In Antigone, how does Haemon attempt to reason with his father?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Haemon tries to get Creon to see sense in order to make him realize just how potentially damaging his decision regarding Antigone could be. Haemon approaches his father in a suitably respectful manner; he is not attempting to challenge Creon's authority as king. What he is simply trying to do is point out the serious consequences that will follow if Creon goes ahead with executing Antigone. He informs Creon, quite rightly, that Antigone is immensely popular with the people of Thebes; executing her will only add to their growing discontent. Haemon is acting out of genuine love and concern for his father; he does not want to see him lose his throne over this.

However, it is important to acknowledge that Haemon's intercession on Antigone's behalf is not based on his feelings for her, but on the basis of a calm, rational assessment of the political situation in Thebes. He is acting in the capacity of a counselor, a loyal servant of his father the king, who feels duty bound to provide his master with sage advice.

It is all to no avail, however. Creon is so stubborn and so arrogant that he is not prepared to listen to reason, whether it is from his son or anyone else. Once more, the old adage is illustrated that you cannot reason someone out of a position if they did not reason themselves into it.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Haemon initially approaches his father in an amiable, respectful manner by informing Creon that no marriage means more than his wisdom. Creon is pleased with how his son approaches him and justifies his decision regarding Antigone's punishment. Haemon then responds by explaining to Creon how the citizens disagree and speak about Antigone's punishment behind his back. Instead of directly opposing Creon's decision, Haemon wisely attempts to transfer Creon's focus to his subjects instead of onto himself, effectively portraying himself in a positive light in the hopes that his father will not view him as an opponent. Haemon proceeds to display his affection and concern for his father by encouraging him to listen to other reasonable people, so he will not make a terrible decision. He then reminds Creon that stubborn individuals often needlessly suffer because they do not listen to others. When Creon realizes that his son opposes his decision to punish Antigone, Creon criticizes Haemon's age and lack of respect. Creon once again reveals his stubborn, authoritative personality by saying that his voice is the only one that matters in the city. Haemon proceeds to disagree with his father and argues for justice, individual rights, and the gods' authority. After realizing that his father will not budge on his decision to punish Antigone, Haemon vows that he will die if Antigone loses her life.

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After King Creon decides to put Antigone to death for her crime against the state, he is approached by his son Haemon, who is Antigone's lover and fiance.  Haemon pleads with his father to spare Antigone's life.

Haemon begins by declaring his allegience to his father (always a good idea when asking Dad for a big favor):

 

Father, I am yours, and as you have me,
you guide the best course for me to follow.(645)
No marriage will ever be more important to
me than justly carrying out your precepts.

After listening to his father rail against Antigone, Haemon presents several lines of reasoning.

a) The public is on Antigone's side; since the "city does not belong to one man [only]," Haemon feels that his father should bend to public opinion.

b) Antigone's actions were not wrong:

She didn't let her brother,
who had fallen in combat, lie unburied,
to be devoured by some ravenous
dog or bird. They ought to give her an award!

c) By punishing Antigone, who has obeyed the divine obligation of burying the dead, Creon is placing his entire kingdom at risk:

CREON:
Am I wrong to protect my own empire?(755)
HAEMON:
You don't protect it when you trample the honors of the gods!
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