Sophocles was born in Colonus, Greece and was considered one of the most successful poets of all time. He wrote one hundred and twenty three prize winning plays and acted in a number of them; He stopped acting due to his loss of voice which forced
him to choose other men to play all parts in the play, since women were not allowed to act. In the play Antigone, written in 441 B.C., he used Greek concepts such as arête, hubris, ate and nemesis to exemplify Creon’s personality. Without the use of these four Greek concepts, the play would not have been as strong and would have lost a lot of detail that helps us feel connected to the play and not see the heroine in the character.
Creon was a man of power, a man of excellence and that was probably the main reason Sophocles included the theory of arête in the play. Arête is described as a particular type of excellence usually when speaking of a hero. One reason why Creon can be considered a type of excellence is simply due to the fact that he is the king of Thebes. After the sons of Oedipus, Eteocles and Polynices kill one another in combat, he was crowned the king. “The two of us were robbed our brothers.” (Line 17) Another reason he is portrayed of having excellence is because people are afraid to speak out or disobey him. He is made everyone live in fear and has brainwashed the people of Thebes into believing that he is always right and no one may disagree. In this quote, said by Ismene, it proves the fact that she lives in fear of the king; “What? You’d bury him-when a law forbids the city?” (Line 52) “I’d do them no dishonor…but defy the city? I have no strength for that.” (Line 94) Both points made prove that Creon has a particular excellence about him that is shown throughout the play.
When Creon was crowned king, power was an aspect expected with the title, but with power comes pride. Hubris, which is defined as having and excessive degree of pride, and is shown throughout the play. One part in the play that shows hubris is when the blind profit comes to give advice and Creon is open ears until he starts to hear what he does not expect and then turns hostile quoting, “ This slander of yours—are you aware you are speaking to the king?” (Line 1172) Showing that his pride allows him to believe he is right no matter what. The main conflict in the play, which was Creons choice to not bury Polynices, shows the king’s pride of choosing to make whatever decisions he pleases. Creon argues his reasoning for the refusal of the burial by saying, “Tell me, was it for meritorious service they proceeded to bury him, prized him so? The hero who came to burn their temples ringed with pillars, their golden treasures-scorch their hallowed earth and flings their laws to the winds. This angers Antigone which leads to the climax of the play.
The third concept is known as ate which is when one acts with blind recklessness. The most obvious form of this is when he chooses to put Antigone to death due to her actions of burying her brother. She remains strong and fearless as he orders to the guards “Take her away, quickly! Wall her up in the tomb, you have orders. Abandon her there, alone, and let her choose—death or a buried life with a good roof for shelter.” This shows his rash decisions that are parallel with his acts of blind recklessness.
The last and most devastating of all the concepts presented in the poem was nemesis, which is known as a disastrous retribution. The tragedy happens because Creons son, Haemon, was planned to marry Antigone and when she was sentenced to death he chose to take his own life. The messenger delivered the message of “Haemon’s gone, his blood spilled by the very hand.” This endured him in immense pain and showed how his selfish ways came around to affect him in the end.
I would classify Creon based on his style and characteristic as a typical ruler for this period. He proved to show all concepts of the Greek literature of arête, hubris, ate, and nemesis throughout the play which is emblematic when describing someone with power or heroic aspects. Creon made choices based on excellence, pride, recklessness and retribution that were not, in my opinion, worth the price of being king.