The play, Antigone, written around 422 B.C. by the author Sophocles, is the first of the three Theban plays written by this author. Although it was the first written, Antigone is the third in the series coming after the plays Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus. This play follows the story of a girl, Antigone; and the king of the city of Thebes, Creon, who both have different beliefs about Antigone’s dead brother Polyneices. Creon makes a rule that no one can bury Polyneices because he was a traitor to the city and attacked it with an enemy army. So as an insult to him, he will not permit his burial. Antigone, on the other hand, believes that even though what he did is wrong, that family is family and she has a right to bury him. She does so, defying Creon’s law, but gets caught in the act and Creon sentences her to death. With this decision, he refuses to let go of, we see Creon’s contradictory opinions: on loyalty, by wanting what is best for the city yet he kills their princess, he kills his own son’s bride to be; he pays more attention to himself and what he says is best for the city, rather than his own family, especially his wife.
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The first example of Creon’s contradictory opinions is his belief that everything he does is for the best of the city. As this quote from Creon states, “I say to you at the very outset that I have nothing but contempt for the kind of governor that is afraid, for whatever reason, to follow the course that is best for the state; and as for the man who sets private friendship above the public welfare- I have no use for him, either.” (1/20-24/1027) he states his belief in the safety of the city and its people, no matter what the cost is. So once Creon becomes aware of what Antigone has done, he stands by his word and orders her killed, thinking that if he lets her go the people will see him as weak and breaking his word, saying the good of the people comes first, above all else. What he doesn’t realize is that the opposite is true. The people become outraged with him because they feel that Antigone had a right to bury her brother as family, and because she is their princess. Nevertheless, Creon doesn’t listen to anyone, and has his guards lock her in a stone vault, with some food, so as to say he did not kill her but she died of starvation.
From this act, this is the beginning of his spiral downward, and loss of respect from his own family. Soon after hearing what his father has done to his bride to be, Haemon, Creon’s son, rushes to the castle, to try to persuade his father to spare her life. He feels she has really done no wrong. As usual, though, Creon does not listen to reason, even by his own son, as seen in this quote, “I will carry her far away, out there in the wilderness, and lock her living in a vault of stone. She shall have food, as the custom is, to absolver the state of her death. And there let her pray to the gods of hell: they are her only gods” (3/142-146/1045). After the argument with his father, Haemon flees the castle and isn’t seen until much later. Close to the end of the play, Creon finally realizes his wrongs only to find out it was too late. He goes to the tomb of Antigone to free her, only to find she hanged herself and Haemon at her feet crying. When Creon tries to apologize for his wrongs, now that he knows what he has done, Haemon, in a rage, ignores his father’s plea and takes his sword and strikes his father.
Creon manages to narrowly escape the blade, which causes Haemon to become so enraged, he takes his sword and ends his own life in front of his father, and he dies there with Antigone. The third and final thing to happen to Creon, because of his opinions on loyalty, is that he neglects his own wife. While Creon is away trying to right his wrongs, his wife returns home to the castle, where she is informed by the messenger of what Creon has done. The messenger tells her how he sentenced Antigone to death, how Haemon tried to reason him but he didn’t listen. And worst of all, how their own child swung at Creon and then took his own life. All of this news is too much of a shock for her, so she leaves to her quarters without a word, which the messenger finds a bit suspicious, so he follows to make sure she is ok. At this time, Creon returns with the body of his son in arms, and talks with the choragus about all the grief he has gone through in this day. Then, suddenly the messenger returns with even worse news, which Creon doesn’t believe could be worse than what has already happened.
The messengers tells him that his own wife took her life, “She stood before the altar, and her heart welcomed the knife her own hand guided, and a great cry burst from her lips for Megareus dead, and for Haemon dead, her sons; and her last breath was a curse for their father, the murderer of her sons. And she fell, and the dark flowed in through her closing eyes.” (Exodus/112-117/1060). From this, Creon cannot bear it any longer and asks if everyone else is dead, where his death is, but he is doomed to live with all he has done, still as king of the city. From all that Creon has learned in this play, from losing respect from the people, to being cursed by his closet family, we can learn that sometime what we think is best, may not be right, or may not be the best for everyone, or even yourself. I believe the message Sophocles was trying to convey to us, is that we must all learn to care for the well-being of everyone by listening to advice offered, and listening to the opinions of those you are trying so hard to protect.