Antigone: An Analysis

September 20, 2021 by Essay Writer

As the Greek tragedy Antigone builds up to a climax, Creon is warned that “[a]ll men make mistakes, it is only human. But once the wrong is done, a man can turn his back on folly, misfortune too, if he tries to make amends, however low he’s fallen, and stops his bullnecked ways. Stubbornness brands you for stupidity—pride is a crime.” This warning by Tiresias stresses how Creon had gone against the will of the gods and the ideals of ancient Greek society. For Creon to act as if he was faultless and capable of no wrong was to act as if he was a god, an unthinkable offense. To show undue pride and stubbornness in the face of one’s own mistakes was unheard of in Greek society and therefore punishable by the gods. Thus, in these lines Sophocles sums up the moral of his work and the philosophy of his society.Through the statement “all men make mistakes, it is only human” the reader is assured that mistakes are natural and, while not condoned by the gods, definitely expected. Tiresias does not condemn Creon’s original actions and mistake, rather Tiresias shows that error is anticipated and seen as a natural part of human experience. Tiresias shows Creon that there is indeed no shame in being wrong and therefore Creon should be open to the possibility of admitting his faults, despite being the powerful king of Thebes. Creon, however, does not seem to realize that he is the one mistaken, otherwise he would have probably taken the wise advice of Tiresias. Creon instead considers the prophecy of Tiresias either the raving of a blind old man or perhaps advice for the “mistaken” Antigone. The moral of Sophocles’ passage, despite Creon’s refusal to listen, still stands true–only the gods can be found faultless and therefore free from any errors, while humankind is destined to be mistaken.Tiresias advises Creon that although humankind may make mistakes, to be stubborn and refuse to admit these mistakes is the worst crime of all. This piece of advice is critical, showing that while to err is human one must be willing to correct one’s mistakes or face the due consequences. Sophocles tells of this to show that although the human race is doomed to err, reason allows for one to not necessarily suffer from those mistakes. Tiresias is careful to advise Creon to correct his transgressions and thus to become hopeful of overcoming folly and to be saved from the ill effects put into motion by his previous mistakes.When Tiresias warns “stubbornness brands you for stupidity—pride is a crime” the readers are told that the gods will not forgive Creon for not giving in to the good advice given to him. To the gods the crimes of stubbornness and pride are both punishable. Creon’s refusal to admit to his initial error is his greatest mistake and act of stupidity. As Tiresias had previously warned, Creon could counteract the wrong made by his error if only he had the sense to given in. Creon, however, decided to scoff at the warnings of Tiresias and continue down the path to possible ruination. Creon had, perhaps, refused to listen out of sheer stubbornness to admit to his mistake not necessarily out of stubbornness to correct it. After Creon’s refusal to listen to the wisdom of Tiresias, his mistake came to full fruition and he became the victim of his own pride. Thus, all of Tiresias’ warnings come to naught, and Creon unknowingly leads himself to his own downfall.One of the main issues leading to Creon’s downfall is his refusal to acknowledge his own mistake. Creon is unable to rectify his mistake without first realizing that he has indeed made one. Creon’s stubbornness is not in correcting his mistake but in admitting that he had made one, a crime nonetheless. Until all parties, from Antigone to the Council, have assured Creon that he has made a mistake his refusal to acknowledge it knows no bounds2E Once Creon realizes his error, however, he is quick to correct it but both burying the body of Polynices and retrieving Antigone from her burial chamber.Creon is unable to redeem his mistake because he made the one unforgivable error, to act as if one was a god. By taking matters of life and death into his hands, Creon acted as if he was a god. The gods have laws concerning the proper burial of the dead and Creon’s refusal to follow these statutes with the body of Polynices was heinous. Antigone and the people of Thebes were in an uproar over this flouting of the rules of the gods, but Creon forged ahead without thought. Creon once again overstepped his bounds by condemning Antigone to be buried alive for following the laws of the gods and disobeying him. By sentencing once of the living to the land of the dead underground Creon does what only the gods have the authority to do once again. These two great mistakes are the mark of Creon’s undoing. Although Tiresias claims that Creon can undo his wrongs one cannot disobey the gods so completely without satisfactory revenge. Thus, although Creon attempts to fix all of his mistakes it is too late and his punishment is already set, the death of his son and his wife.With Tiresias’ words of wisdom, Sophocles intended to warn the society of ancient Greece of a lesson already well known—that one’s pride can lead to one’s own downfall. This lesson served as moral of Antigone much as the lesson that fate is unavoidable was the moral of Oedipus. The plays of Sophocles work to show the audience important life lessons (perhaps as experienced by Sophocles himself). In each work of Oedipus’ trilogy the main character is warned of impending danger from a reliable source and he goes against this advice only to learn the lesson in the end. Oedipus ignored the warnings of the oracle only to have fate catch up with him in the end in a very horrific way. Creon is no different, as he ignores the warnings of Hameon, Tiresias, and others to follow his own blind path to ruination. We, as the audience, know that this lesson is made for out edification because Sophocles proves is careful to prove Oedipus and Creon mistaken in their judgment, much to their own horrific consequences. If the veracity of this statement were not important to Sophocles’ work, then he would not show the full prophetic truth through Creon’s actions in this play.To support his moral, Sophocles is careful to provide adequate evidence through the actions of the characters. Creon’s circumstances prove that pride and stubbornness are indeed great crimes in the eyes of the gods. Sophocles was careful to show that Creon disobeyed every word of Tiresias’ advice and to, just as carefully, show the results of his disobeyance. Tiresias talks of mistakes, new lows, and attempts at rectifying these lows and Creon is shown reaching all of these stages. Sophocles, thus, is careful to demonstrate all of his points through Creon’s downfall and thus stress the importance of this lesson. This lesson is not shown through the example of Antigone but rather through Creon’s reaction to her to also stress the importance of Antigone’s blind faith in the laws of the gods. Antigone is careful to respect the edicts of the gods despite Creon’s warnings, demonstrating the importance of the gods over humankind.Sophocles presents this prophecy through the mouth of Tiresias, a blind prophet who sees much more then the average man. In his prediction, Tiresias proclaims the visions that he has seen concerning the fate of Creon, who tempted the will of the gods. After Tiresias’ speech the other characters talk of the proven truth of Tiresias’ earlier predictions, shedding more light on the past history of this prophet. By putting these words on the lips of Tiresias, a proven soothsayer, Sophocles gives the words a truth possible no other way. Besides stressing the truth of the statement, putting these important words into a prophecy states their importance to all society, although especially to Creon’s life.

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