What are some similarities and differences between Creon and Antigone in Sophocles' play Antigone?
Creon and Antigone are similar because they draw power from their definitions of "justice." The difference between them is their beliefs on the origins of just action.
Both Creon and Antigone feel that their power comes from their understandings of justice. Antigone believes that the duty she has in honoring her brother Polynices’s death comes from the divine. She believes that her actions are done in name of honor, family, but most of all, in recognizing an ethical responsibility:
Be whatever you want, and I will bury him.
It seems fair to me to die doing it.
I will lie dear to him, with one dear to me,
a holy outlaw, since I must please those
below a longer time than people here,
for I shall lie there forever. You, though,
dishonor the gods' commands, if you wish.
Antigone's responsibility lies outside of the world of human beings. Antigone believes that "the gods' commands" are the source of just action. Her understanding of justice is a divine one. She feels power by acting in the name of the divine. Antigone has no problem being "a holy outlaw" because her devotion to the gods gives her power.
In a similar way, Creon believes that his perception of justice gives him power. Antigone's sister, Ismene, refuses to join Antigone because she cannot "go against the king's decree and strength." Indeed, Creon views justice as originating from himself. When arguing with his son, Haemon, Creon argues that justice originates from his rule because he is in power. In lines 735- 740, Creon is pointed in how "the mob" is not going to "dictate my policy" and how he will rule for himself and not "for others." Creon believes that "the state is his who rules it." As a result, Creon believes that he is just because his position as leader makes him the source of justice. Both he and Antigone feel justified because they feel that their perceptions of justice empower their actions.
The difference between both is, of course, what justice looks like. Antigone views justice as originating from the divine. In honoring the gods, she feels that she is acting just. Creon views justice as originating from whoever holds political power. She sees justice as something beyond the realm of human beings, while Creon feels that justice exists within it. This difference highlights their collision of convictions, and reflects why they are unable to negotiate.
Although Antigone and Creon are antagonists in Sophocles’ plays, the conflict between them is due as much to their similarities as to their differences. Both are dedicated to abstract notions of justice. Both are pious and both wish the best for the city of Thebes. They also share in common a degree of stubbornness; once they have decided a certain course of action is right, they will pursue it regardless of the negative consequences to themselves or others. Neither of them is particularly good at listening to the opinions of other people, and neither is easily swayed by sentiment.