Jennifer taught 9th grade ELA and AP Literature for over 8 years. She has a dual master's in English Literature and Teaching Secondary Ed from Simmons University and a BS in Psychology. She is also a contracted freelance writer and certified AP Test Reader.
Antigone and Creon
Have you ever struggled to get along with someone, and you couldn't figure out why? Sometimes people can be so similar that it ends up harming instead of helping their relationship. In the play Antigone by Sophocles, we meet two characters so similar they willingly fight to the death because of their personalities and beliefs. To provide some context for the comparisons in this lesson, let's review the conflicts of the play that the characters Antigone and Creon face.
Antigone's father exiled himself from Thebes, leaving her brothers Polyneices and Eteocles to share the throne. When Eteocles refuses to give up his time in power, Polyneices is forced to leave the city. He returns years later with an army, but unfortunately, both brothers die in battle, leaving Antigone and her sister Ismene to fend for themselves.
The next male in line to take the throne is their Uncle Creon. Creon's first order names Polyneices a traitor and prohibits a proper burial. Anyone that buries the body shall be punished by death. The thought of Polyneices' body rotting in a field pushes Antigone over the edge. She goes against Creon's orders and buries her brother, leaving Creon with a difficult choice to make.
Should Creon punish Antigone and make himself look weak in his new role as king? Or should he do right by his family and remove the charge? Not to mention Antigone is engaged to Creon's son Haemon. Let's look at their similarities and differences and determine how their personalities affect the outcome of the play.
Similarities and Differences
Even though Antigone and Creon are fighting for different reasons, they both feel deeply and passionately that their reasons are justified. While this difference in opinion causes conflict and death, it binds them together as two very determined individuals who are confident, maybe too much so, in their own beliefs.
Creon and Antigone are set in their ways, and their pride brings about their downfalls. Antigone refuses to acknowledge that she broke the law and would rather die than apologize or acknowledge her wrongdoing. Creon is the same way. He would rather kill a family member and ruin his son's future to stay true to his word and keep command over the people before he would admit defeat and misjudgment. Their pride manifests in different ways, but this stubbornness plays a negative role in both of their lives.
Antigone is loyal to her brother, promising him a proper burial at all costs. She risks her life to fulfill his wishes, remaining loyal to both her culture and the gods with this act. Creon feels his actions reveal his loyalty to Thebes. Antigone's brother fought against Thebes, which makes Creon feel his punishment is just. Going against one's home is a big no-no in Greek culture, so he also feels his action of denying the burial is honorable. While these two characters are on opposite ends of the spectrum regarding their reasons for being loyal, this trait is the reason for their conflict.
Neither Antigone nor Creon listen to anyone's advice. Antigone disowns her sister Ismene after she refuses to help Antigone bury Polyneices' body. Ismene tries to warn Antigone that nothing good can come from breaking the law, but Antigone reads her disapproval as fear. Creon also ignores words of wisdom. He laughs at the prophecy read to him by Teiresias, which foreshadows the destruction at the end of the play. Creon also ignores his son's rational arguments. Both characters are given advice, and in both cases, the advice is simply to listen to reason.
Antigone does what she feels is right for her family and culture. She helps her brother get to the Underworld and does so with a confident but prideful air about her. While the city backs her choice, her sarcastic and rude comments, along with her unapologetic nature, lead her to death when she takes her own life after being exiled in a makeshift prison.
Creon's actions can be analyzed as selfish. He says he wants to keep order and do what is best for Thebes, but the people are siding with Antigone per the conversation with his son Haemon. Creon also puts his family second, harming Haemon by threatening to kill his soon-to-be bride. Haemon tries to reason with his father with true compassion and respect, but Creon only wants control over his son, ignoring the logic behind Haemon's words. Creon ends up having a change of heart, but it's too late. His choices keep him in power, but his niece, his son, and his wife take their lives as a result.
Both these characters face different outcomes, but death seems to haunt them both. Antigone dies at the end of the play, and Creon, losing his family, becomes the walking dead with nothing to live for. The pride of these two characters, disguised as justice and honor, ends up destroying Thebes and the royal family.
While both Antigone and Creon follow very different life paths, in reality they share many similarities that cause their conflict. Antigone is a young girl who promises to bury her brother to ensure he gets to the Underworld, remaining loyal to her family and culture during a chaotic time. Creon is the newly appointed king who wants to show his city that he will remain loyal to Thebes and make just decisions. While both characters reveal their loyalty in different ways, their pride brings about their downfalls, taking more lives in the process. Neither character listens to the wisdom others have to share, which leads them to a literal and figurative death in the end.
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