How Does Creon Change Throughout Antigone

Topics: Goals In Life

“The chief agent is Creon; his is the character, his the faults and merits, which are immediately relevant to the play”1. This comment from H.D.F Kitto is the reason for this study into Creon’s character in the Antigone – of the two protagonists featured, I feel his development throughout the tragedy is the most interesting and compelling aspect of the play. We watch him change from an admired, strong ruler into a tyrant who possesses a severe lack of judgement and misguided conceptions of the world, and finally into a shattered, fallen man whose values have cost him dearly.

The character of Creon is at fault for all that happens in the play – his decisions drastically effect the lives of those around him.

However, his difficult position must be remembered when analysing his actions – he was king, and believed he was acting in the best interests of the city. Also, he is the one who fares the worst due to his actions, and is left to live with this pain.

As is typical of Greek tragedy, there is no “sitting and doing nothing”2, so Creon had to act in some way, but his misjudgement caused him to act in a manner which caused suffering to all. Through this study I hope to come to a more thorough understanding of Creon’s character and consequently gain a deeper insight into the meaning of the play as a whole.

Haemon Character Traits

First impressions of Creon are favourable. The chorus describe him as “the new man for the new day”3 (line 174) and in his opening speech he seems to do what is right for the country, deeming any who place “a friend above the good of his own country” as “nothing” (lines 203-4).

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But even here we have a hint of one of Creon’s problems – his view of the city. Certainly a king should hold high concern for his domain, but we learn later that Creon sees human beings as tools in the “productivity of civic well being”4, as Martha Nussbaum describes. This critic believes Creon has reordered the values of the world to justify his actions, and this has resulted in his mental fusing of the city and the family.

Nussbaum argues that Creon feels he will eliminate the problems of “city- family conflict”5 if the two become one. He goes so far as to deny familial ties – which accounts for his attitude towards Antigone’s need to bury Polynices – where they clash with civic interest. As Nussbaum states, he is attempting to “replace blood ties by the bonds of civic friendship”6. He sees the city as the supreme good, and all other values are functions of that good. He feels he has made a world into which tragedy cannot enter, but he is sadly mistaken, as is later proven.

From this, we can see one of Creon’s main failings – he is incapable of valuing city inhabitants for their intrinsic humanity rather than just their civic productivity. This is proven in his remark to Haemon regarding Antigone – he tells his son to simply “Spit her out, like a mortal enemy let the girl go” (lines 728-9). He feels that because he sees her life as worthless, his son automatically will too – he is denying the love his son holds for Antigone, and giving him no respect for having these feelings.

Here we are also beginning to witness Creon’s lapse into tyranny – he is prepared to murder Antigone in front of Haemon – his own son – simply to vent his anger. We had hints of his tyrannical side in his attitude towards the sentry – he would have had him killed just for the purpose of punishing someone if the sentry had not found the real culprit. But the inhumanity towards his own flesh and blood is what clinches our opinion. Him bellowing “The city is the kings – that’s the law!” (line 825) at Haemon also presents an image of a somewhat power-crazed individual. We are beginning to see how Creon’s lack of judgement affects his actions towards others. He lacks respect for the gods, which is shown by comments such as; “You’ll never bury that body in the grave, not even if Zeus’s eagles rip the corpse and wing their rotten pickings off to the throne of god!” (lines 1151-1153)

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How Does Creon Change Throughout Antigone. (2019, Dec 05). Retrieved from

How Does Creon Change Throughout Antigone
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