In Sophocles' Antigone,  why is Creon's criticism for others' stubbornly refusing to change their minds ironic?Why is it ironic, and where does he state this in the play?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Creon never directly criticizes another character for not changing his/her mind, but he certainly does call other characters' notions foolish.

Antigone is of course the first character Creon criticizes for having foolish notions. In particular, Creon thinks it is very foolish of her to want to give as much honor to a brother who died attacking the city as to the brother who died defending the city. We especially see him express this view in the lines, "Why then this honor insulting to him? ... If you honor him equally with the wicked" (530, 532). In fact, Creon delivers his most ironic line to Antigone, "But know that hard minds fall the hardest," which is to say that stubborn people fall the hardest.

A second place in which Creon calls another's views foolish is when he is addressing Haemon. Haemon comes to him begging him to reconsider because the whole city is wailing, believing that Antigone does not deserve to die. Creon's response is to tell Haemon that he will not be ruled by his own city and to call Haemon foolish for being "an ally of the woman," Antigone (751).

The irony in Creon accusing other characters of holding on to foolish notions and being stubborn is that he is actually the one who is being foolishly stubborn and holding onto imprudent notions. We particularly see Tiresias declare Creon to be foolishly stubborn in the lines:

Obstinacy brings the charge  of stupidity
...
To learn from good advice is sweetest, if the advisor speaks to your advantage. (1031-36)

Even the chorus warns Creon earlier to listen to other's sound advice, especially Haemon's, as we see in their lines, "My lord, if someone speaks in season, you should learn, and you also, for both sides have spoken well" (736-736).  Hence, we see that the irony is in the fact that Creon is actually the one character who is truly foolish and stubborn.

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Antigone

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