The fate of Creon is sealed by his decision to make an example of his niece, and quickly becomes tragic in Antigone. Creon shows us his lack of leadership skills by creating situations in which he loses the respect of his advisors, and the love of his family. The inability to overcome foolish pride is Creon’s greatest fault and the direct cause of his fall from grace.
Initially, the author uses foreshadowing to hint at the upcoming turn of events. Choragos statement during the Parodos “For God hates utterly The bray of bragging tongues;” warns that no man is above God’s wrath (Sophocles 1327-8). This prediction comes to fruition as the rotting corpse brings disease and wild beasts to Thebes. The deaths of Creon’s family can also be seen as God’s way of punishing him for his foolishness.
Additionally, Sophocles uses irony to demonstrate why pride is considered a mortal sin. Creon’s belief that he controls the fate of his loyal subjects is shattered when his son takes his own life, followed by his wife. Only then does Creon realize how his blind fury over Antigone violating his decree has opened his mind to the callous and hurtful behavior he has exhibited. Also, the irony that his blind prophet has better vision than Creon and the Elders reinforces how foolish Creon has been. “Teiresias, Teiresias, how clearly you saw it all!” shouts Choragos upon learning of the Queen’s suicide (Sophocles 1349).
Finally, the setting in the tragedy has strong correlations to how Creon’s perception changes. While amongst his cronies, Creon believes that his will is infallible. “And the City proposes to teach me how to rule? My voice is the one voice giving orders in the City!” argues Creon to Haimon’s pleadings for Antigone’s life to be spared (Sophocles 1339). However, once the setting moves away from the palace Creon starts to see things a little more clearly. Upon arriving at the tomb which he had Antigone imprisoned, Creon’s evils are unmasked to his eyes, and he now understands all too painfully what his pride has caused.
There were many points in which Creon could have changed his decision on Antigone’s fate without losing the respect of his subjects or jeopardize his authority. Although Creon’s advisors, the sentries, and his subjects fear him more than they have ever respected him, crisis could have been averted by showing the kingdom he could be merciful. The image of a strong ruler Creon decided was of the utmost importance turns out to be just an image. So has been the fate of so many before King Creon, and so will be others that follow as long as they cannot overcome themselves.
Sophocles. Literature: Drama 3. Eds. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 10th ed. Boston/NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. 1324-52.
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