Different Actions, Similar Minds - Antigone and Creon
Many times, people seem different by the actions they take. It is easy to judge another person by the goals and visions this person has and pursues as well as his or her values, not paying attention to the underlying character. However, no matter how different these goals are, the personality of the two persons can still be much alike. Examples for this are Antigone and Creon in Sophocles’ Antigone. Although similar in character, the visions and values that they follow are so distinct from each other, that it makes it easy to take side for one of them. With her values and her loyalty to the individual, Antigone is the one who overall wins my side and sympathy over Creon.
Antigone deals with the downfall of humans caused by their hubris and the errors they commit throughout the story. The two most dominantly affected characters of the book are Antigone, the daughter of dead Oedipus, and Creon, king of Thebes and Antigone’s uncle. Although the actions they take seem contradictory, Antigone and Creon share some core characteristics, which make the story even more interesting.
Both Antigone and Creon are strong, confident characters. Their stubbornness is shown in their eagerness in the actions they take, and how they will not back out. Antigone has set her mind on burying her brother Polynices, a crime to be punished by Creon with death. Even when her sister Ismene, who seems to be the closest to Antigone of her remaining family, tries to convince her to obey Creon’s rule and to save her life, Antigone sticks with her conviction. Antigone even attacks her, saying, “You’ll soon show what you are, / worth your breeding, Ismene, or a coward” (Sophocles 44-45). She does not compromise and believes that who is not with her, is against her. She even goes as far as calling her sister a coward for wanting to save her own life. Although she is loyal to Polynices, Antigone does not believe that someone else could be loyal to her, not even Ismene.
Creon also shows the same self-centered characteristics, which are part of Antigone’s personality. When he is approached by Tiresias, a blind prophet whom Creon owes a lot, and told that he has to free Antigone to prevent himself from disaster, Creon does not want to listen to him. Although minutes before he proclaimed to obey Tiresias (“I will, / I’ve never wavered from your advice before.” (Sophocles 1096-1097)), Creon suddenly changes his mind, as Tiresias’ orders to not reflect Creon’s plans. In addition, Creon does not believe in the strong loyalties of others, not even of his own son, Haemon. When Heamon wants to persuade his father to let Haemon’s fiancé live, Creon assumes that he only does so, because he is loyal to Antigone, but not to his father (“This boy, I do believe / is fighting on her side, the woman’s side.” (Sophocles 827-828)). Creon, like Antigone, is only concerned with himself and only puts trust in his own actions. Creon assumes that whoever breaks a law or is not on Creon’s side, does so either to deliberately hurt him or for money. The main discrepancy between Antigone and Creon is that Antigone is loyal to the individual while Creon is loyal to the state. After he just became ruler of Thebes, Creon is committed to the state and to the rules he implemented. Antigone as well as Polynices are both part of his family, but he chooses the state over them. He would even go as far as sacrificing people’s lives in order to consolidate his power. In comparison, Antigone cares more about the individual, in this case her dead brother Polynices. In order to provide him with a proper burial, she breaks Creon’s law and even accepts her death for it. Her actions are driven by the mourning for her brother.
Although Antigone and Creon show many similarities in their characters, I have the most sympathy for Antigone. Even though her behavior might not always be right in the first place, her highest priority is her family. It is more important to her that her brother receives a proper burial as it is for herself to live. “A husband died, there might have been another. / A child by another, too” (Sophocles 1001-1002), shows how much she values her brother compared to a husband or her own child. In today’s world, where families are less close than they were years ago, such an attitude is mostly missing. Although Antigone is taking a stand against Creon and Ismene, who are both her relatives, she does not want them any harm. In comparison to that, Creon’s actions seem a lot colder to me. Needless to say, he follows the rules he put up and wants the best for Thebes. However, when it comes to his nieces Antigone and Ismene, he even thinks about putting both of them to death. By choosing the state and his power over his relatives, Creon seems emotionless and less likable.
When reading Sophocles’ Antigone for the first time, I was immediately drawn to Antigone, due to her actions and her strong character. However, the similarities between Creon and Antigone did not seem obvious to me in the beginning. In comparison to my initial impressions of the characters, I now know that both of them are strong characters, who are stubborn and have a certain goal in their mind. Nevertheless, the matching characteristics did not change my sympathy for Antigone. I still believe that her loyalty to her brother is a far more admirable characteristic than Creon’s loyalty to his state. Of course, I see now that Antigone’s actions are not always justified and that she is probably overreacting, simply because it is forbidden to bury her brother. However, Creon should have simply granted Antigone’s wish for a proper burial. No matter how similar he is to Antigone, he seems rather cold as he prefers the state and his ruling to his family, which Antigone, Ismene, and Polynices are a part of.
Both Antigone and Creon make mistakes, and both are very much alike. Nevertheless, Antigone wins my favor over Creon, as her actions are admirable and are not meant to hurt anyone. Antigone might be stubborn and self-centered, but the loyalty to her brother drives her to her actions. That she wants to bury him, even if it means her death, is applaudable. Creon, on the other side, only thinks about his state and how Antigone’s actions could influence how he is portrayed as a ruler. His actions are so selfish, that he does not understand the disaster coming from it. While Antigone’s actions did not hurt anyone, - as she even tells her sister to save her life - Creon’s actions led to the suicide of Antigone, Haemon, and
Eurydice. A behavior which results in the death of three people cannot be seen as more admirable as someone who is only breaking a rule.
Sophocles. “Antigone.” Literature of the Western World, Volume I: The Ancient World
Through the Renaissance. Ed. Brian Wilkie and James Hurt. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001. 791-839. Print.