Character Analysis in Antigone

Antigone: Sophocles introduced Antigone as Oedipus’s daughter in Oedipus the King. However, in Oedipus the King Antigone remains a relatively minor character. In Antigone, she becomes the protagonist who drives the action. She is strong-willed and devoted to her family. When Creon rules that her brother Polyneices shall not be buried, Antigone refuses to obey. In fact, Antigone believes that the laws of the gods far outweigh the laws of mankind.

Creon: Creon is a tyrant that rules over Thebes. In contrast to Antigone, Creon believes the "rational" laws of man are superior to the "irrational" laws of the gods. Creon stands by this belief even in the face of strong opposition. It is this stubbornness that proves to be Creon’s tragic flaw. However, Creon does become less tyrannical as the narrative progresses.

Tiresias: Tiresias is a blind prophet. Although he cannot physically see, he can "see," or foretell, the future. Tiresias attempts to tell Creon that the gods are angry with him because Creon rejects divine law. However, Creon does not believe Teiresias until it is too late to avert the oncoming tragedy.

Character Analysis Examples in Antigone:

Antigone 8

"For kites to scent afar and swoop upon...."   (Antigone)

Kites are a common species of bird. The Greeks thought that the gods communicated to mortals through birds. Different birds indicated different things, as did the actions of those birds. Since Tiresias is blind, he listens to the birds' cries for oracles. However, Tiresias is an especially powerful seer and could prophesize just as well without birds.

"'Tis thus I argue. Had it been a husband dead I might have wed another, and have borne Another child, to take the dead child's place. But, now my sire and mother both are dead, No second brother can be born for me...."   (Antigone)

Antigone’s speech may appear heartless, and her logic cold, but she speaks more about the larger picture of the continuation of her family. She states that while husbands and children can be replaced, a brother whose parents have died is irreplaceable. She uses these reasons to justify her decision to take her own life.

"Talk not of rights; thou spurn'st the due of Heaven ..."   (Antigone)

Creon has just sent Antigone to her death, and her betrothed and Creon’s son, Haemon, confronts his father. Haemon insists that he is still loyal to Creon but he cannot condone Antigone’s death. Creon accuses Haemon of betrayal, stating that as king he must protect the empire against traitors. Haemon counters that Creon has gone too far and has defied the gods. Creon’s worldview and obsession with the state have become so out of balance that his own son tries to attack him.

"Now if she thus can flout authority Unpunished, I am woman, she the man...."   (Antigone)

Creon is initially shocked to learn that Antigone has spread dust over Polynices's corpse (a direct defiance of Creon's ban against his burial). Creon's shock passes, and he reasserts himself stating that Antigone is as insolent as her father and will likewise fall. Creon's pride will not allow Antigone to go unpunished; doing so would make Creon less than a man because he allowed a woman to have power over him.

"Elders, the gods have righted one again Our storm-tossed ship of state, now safe in port...."   (Antigone)

Since all of Oedipus’s heirs are dead, Creon has assumed the throne as next in line to rule. In this speech, he declares his loyalty to the state, and anyone who betrays the state also betrays him. For Creon, the state is the most important institution, transcending even bonds of family and friendship.

"Have thine own way then; 'tis a mad endeavor, Yet to thy lovers thou art dear as ever...."   (Antigone)

Having learned her uncle Creon will not give her brother Polynices a proper burial, Antigone has resolved to take matters into her own hands. Her sister, Ismene, fears for his sister's safety and urges her not to do this, or if she does, to do so secretly. Ismene is dismayed by how hard-hearted Antigone seems and tells her that her quest is hopeless. However, Ismene tells her departing sister that she is still loved by everyone despite her irrationality. This shows that Ismene strongly cares for Antigone, and that they both share a close affection for family.

"What right has he to keep me from my own? ..."   (Antigone)

Creon has changes the laws for burial rights based on the dead's relationship to Thebes. For instance, Creon denies a proper burial for anyone he considers a traitor. However, Antigone is outraged that her brother Polynices has been denied proper burial. Her anger reveals that she does not believe in the same laws as Creon, and that, for her, loyalty to her family is more important than Polynices's treason.

"Wilt thou persist, though Creon has forbid? ..."   (Antigone)

To Ismene’s horror, Antigone says that even though Creon is now king, he has no authority to keep Antigone from her obligations of love and family. With their brothers dead, Antigone and Ismene alone remain to redeem some form of family honor. Ismene refuses to join Antigone, stating that while the dead will forgive her, the state (Creon) will not. This presents an important complication because while all citizens are subjects of the state, women were considered subject to the leadership of men. Antigone's love for her family is directly at odds with the laws of Creon's state.