Two Different to be Alike, Or Too Alike to be Different?
The literary term foil is used to describe two characters who are the complete opposite of each other and each character highlights the other characters traits and flaws more. Yet what term would be used to describe two characters that are almost exactly alike in every way? Sophocles deals with the themes of too much pride, power, and conflicts between older and younger generations in his play Antigone. Antigone and Creon are the protagonist and antagonist respectively. The main character, Antigone, finds out that one of her brothers was buried with honor while her other brother was not buried but instead was left to the sparrows and dogs. This makes Antigone decide to bury her brother, even though it went against the law of King Creon who had begun to let his power go to his head; so much so that he does not even listen to his own son. At the end of the play Antigone is successful in burying her brother, Creon realizes his tragic flaw, and he is responsible for the death of his son. When Creons wife hears the news of the deaths she also kills herself. Throughout the play they manage to stay in conflict because they are so similar that they cannot stand each other. Each one has a certain belief that makes them unbearable around one another. One main conflict that shows their difference is that while Antigones loyalty remains to the gods, Creon now only follows his own rule. Another example that shows their differences is that while Antigone initially follows the role of the tragic hero, it is Creon in the end who actually is the tragic hero. While Antigone and Creon both have differences, they have the same personality traits, which attribute to their downfall.
When Antigone decides to bury her brother it is not completely because she loves her family, but because she is loyal to the gods, and knows that to not honor her brother would result in condemnation. In the play when Creon tells Antigone that she defied the law she replies by saying, Your edict, King, was strong,/ but all your strength is weakness itself against/ the immortal unrecorded laws of God./ They are not merely now; they were, and shall be,/ operative forever, beyond man utterly (Sophocles 827). Antigone expressed in the quote that it is not Creons rule she is trying to respect, it is that of the Gods, and she will do whatever necessary to ensure that she will have an honorable death. It has become important for Antigone to die an honorable death because she does not even mind dying as long as it is honorable. Sophocles has Antigone tell Ismene, I am not afraid of the danger; if it means death,/ It will not be the worst of deaths-death without honor.(817). While Antigone has no fear of death, and nothing but loyalty to the gods, there is Creon who believes himself to be greater than the gods. Because Antigone buried her brother, she had become a celebrity of sorts among the people, and feel that she should be left alone. Haimon, Creon's son, tells him how the people of Thebes feel, On every side I hear voices of pity for this poor girl doomed to the cruelest death/for an honorable action-burying a brother who was killed in battle/has she not rather earned a crown of gold (Sophocles 825). This quote proves that the town supports Antigone, and not Creon, thus rendering him the tragic hero.
Creon being the tragic hero, has gotten this way because he has too much pride to admit fault to anything. Creon has gone on to become paranoid and does not trust anyone. Haimon tries to help him by telling him that the people believe that he has become too stubborn, and goes on to compare him of that of a stubborn tree that when a storm comes will be uprooted. When the prophet Teiresias tells Creon that the Gods are not pleased with his recent actions, Creon replies by saying, If your birds-if the great eagles of God/himself/Should carry him stinking bit by bit/to heaven/ I would not yield (Sophocles 850). An inference can be drawn that Creon no longer fears the Gods. From not following the law of the Gods and having too much pride Creon will suffer for his disobedience. In order to be a tragic hero, one has to have an anagnorisis, or a moment of recognition. Generally the anagnorisis comes too late and they cannot stop what was meant to happen. In the play Creon has his anagnorisis when he says, Oh it is hard to give in! but it is worse/ to risk everything for stubborn pride(Sophocles 852). After he has his anagnorisis, catastrophic things begin to happen: Antigone kills herself, Haimon kills himself, and his wife kills herself. Even though Creon has managed to have his moment of recognition, it was too late, and that is what made him the tragic hero. Although many could argue that Antigone could have been the tragic hero, considering that they both exude so many similar traits.
Antigone and Creon are both strong willed and stubborn people. Both being unwilling to change, they both seal each others fate. Creon is passionate and Antigone is full of rage. They are both so similar they cannot see eye to eye. Although they may seem quite different, Creon and Antigone share many similarities throughout the story. They are both very independent people. Antigone is extremely independent. She doesn't mind doing anything on her own. When Antigone is talking with Ismene in the beginning of the story , she tells her, You must decide whether you will help me or not(Sophocles 816). When Ismene refuses to help her bury Polyneices, she is furious with her. Antigone then decides to act independently, and bury him herself. Creon is also very independent. He refuses to accept anyone's opinions except his own. When his son Haimon comes to talk with him he refuses to listen, he calls Haimon a, girl struck fool!(Sophocles 843). Creon had become so independent to the point that it has turned into a state of paranoia by not listening to anyone or taking anyone elses help or advice. When Teiresias comes and tells him a gloomy prophecy. Creon does not listen to this either. He says, The generation of prophets has always loved gold(Sophocles 851), and that Teiresias has been corrupted by money. He finally listens to the Choragus when they reminded him that Teiresias has never been wrong. Similarly Antigone has no problem working by herself either. She demonstrates this when she slipped by all the guards that were protecting the dead body of Polyneices. Creon and Antigone are both independent, and they are both very loyal. They are loyal to their views. Creon is especially loyal to his laws. Antigone is loyal to her beliefs. Creon will not change his laws. An example of this occurs when he and Antigone argue. He calls her "A traitor" For giving burial to her dead brother, and she tells him that his word is nothing in comparison to that of the gods. The two are so much alike that they cannot stand each other.
Ultimately, a play has transcended through time to give everyone a lesson today: There is no happiness where there is no wisdom (Sophocles 858). Sophocles uses characters that can be very much alike or complete opposites to get this message across. He also used a tragic hero, because we all know that there is never a perfect candidate for the hero, and that they all go through some struggles. He managed to get two characters that would translate to sibling rivalry today to get a point across: dont ever make the mistake that you are invincible.