How does Sophocles characterize Haimon in Sophocles' Antigone?

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noahvox2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Sophocles' Antigone, first staged in 442/441 BCE, the tragedian brings onto stage the character of Haimon (also spelled Haemon), who is the son of Creon, king of Thebes, and Eurydice. When we first see Haimon, he tries respectfully to reason with his father, who has sentenced to death Antigone, who is pledged to marry Haimon. He tries to get his father to look beyond his young age and listen to the sensibility of his arguments against putting Antigone to death. Eventually, though, his father's persistence upsets Haimon and he flees from his father's presence. Interestingly, in the ancient Greek theatre, actors played multiple roles and so the same actor who played Haimon also had the role of either Antigone or Ismene.

The next time we hear of Haimon is in the messenger's report of his death. Haimon is in the rocky tomb and embracing Antigone, who has hanged herself. In the messenger's description, Haimon is almost like an animal. He has "savage eyes" (Ian Johnston translation) and he spits in his father's face. Obviously, any respect Haimon had for his father is now gone. Furthermore, Haimon tries to stab his father with a sword. Fortunately for Creon, Haimon does not repeat the actions of his fellow Theban Oedipus, who did kill his father.

Having failed to kill his father, Haimon was "Angry at himself" and thus he takes his own life. The messenger ends his description by observing that Haimon's "thoughtlessness" (aboulian in Greek) is one of the worst "evils which afflict mankind."

Finally, we should note an etymological irony in Haimon's name that Sophocles' Greek audience would have recognized, but that modern audiences will not catch. The first part of Haimon's name is sounds like a Greek word for blood, haima. Eventually, this young man does indeed become bloody.