The resolute king

Creon is one of the main characters of Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone. Creon succeeds to the throne as the new king as the last male descendant of the ruling dynasty of Thebes after the death of Oedipus’ sons, Eteocles and Polynices. He is Jocasta’s brother and thus the uncle of Antigone and her siblings. Furthermore, he is Haemon’s father and Eurydice’s husband.

Creon grants the right to a burial to only one of the two brothers, Eteocles, because he fought for the city of Thebes. Polynices, on the other hand, as a rebel, is not worthy of such an honor. Creon issues a law regarding this and anyone who breaks it is threatened with stoning: “Eteocles—I heard Creon covered him beneath / The earth with proper rites, as law ordains / […] But Polyneices’ miserable corpse— / They say Creon has proclaimed to everyone: / ‘No burial of any kind […]’ / That’s what they say the good Creon has proclaimed / To you. And me. He forbids me, too.” (Prologue, Scene 1, ll. 23-32). 

Creon measures the respect a person deserves first and foremost by their determination: “I believe that if anyone tries to run a city / On the basis of bad policies and holds his tongue / Because he’s afraid to say what is right, / That man is terrible.” (Act 1, Scene 2, ll. 178-181). As it turns out, this determination turns into stubbornness, since Creon only accepts his own decisions, regardless of whether they are moral or just.

Patriotism and cruelty

The loyalty to the fatherland, which is one of Creon’s essential traits and the reason for his new law as well, becomes clear at an early point in the plot: “But it’s even worse when he plays favorites, / Puts family of friends ahead of fatherland.” (Act 1, Scene 2, ll. 182-183). As such, Creon can never refer to an enemy of the city as a friend. His view does not change with the death of the enemy. Therefore, he leaves Polynices’ remains unburied.

Furthermore, we can consider Creon to be relentless and cruel because he does not show mercy to anyone who disobeys his commandments: “That you don’t side with anyone who disobeys” (Act 1, Scene 2, l. 219). He also gets angry very quickly and shows an absurd suspicion, for example, when the watchman tells him for the first time about the offender who has illegally covered Polynices’ corpse with dust: “But some men ...

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