Why is Creon's identity and characterization the way it is in Sophocles' Antigone ?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sophocles uses Creon to present several morals in the play Antigone. Sophocles wrote the play at a time when Athens was a democracy. It has been pointed out that Sophocles was not only a playwright "but also a member" of the Athenian government ("Historical Context"). It has also been said that Sophocles uses the themes of the Oedipus trilogy to convey social and political messages to his audience. In particular, he uses the character of Creon to "warn against the dangers of dictatorship" ("Historical Context").

Creon acts as a dictator in several places. He especially acts as a dictator when his own son Haeman advises Creon to release Antigone, warning that the whole city is mourning her death and saying that "she's the least worthy of all women to die to badly for such noble deeds" (705-706). Creon's response is to say that he refuses to be ruled by his own city and that the city belongs to the ruler, rather than the ruler belonging to the city, as we see in his lines, "The city will tell me how I ought to rule it? ... Isn't the city thought to be her ruler's?" (745, 749). Hence we see that one reason why Sophocles develops Creon's character in the manner he does is to warn against the evils of dictatorships.

Another moral that Sophocles portrays through Creon is that it is important to temper one's views of what is right with the council of others. As literary critic George Eliot phrases it:

Perhaps the best moral we can draw is that to which the Chorus points--that our protest for the right should be seasoned with moderation and reverence, and that lofty words ... are not becoming to mortals. ("The Antigone and its Moral")

Even Tiresias says it best when he says, "Obstinacy brings the charge of stupidity" (1031-32). Therefore, we can also say that Sophocles characterizes Creon in the way he does in order to show just how foolish stubbornness can be.