People often seem different by the decisions they make and the actions they take making. One can easily be judged by their values and the vision and goals they pursue without others considering their inner characters. Nonetheless, despite these differences, two people can have similar personalities. For example, in Sophocles’ Antigone, Creon and Antigone have similar characteristics, firm resolve, and determination, but follow different values and goals, which makes it easy for the audience to take sides on who is right and who is not. Creon and Antigone are confident and strong characters, but the difference in values is depicted in how firm they are in their decisions and the eagerness in the decisions and actions each takes.
Creon, former Queen Jocasta’s brother, takes over the throne after the male line in Oedipus’s lineage becomes extinct. Creon’s first decree as king is to have Polyneices remains left to be eaten by birds and dogs, while his orders are that Eteocles, the other brother, receive a full honors burial. Creon’s decision from his loyalty to the state makes his decisions and decree more patriotic.
Notably, Polyneices goes into Peloponnese during the seven Against Thebes events and puts his homeland under siege because he brings back a hostile enemy, a perfect example of treason. One can also argue that Creon is morally right in the decision he makes if one follows Cicero’s moral views as depicted in On Duties (Cairns 112). Polyneices commits treason that contravenes living in a republic and free nation and, in many countries, attracts serious penalties. Polyneices’ extreme decision breaks oaths and society’s trust, yet society is founded on trust. The sins of Polyneices against Thebes are unarguably more destructive and unforgivable from a consequentialist point of view.
Antigone’s view is, however, very different from Creon’s. Despite the king’s orders that Polyneices’ body be left for birds and dogs and a decree to execute anyone who attempts to bury the corpse, Antigone decides to act. Unlike Creon’s loyalty pledged to the country, Antigone is loyal to individuals, therefore, sets to bury Polyneices, her brother, a crime punishable by death. Antigone’s firm resolve is evident when she ignores her close sister Ismene’s warnings about disobeying the king. Antigone states, You’ll soon show what you are, / worth your breeding, Ismene, or a coward” (Sophocles 44-45). Antigone proceeds to bury Polyneices with full honors and declares openly that she does so by defying Creon.
Antigone argues that she “owes a longer allegiance to the dead than to the living” to explain her actions (Lines 2). According to Antigone, the gods themselves established that the laws of the dead and Creon’s law coming from mortal man is lower than heaven’s eternal laws that mandate honoring the dead. Notably in the Iliad, Homer emphasizes the need for the Greeks to uphold necessary rites for the dead when Apollo is ordered by Zeus to the tent to his fallen son Sarpedon’s body (Cairns 115). Apollo is instructed to present the body for cleansing before presenting it for burial, cremation, and tomb assigning. From this religious angle, Antigone follows eternal law and Creon’s orders must not interfere with more authoritative and superior laws. Antigone implying the limitation to the king’s power is an interesting aspect of this story.
Creon argues that as the lawful king, he must “must be obeyed in great and small things, and things that are just and unjust” (Sophocles 813) in response. Creon seems to proclaim the absolute monarch that would be approved in Greece. In comparison to Creon’s point of view, Antigone’s argument does not disclose her moral rightness. The religious views do not invite her to break the law, and it is difficult to support people who are affectionate and sympathize with traitors under a contemporary political power viewpoint. Creon wins from this modern conception of right or wrong.
Ultimately, Creon places the state and his power before his family’s interests. However, this rigidity may have been influenced by Creon’s fears about how Antigone’s actions will portray him as the king, thus reinforcing Creon’s stubbornness and coldness.
Creon’s loyalty to the state is further displayed when he orders Antigone’s execution and disregards his son Haemon’s objections. Creon dismisses his son, telling him that there are other fields for Haemon to plow, which reveals an arrogance likely to bring him down. Creon seems to distrust people, including his son’s loyalty, because he only trusts his actions. Consequently, he argues that Haemon is only loyal to Antigone and says, “This boy, I do believe / is fighting on her side, the woman’s side” (Sophocles 827-828). Creon reveals the same arrogance and hardheadedness when he dismisses Tiresias’ warning to set Antigone free. Tiresias warns that what Creon does is violence to the gods who will, in consequence, “cut short the folly of me” (Sophocles 1091).
Creon owes Tiresias the blind prophet a lot, but his stubbornness stands in the way. The king initially proclaims to obey Tiresias when he says, (“I will, / I’ve never wavered from your advice before.” (Sophocles 1096-1097). Since Tiresias’ advice does not align with Creon’s values, loyalty to the state, and the view that lawbreakers must face the consequences, he changes his mind. Antigone’s execution prompts Haemon’s suicide, who is devastated by his aunt’s death. Creon’s wife Eurydice also dies following her son’s death.
When the play ends, Creon is a devastated, demoralized, and broken king who loses everything he holds dear. The Sophocles’ play final words state that “Reverence towards the gods must be inviolate. Great words of prideful men are ever punished with great blows, and, in old age, teach the chastened to be wise” (Sophocles). The words reflect the magnitude of Antigone’s point of view.
Conclusively, although Antigone seemingly denies the king’s decrees and orders, she does not take decisions for expediency or egoistic and selfish reasons. Antigone’s reasons for burying Polyneices are opposite to those of Creon’s and acts because she seems to know her place in the world as guided by the gods and eternal laws. Contrarily, Creon’s blind loyalty to power influences and corrupts him and eventually brings doom to him. The outcome for Creon makes Antigone’s reverence for gods and external laws seem wise and the right thing to do.
Prideful men like Creon do not accommodate flexibility and do not look beyond self-satisfaction, and end up paying hefty prices for this rigidity. Overall, Creon’s actions have a stronger argument from a modern political argument and immediate ethics. The crime Polyneices commits is greater than that of Eteocles. However, Creon seems right for the wrong reasons, and the way he responds to these crimes tempts in an unwise way that causes him to overlook longstanding religious instructions critical to the Greek community. Thus, despite human desires, some things must be preserved and obeyed.