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The Tragic Hero of the Sophocles’ “Antigone” Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 7th, 2022


People make mistakes in life despite doing everything right and per the rules set. Over the years, there have been endless debates regarding who the tragic hero is in Sophocles’ Antigone. Many people view Antigone as a character who doubles up as a hero and a victim in a story. On the other hand, some individuals claim that he is a person who arises from being the main character to being the sympathetic victim. Some readers are convinced that Antigone best fits the tragic hero role. For instance, she claims that Polyneices should not be unburied. It is considered a noble action since she tries to maintain her faith and love for her family. Furthermore, her suicidal act makes the readers believe she is a form of loyalty. However, Antigone cannot be considered the hero since she lacks Aristotle’s characteristics of a tragic hero. Thus, various aspects, such as the characteristics he has, his flaws, and how he brought along his downfall, can show that Creon is a tragic hero.

The Reason Why Creon is the Tragic Hero

Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero was based on Sophocles’ characters in Antigone. According to him, the tragic hero faces not only the death of the loved ones and mistakes one makes but also a great downfall (Segal 137). Another aspect is that a tragic hero controls his fate. In Antigone, each character suffers some tragedies, but only one tragic hero suffers the most. A terrible flaw is a mistake on such hero’s part that brings his disgrace, vital to the hero’s character (Koulouris 60). Consequently, this definition justifies Creon as a tragic hero. He exhibits good characteristics and intentions, he is dependable, he is true to life, and he is responsible for his downfall.

The Loyalty

From Creon’s past life, it is clear that he was loyal to Thebes. First, his loyalty is revealed when he joins the Theban army to fight the Argive Military. Sophocles tries to tell the readers that joining the war meant that Creon was putting his life in danger by risking death. He takes a significant risk in the battle, which many people would not accept. He is viewed as the rescuer of Thebes through his efforts to protect the people and his success in fighting the Argive Army (Rayor 50). Additionally, the messenger in the play also recognizes him as the savior, which supports the argument that he played a crucial role in Thebes’ victory in the war. It also implies that he was loyal to his people and protected them.

Furthermore, the text shows Creon’s loyalty to Thebes when he guarantees that he will always respect the nation. Although he has other priorities like family and religious interests, Creon focuses on the state’s interests as his highest priority. Creon states, “I’m not the man to sit quietly by and watch my country sliding towards the precipice ruins” (Rayor 11). The audience can learn from the text that Creon believes in the integrity of the state. Other than being loyal to his country, he is also faithful to the nation’s laws. To encourage devotion, he has to be strict with the rules and regulations of Thebes. He sets an excellent example to the citizens by obeying the commands himself. Creon promises to punish individuals who disobey the laws, such as the rule to leave Polyneices’ body unburied. After Antigone breaks the law by burying her brother, Creon is determined to punish her despite people’s appeal to undo the policy.

The Noble Character

Creon is a noble character, as seen in the play. First, he is conscientious from birth since he comes from a royal family. He is the elder brother of Jocasta and a close friend to the former ruler of Thebes. Creon also inherits the noble blood since he is the blood brother of Jocasta. He is the uncle of the two brothers and the dead queen’s brother, becomes the king of Thebes, a wonderful city of seven gates (Zetti 90). Second, Creon’s noble character is seen since he belongs to the upper-class social class. The highest level of society is held by people from the empire in Antigone (Rayor 10). Consequently, Creon becomes a noble person since he originates from the kingdom of Antigone.

Third, he has moral characteristics that best define him as noble. Nobility can be associated with high moral values and excellent moral character. Creon’s moral personality is seen when he tells the plan to unbury Polyneices’ body (Rayor 4). By revealing the approach, he educates Theban citizens on the prominence of decency and faithfulness. He clarifies that he would not betray his country for money because such decisions can ruin the nation and make his citizens suffer. These characteristics further explain that Creon was not money-oriented. Coming from a noble family, he has much money, and he is not greedy. He is not willing to gain more money through corruption. He further goes on to explain that even God cannot accept the soul of a betrayer. He urges the citizens not to follow the footsteps of Polyneices, who betrayed his motherland.

From Aristotelian theory, one aspect of the tragic hero is that he must be a noble person. Correspondingly, he stated that nobility is the place a leader falls from. For a tragic hero to satisfy catastrophe, he must be brought from his success to his misfortune. Creon has been noble; he can oppress people below him with no objection. For example, the guards had to obey his rule to unbury Polyneices (Rayor 22). By repressing people with minor nobility, he is brought to his downfall. It is signified by the deaths of those close to him, such as Antigone, Haemon, and Eurydice. Creon’s breakdown raises the audience’s pity since individuals from his social class deserve a happy and wonderful life. In contrast to that, he is leading a miserable life after the death of his loved ones. Thus, one can argue that these events make him a tragic hero.

Tragic Flaws

No human is perfect, and people make different mistakes in life. In this case, Creon encounters some challenges in society that cause him to make poor judgments. One of his downfalls is the oppression of the fewer nobility citizens. When made king of Thebes, his loyalty grew more significant than before. Nonetheless, the domination done by him turns this loyalty into self-centered. His struggle to prove his loyalty makes him ignore other essential things like family and religion. Antigone plays a significant role in representing the oppressed people in the play. However, “the conflict between Creon and Antigone has its starting point in law and justice problems” (Segal 139). For instance, Antigone is furious about Creon’s command to unbury the body of Polyneices for betraying Thebes. She is motivated by her love for the family and strongly disagrees with the policy (Rayor 21). Antigone’s second oppression is when Creon reveals another policy to punish her for disobeying his first rule (Rayor 22). She is punished by being sentenced to a desert without food.

Creon is brought to diversity since his oppression resulted in the deaths of his people. The loss makes him suffer since he has to live with the responsibility for their deaths. For instance, Haemon commits suicide because Creon punished Antigone. Creon claims that he has caused many deaths, whereby some have been experienced in his family (Rayor 28). One can argue that all these issues finally lead him to his downfall, which is an aspect that must exist on the hero’s part. The disaster might not end with the hero’s death, but his breakdown from his prosperity shows how he has lost much. Aristotle argued that many heroes experience such challenges to become stronger, which is revealed in Creon’s case.

Creon’s weak characteristics, such as pride, strict rules, arrogance, self-centeredness, and authoritarianism, are the leading causes of his downfall. In Aristotle’s theory, the hero’s disgrace results from his tragic flaws, which can be his weakness in characteristics (Koulouris 60). From the play, being the king of Thebes is Creon’s tragic flaw. The title gives him a demanding aspect as a hero. He is also a victim of the system that forces him to have the weakness to oppress the less noble. The oppression finally causes his downfall, as revealed by Aristotle. No matter how a hero tries to prevent his fate, it still happens, and he realizes it. For instance, Creon is forced to bury Polyneices and free Antigone to prevent his disgrace. However, he knows that it would not be stopped, and it was destined to happen anyway.


In conclusion, Creon is the real tragic hero that meets Aristotle’s requirements in Antigone. This disqualifies Antigone, who is believed to be loyal to her family, by burying Polyneices against Creon’s policy. Aristotle argued that a tragic hero has to be from noble birth and has a flaw that leads to his downfall. Creon inherited nobility from Oedipus, his sister’s husband, who was the former King of Thebes. Correspondingly, he possesses loyal characteristics that qualify him as a hero. Creon joins the Theban army to protect and serve his people. Through his loyalty, he is viewed as the savior of Thebes. Correspondingly, he puts the state’s interests as his most significance above the other priorities, such as family and religious interests.

Unfortunately, his flaws caused his downfall, impacting how people viewed him in society. When he became the king, he oppressed the less noble, including Antigone. For instance, she buried her brother against the king’s policy, and she was sent to the desert without food. The deaths of his loved ones bring him misery and suffering and, eventually, his downfall. The audience can learn that Creon comes through his destruction with a better understanding of the wrong deeds he had done. Thus, one can argue that Creon is Antigone’s tragic hero since his character meets Aristotle’s requirements for a tragic hero.

Works Cited

Koulouris, Theodore. “Neither Sensible nor Moderate: Revisiting the Antigone.” Humanities, vol. 7, no. 2. 2018, pp. 60-77.

Rayor, Diane J. Sophocles’ Antigone: A new translation. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Segal, Charles. “5. Sophocles’ Praise of Man and the Conflicts of the Antigone”. Interpreting Greek Tragedy, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2019, pp. 137-162.

Zetti, Rossana. New Voices in Classical Reception Studies, no. 12, 2018, pp. 88-107.

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