How would Creon be the tragic hero? Which scenes show this?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One thing we need to keep in mind when reading works of literature, especially tragedies or works that have tragic endings, is that the central character in a literary work, even if we do not like him or her, that central character often gets the label of "hero".

Literary heroes...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

One thing we need to keep in mind when reading works of literature, especially tragedies or works that have tragic endings, is that the central character in a literary work, even if we do not like him or her, that central character often gets the label of "hero".

Literary heroes are different from what Americans usually think of as heroes. When most Americans think of heroes, we think of some famous athlete (Tom Brady), politician (Abraham Lincoln), or civic leader (Martin Luther King, Jr.). Our heroes are people whom we admire and whom we want to be like. Literary heroes can be people we do not like and would not want to be like.

This is certainly the case with a person like Creon. In Sophocles' Antigone, Creon seldom does anything a person would admire or want to imitate, except near the end of the play when he changes his mind about putting Antigone to death.

However, because Creon is the central figure in the play (with the possible exception of Antigone) and because he moves, as Aristotle says in the Poetics, from good fortune to bad, then Creon gets the label of "tragic hero." He goes from being a father, husband, and king of Thebes to being childless, a widower, and being regarded as a tyrant. Thus, Creon himself says:

I killed you, my son, without intending to

and you, as well, my wife. How useless I am now.

I don’t know where to look or find support.

(Ian Johnston translation)

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team