by Elisa Gurung
by Elisa Gurung
The play Antigone, part of The Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles, takes place in Thebes of Ancient Greece. The main characters are Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus and sister of Polyneices and Eteocles, and Creon, the newly established king. Antigone and Creon share the characteristic of excessive pride (hubris), which leads them to great suffering as well as death for themselves and others around them. Antigone’s bold and prideful character traits lead to her own death, while Creon, whose praise of his own laws and status leads to the destruction of his relationships.
Antigone plays a strong role as a feminist. As a woman, she defies laws all because of her desire to have a burial ceremony for Polyneices. It is risky for Antigone to commit this because it is going against what the king has ordered, which is not to have a burial for Polyneices. When Antigone approaches her sister Ismene about their brother’s burial, Ismene does not comply with her. Despite this let down of her own sister not participating in this act of honor (as Antigone sees it), Antigone holds such great pride in being the loyal sister, that she is not thwarted by this. To Ismene, Antigone says she has the opportunity to prove what she is: “a true sister, or a traitor to your family” (190). This quotation implies that Antigone hopes to prove and show herself as a true, loyal sister, because of how persistent she is being about the burial for Polyneices. Her over confidence and hubris doesn’t allow anyone to interfere. “Creon is not strong enough to stand in my way” (191), and neither are his laws. Even Creon, who is excessively prideful himself, accuses Antigone of hubris. “Pride? In a Slave? This girl is guilty of double insolence, breaking the laws and boasting of it” (209). Since Antigone does not abide by Creon’s laws due to her hubristic personality, death is upon her, but this idea does not faze her. “But I will bury him; and if I must die, I say that this crime is holy: I shall lie down with him in death, and I shall be as dear to him as he to me” (192). Antigone craves attention so she feels deep need to honor Polyneices. Antigone ends up committing suicide as a sacrifice and sense of devotion to her family, especially her brother Polyneices.
Like Antigone, Creon possesses this flaw of hubris as well. As a new king, Creon craves the power that Oedipus held. The power that Creon gains from his position as a king boosts his arrogance about himself, which he uses to rule, and create laws. This leads Creon to tragedy of his own. Creon believes that his laws supersede the laws of the divine. “This is my command, and you can see the wisdom behind it” (197). Creon obviously highly values his own ideas and rules. When Creon’s son, Haimon approaches him about the idea of marriage, Creon’s hubris immediately reveals itself as Creon rejects this idea. Eventually, Haimon and his wife, Eurydice commit suicide and Creon admits it was because of his prideful, manipulative, self. “I was the fool, not you; and you died for me” (242). “Surely a god had crushed me beneath the hugest weight of heaven, and driven me headlong a barbaric way to trample out the thing I held most dear” (243).
The hubristic personalities of both Antigone and Creon steer the way to their own inevitable tragedies – Antigone to her deathbed and Creon to the destruction of his family. Creon and Antigone’s lack of self-awareness, particularly awareness of their excessive, boastful pride, contributes to these tragic deaths. Creon only realizes his hubristic nature, once his wife and son’s death dawns upon him while Antigone still believes that she has not committed a crime. “To me, since it was my hand that washed him clean and poured the ritual wine: And my reward is death before my time! And yet, as men’s hearts know, I have done no wrong, I have not sinned before God” (227). Antigone’s stubborn manner creates a barrier for her to realize her own wrong doings.