Antigone by Sophocles dramatizes the conflict between a sense of duty towards the family and the claims of state. The two main actors in the masterwork namely Antigone and Creon represent the two sides of this conflict respectively.
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Throughout the play, there are hints that Creon who defends his actions as doing them in line with the interests of the people and the gods that he is doing the exact opposed and in the processes hurting both the gods and the citizens through his actions and decisions that lead to a series of tragedies.
After the two sons of Oedipus, Polynices and Eteocles, die in a power tussle, Creon ascends to power once again in Thebes. Creon’s decision to have to have Eteocles given a decent burial and Polynices’ body left in the open battleground to rot and the death sentence that he issues against anyone who tries to bury Polynices is the central conflict in the play.
The two brothers had made a pact to alternate leadership over Thebes, but when Eteocles term was over, he refused to honor the pact and instead clang to the throne. Polynices gathered an army, which was and attacked Thebes in what was regarded as the ‘Seven against Thebes’.
Thebes won the war. However, it is due to this war that the two sons of Oedipus died. Creon was wrong in his decision, which he regarded to be in favor of the gods and the citizens of Thebes considering that he acted in favor of a man without honor who could not keep his word and declared the acts of Polynices as treason.
When Antigone defies the order of Creon and buries her brother’s body, Creon becomes exceedingly upset, and a bitter argument ensues between him and Antigone. By that fact that Antigone is the sister of both Polynices and Eteocles, she believes that it is her obligation to bury her brother as it was not in any way pleasant to the gods to see the body of a bury rot in the open.
Creon yet commits another atrocity that lacks the favor of both the gods and the citizens of Thebes. He condemns Antigone and her sister Ismene to be entombed alive which leads Antigone to take her own life before the order is carried out.
By dragging Ismene in the problems of her sister, it is clear that Creon takes Antigone’s act of defiance from a point of selfish advantage and wants to finish Oedipus’ bloodline and secure the throne for himself. By deciding to punish both Ismene and Antigone, Creon exhibits a disconnection with kin, and through this, it is remarkably clear that he has lost the fundamentals of humanity and community.
It is through Creon’s actions that people close to him lose their lives. On realizing that Antigone was dead, Creon’s son Haemon takes his own life after threatening to kill him.
Creon’s own wife also takes her own life after she learns of her son’s death. This is another significant hint in the play that Creon’s deeds and rulings were not in favor of the gods and men but were founded on absolute pride and chauvinism.
Creon comes to a change of heart when Tiresias the leader of the chorus tells him that the body must be buried based on the will of the gods. Only then does Creon know that he has been wrong.
His efforts to release Antigone, however, come late as his deeds lead to the tragedies that follow. In the end of the play, Creon also ends tragically after a descendant of a former king invades Thebes. He is put to death.