Creon makes several errors in judgement before the end of Sophocles' Antigone that lead to his downfall. At the end of the play, has Creon become sympathetic?

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noahvox2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the outset of Sophocles' Antigone, the audience learns that Creon, the king of Thebes, has decreed death for anyone who buries Polyneices, who waged war against Thebes.

When Antigone buries Polyneices, Creon refuses to make an exception to his decree despite the fact that Antigone is his niece and is engaged to marry his son, Haemon. Creon even angrily rejects Haemon's reasonable efforts to get Creon to reconsider his decree of death against Antigone.

Finally, however, Creon is persuaded by the prophet Teiresias to change his mind and reverse his sentence against Antigone. Unfortunately, by the time Creon reaches the place where Antigone has been imprisoned, the girl has already killed herself. Creon's son Haemon also kills himself after his failed attempt to kill Creon. To make matters worse, Creon's wife, in grief over the death of Haemon, kills herself.

While it is difficult for a modern audience not to feel some measure of sorrow or sympathy for Creon, I am hard pressed to find much sympathy for Creon expressed in Sophocles' text. The only speaking parts in the final part of the play, after Creon learns of the death of his wife (the final death of the three for which he is held responsible), belong to the Chorus, which is comprised of elderly Theban men. Creon makes a number of lamentations, but the Theban elders do not offer any remarks that sound like explicit expressions of sympathy. As the play ends, the Theban elders observe that the "boasts of arrogant men / bring on great blows of punishment" (Ian Johnston's translation). This does not sound very sympathic to me.

So, while I personally feel sorry for Creon and he does evoke sympathy from me, I am not finding much sympathy for Creon in the final remarks made by the Chorus.