The Tragic Downfall Of Antigone
Most people view a tragic hero as “the bad guy.” Has anyone ever thought about why a tragic hero is called a tragic hero? According to Aristotle, “A man doesn’t become a hero until he can see the root of his own downfall” (Tragic Hero as defined by Aristotle Worksheet). This means a tragic hero is someone with good intentions but does not succeed, because of his or her downfall. Sophocles’ play, Antigone, Antigone is sentenced to death by Creon because she took matters into her own hands in burying her brother Polyneices (Hadas “Antigone”). Everyone chooses how they live their life, Antigone’s decisions lead her to become a tragic hero.
From the start of the play, Antigone shows that she is stubborn and bears no responsibility for having this characteristic. She is offended when she finds out Polyneices would not have a proper burial, and Eteocles would have an honored burial. Ismene tries to convince Antigone that she will die if she buries their brother. Antigone refuses and does not consider the consequences before burying Polyneices. If Antigone were to consider her actions, then she would have thought about the disadvantages she had as a protector against Creon. Antigone could have used words instead of actions to show her point of the whole situation. Taking matters into her own hand in burying Polyneices was not the only choice left open. Antigone could have discussed it with Creon. While talking to Ismene, Antigone says “I will do my part and yours, if you will not- to a brother. False to him I will never be found (Hadas 124).”
Antigone shows hubris that she will bury Polyneices without getting caught. Because of the amount of love and respect Antigone has towards her brother, she confidently decides to bury her brother. Antigone thought to herself that burying Polyneices is her fate. According to Hadas, on page 125 Antigone states “Do not fear me; guide your own fate aright.” Antigone shows excessive pride in herself when making decisions. It does not make sense when one buries one sibling and not the other. This is injustice towards the sibling who is left out in the open. As a result of being confident with her beliefs, Antigone is doomed for making this decision.
A tragic hero has the characteristics of being good and bad. A positive attribute of Antigone is that she is loyal to her family. Antigone loves her family and respects everyone wholeheartedly. She was willing to sacrifice herself for her dead brother. In contrast, Antigone would never stand out of her position if she never cared for her brothers. Antigone believes burying a dead body, especially a family member is more important than letting it decompose such as leaving the body as a source for animals to feed off. Also, Antigone defends Ismene when she says she was a part of the burial too. This is because Antigone clearly knew she would die and never wanted anyone else to suffer for or with her, so she pardons Ismene from her crime of the burial process. According to Hadas on page 135, Antigone states “Brother by the same mother and the same sire.” This means Antigone wanted both of her brothers to deserve an equal amount of respect no matter what they had done during their lifetime.
Another tragic hero characteristic is that the hero must be faced with a serious decision. Antigone confronted Creon about how his decision is too excessive and how it is unfair to Polyneices. Why did Antigone have the courage to confront Creon? It’s because Antigone understood that both sons of Oedipus have equal rights of man, and the only difference between them was that they had different beliefs. Antigone wanted to prove to Creon that Polyneices committed no crime. Antigone proves to Creon that he is selfish and arrogant. ‘“Creon: And are you ashamed to act apart from them? Antigone: No; there is nothing shameful in piety in the opposite”’ (Hadas 135). Also, Antigone is true and loyal to herself, she does not ignore her conscience and sticks with what she sees, not hears. Her judgment led to the climax of her fate.
Antigone reveals her fate by her actions, not things happening surrounding her. One of her attributes is being motivated to do what is right no matter how big the risk is. Antigone is an heir who could have been next in line for the throne as queen. She knew Polynices wanted to be King of Thebes. A lot of people also wish to have this kind of position and power to do what they want. She is the type of person that will do as she says, because of how passionate she is like a normal person. A noble in the working class most likely work to help support their family. The noble is motivated to earn more and more money for their family to help live a better life. Antigone thinks as a normal person would. Just like Antigone is motivated to do the right thing and bury Polyneices whether he did bad or good deeds. This is the turning point of Antigone’s fate since she is not afraid of anything or Creon and believes she has nothing to lose, this leads to her downfall. When Creon was interrogating Antigone, she did not deny her actions, but admitted them, ‘“Antigone: I knew it; could I help it? It was public. Creon: Did you then dare transgress the law? Antigone: Yes …”’ (Hadas 133-134). If there was no purpose of Antigone defending Polynices, then she would not find trouble and risk her life-saving Polynices’s pride.
Another one of Antigone’s negative attributes is accepting her fate realizing what she had done makes her a tragic hero. She is stubborn towards not encouraging Creon to understand her view of the situation and decides that nothing can change her fate anymore. Antigone finally recognizes that she will starve and die in a cave. After thinking about her fate, she blames her father for causing such a mess. Creon was being unfair to Antigone for sentencing her to death because she wanted to bury her brother. If Antigone were to stand up for herself more persuasively, then the whole situation could have changed. She had a chance to live, but she did not use that opportunity. It makes sense that someone would want to live until the right age to die. People who are on the edge of dying, usually wish they could live their life like tomorrow was their last day having no regrets. Antigone, on the other hand, does not regret her decision and her mindset is thinking towards “I will die sooner or later.” Antigone was already thinking about death when she walked right in to talk to Creon. On page 145 according to Hadas, Antigone sings, “….see what I suffer, and from whom, because I feared to cast away the fear of Heaven!” Right before Antigone is taken away, she says the word “Heaven,” if you were about to be cast away, would you use your last breath to say heaven?
Throughout the play, Antigone shows that she has the characteristics of a tragic hero. She shows self-confidence, loyalty, being motivated, and accepts her fate as is. Antigone’s punishment was unfair and injustice towards her. Antigone’s downfall was when she did not defend her belief enough to Creon. Antigone has the characteristics of fighting back at Creon but chose not to. If Antigone were to change Creon’s opinion about Polyneice’s burial, then she could have a higher percentage of surviving.
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