Antigone Literary Analysis

An essay by Jason Toby on Antigone by Sophocles, moral decisions that were made by key characters are discussed.

Antigone Literary Analysis


Decisions are everywhere, whether it’s choosing what to have for breakfast, or deciding how to do homework. Sometimes, the decisions are a bit harder then these everyday choices. These are called moral decisions, and it is from these moral decisions that consequences arise. When the outcome of those choices is bad, sometimes people try to divert the blame from them. They like to blame their misfortune on a higher power, but in the end it all comes down to the decisions they made. In the play Antigone by Sophocles, Creon’s pride, not fate, is what causes his demise. He has many opportunities to change his course, and by looking at these choices, we can see how Creon seals his doom.


Creon is the king of Thebes, and he cares for his city, but it is his love of his country and his ignorant pride that starts the horrible turn of events in Antigone. At the beginning of the play, he denies his nephew, Polynices burial, as Creon believed he was a traitor and not fit to bury in the country he betrayed. Yet his rash act defies the law of the gods, and Antigone rises up to bury her brother, regardless of Creon’s decree. After the Watchman reports this to him, Creon’s anger and arrogance starts to surface, and overrides his sense of righteousness. Creon angrily states “Look, if you don’t bring me the men who did this, you’ll be talking about the punishment that the money inflicted on you.” (22).

Even after he promises the Watchman he would not punish him, in this quote he still accuses him of the crime.  His anger gets in the way of the promise he made, and he can’t see that the Watchman is innocent, and stubbornly thinks he was bribed to do it by someone else. This shows how he can’t deal with defeat, and seeks to punish someone with every loss that he suffers. The fact that someone has beaten him in the situation infuriates him and will continue to fuel his decisions for the rest of the novel. This is the beginning of Creon’s prideful downfall.


            After Antigone is captured and sentenced to death, Creon’s arrogance is shown once again, this time with his own son, Haimon. Being engaged to Antigone, Haimon comes to Creon after she is sent away, and tries to convince him to change his mind. However Creon gets furious at his son, believing that law is more important then family. Creon then debates his anger with the chorus, “At my age I am to be taught by him? I am to be schooled by a boy?” (35) Ignoring his sons warning, Creon can only think that his son is challenging his power, and seeks to punish him. Seeing this, Haimon is heartbroken that Creon, his own father, won’t change his mind about killing Antigone, his bride. This shows that Creon is very single-minded; he is only focused on maintaining his power as a leader, and only sees Haimon’s speech as defiance.  Haimon continues to argue with him, but Creon only gets more frustrated and angered. He yells at his son, “Is that so? By god—you will not abuse me like this and get away with it.” (37). Once again Creon fails to get the point. Instead his pride is ruling his decisions, and now he feels insulted, even though that is not what Haimon is intending to do. This shows again Creon’s need to punish others to show his authority, and how his power has corrupted his mind. However this isn’t the end of Creon’s bad judgment; he continues to slowly condemn himself, despite the warnings from the Chorus and his son.


            Finally the prophet Tiresias comes to Creon, and gives him a final chance to change his fate.  His final warning represents the last opportunity for Creon, even after all of his bad decisions. Creon ignores this warning, and accuses Tiresias of plotting against him. Creon retorts, “Make your filthy money, trade in gold from India or precious metals from Lydia, if that’s your business. But you will never bury that corpse.” (45) With this Creon denies the law of the gods, that each corpse must have a burial ritual. Since Tiresias is a prophet, and helped him rise to power as a king, ignoring him and accusing him of anarchy is a major mistake. Creon’s lack of trust is evident with how quickly he goes from a trusting friend to a spiteful dictator. He has made many choices that led him to the tragedy that follows, and he has failed his last chance to change his fate. First the watchman, then his son, and now even the gods. With prideful mistakes and ignorant decisions, Creon has sealed his fate.


            This shows that even with all the Greek drama surrounding fate, in Antigone Sophocles shows that through poor decision-making and ignorant pride, one can seal his doom, just like Creon. People don’t like the idea that their entire lives are predetermined by fate. Even in a world of conflicting viewpoints and ideas, fate isn’t what controls our lives, but the decisions we make every day. Some choices are easy, some are hard, but a bad choice will always come back to hurt you in the end, as Creon shows with his tragic demise.





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