OF TRAGEDY: INTRODUCTION." Theatrehistory. N.p., 2002. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. .
Sophocles. Anitgone. Trans. Nicholas Rudall. Ed. Nicholas Rudall and Bernard Sahlins. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1998. Print.
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