Antigone the Tragic Hero Essay
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A Tragic Hero
A tragic hero is a character who makes an error of judgment or has a fatal flaw, which combined with fate, results into a tragedy. The tragic hero must fall from good luck and well being to misery and misfortune. The tragic hero causes a sense of pity through the tragic downfall that weakens the character. In Antigone by Sophocles, Antigone follows her own beliefs by giving her brother a proper burial, even if she has to break the law of King Creon. Because of her innocent actions, Antigone is punished unjustly and unfairly. Through her risky and unselfish actions, ability to follow her own beliefs, and perseverance Antigone is the tragic hero of this play.
Furthermore, Antigone makes many important and…show more content…
Moreover, Antigone’s ability to follow her own beliefs results into the heroicness and tragic death of Antigone. Antigone is from a royal family and has the power to do what she believes in. She believes in following traditions and exercises that power when she says, “I will bury him, and if I must die, I say that the crime is holy: I shall lie down With him in death, and I shall be as dear To him as he to me” (694). Antigone follows her beliefs in following tradition and by doing what she feels is best. Antigone does this because she knows she is doing the right thing and knows that she will be repaid in some way. Furthermore, Antigone justifies her actions by telling the reasons that motivated her to do it to King Creon. She refuses to give in to the beliefs of King Creon and continues to think her own separate way. Antigone takes a stand to Creon when she says, “ Think Death less than a friend? This death of mine Is of no importance, but if I had left my brother Lying in death unburied, I should have suffered. Now I do not. You smile at me. Ah Creon , Think me a fool, if you like, but it may well be That a fool convicts me of folly” (709). Antigone believes what she is doing is correct and proves that to Creon , but he is still not convinced. It is important for Antigone to do what she believes is so that she will be pleased and satisfied with the outcome. Antigone’s ability to pursue her goals and to what she wants
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Because Lear is capable of change, he becomes a tragic hero; because Antigone is incapable of change, she never becomes a tragic heroine. Aristotle defines a tragic hero as someone, usually a male, who “falls from a high place mainly due to their fatal flaw. ” During the highest point of the tragic hero’s life, something is revealed to the protagonist causing a reversal in their fortune. This reversal of fortune is caused by the flaw in their character. Tragedy evokes catharsis, a feeling of pity for the protagonist in the audience.
While both the characters of Lear and Antigone possess some tragic features required to be a tragic hero, only one proves to be the true tragic hero. Antigone can be considered a tragic hero, because tragic heroes have several qualities; they are royal, they have a tragic flaw that leads to their downfall, they have an unhappy ending, and lastly the character is worthy of concern. Antigone in ‘Burial at Thebes’ is an elevated character. This is shown through her bloodline in several ways. First, her father was Oedipus, who was the former king of Thebes.
Also, her brothers were Polynieces and Eteocles, who were supposed to rule Thebes with each brother switching off each year, until they both died in a civil war. Lastly, her uncle is Creon, who was the King of Thebes. Antigone also has a tragic flaw, her hubris and head-strongness. Because she is so head-strong and stubborn, she will not denounce her decision to bury her brother Polynieces as that is what she believes to be right. Although burying her brother would mean going against Creon’s man-made laws, she is determined to bury Polynieces as it would be doing right by her brother and the Gods above.
She uses a rhetorical question directed at Creon to highlight this “Was I going to honour you, or honour Gods? ” Sophocles proves that Antigone is not a tragic hero because of her inability to take responsibility for her own hand in her downfall, instead opting to lay blame on others. Although she proves strong and virtuous in her commitment to burying her brother, Polynieces, Antigone is unable to show the strength needed for self-reflection. She is proud of her actions to the point of being blind to her own role in her death.
She begs, “Be witness for me, denied all pity, unjustly judged! ” implying that she is only a victim of unjust circumstances. As Antigone does not go through any anagnorisis she doesn’t go through the critical realisation or discovery that the typical tragic hero needs to go through. Antigone’s lack of self-knowledge accounts for her alleging the “thrice told doom of her father”. Instead of acknowledging her wrongful actions against the King she continually blames her unfortunate fate upon the “entire desting” of her ‘cursed’ family.
She continually defies the states regulations and risks her own life to honour her brother. Antigone has many chances to back down but her own hubris means that she isn’t capable of change which leads to her unnecessary death. A moment of anagnorisis does occur in Antigone’s presence; however it is not she who realizes her own role in her downfall. The Chorus asserts, “You have made your choice, your death is the doing of your own conscious hand,” however Antigone refuses to accept these words. She insists she has “not sinned before God…
But if the guilt lies upon Creon who judged me, then. I pray, may his punishment equal my own. ” Nearing the end of the play, it is proven that Antigone is not a tragic hero, because she lacks a moment of anagnorisis highlighting how she is incapable of being a tragic heroine. Antigone is not the typical tragic hero, she has imperfections which Sophocles focuses more on, emphasising the hamartia in her character. Hubris is the depiction of her tragic errors, which are evidently related to her overwhelming pride and stubbornness.
Antigone’s hubris is her biggest flaw as it seems that she has done this for mainly herself, she doesn’t want to back down, she believes she is right and therefore will not change her ways which leads to her death. Ironically however Creon, the tragic hero of ‘The Burial at Thebes’ does go through an epiphany and realises his errors, when he goes to stop Antigone from being put to death it is discovered that Antigone has taken her own life. King Lear is not good or bad, but by misfortune he is deprived of something very valuable to him by error of judgement.
At the very beginning of the play Lear is still in possession of his kingdom, he is presented as a powerful generous monarch, his speech being powerful and superior. He insists that for him to decide which to give most of his kingdom to, each of daughters must declare their love for him “Which of you shall we say doth love us most…” His actions are not occasioned by any corruption or depravity in him, but by an error in judgment, which, however, does arise from a defect of character. Lear has a “tragic flaw”, also pride. It is his hubris in the first scene that causes him to make his error in judgment; the division of his kingdom nd the loss of Cordelia. Throughout the rest of the play, the consequences of this error slowly and steadfastly increase until Lear is destroyed. Throughout the play Lear makes it clear that he feels betrayed by his disowned daughter Cordelia who was once his pride and joy. He states; “Had’st not been born that not t’have pleased me better. ” However as the play progresses Lear begins to realise that he is losing his authority and he is no longer the respected and powerful man that he once was, due to the overruling and selfish daughters, Regan and Goneril.
Lear is shocked how he has been treated by his ‘loving’ daughters and realises that it was Cordelia who was truly loyal to him and loved Lear for being her father, not for the kingdom she would inherit. Shakespeare uses animalistic imagery; “They flattered me like a dog. ” This simile shows how worthless and low Lear feels, he was once high in the social chain however his downfall has led to him being low in the chain, similar to the value of an animal. His tragic fault has led to this downfall and it is not until he has suffered that he realises it.
As an audience we soon feel sympathy for Lear despite his egotistical manner. He quickly regrets his decision when his reversal of fortune is brought about due to his hamartia and can be forgiven for behaving rashly following a knock to his pride. Lear’s relationships with Kent and Gloucester demonstrate that he is able to inspire loyalty and his dealings with the Fool show him to be compassionate and tolerant. His ability to change makes him considered to be a tragic hero as he goes through an epiphany.
Lear develops new wisdom and we can see him change as a person, his self-knowledge grows and he becomes compassionate which is a change to the arrogant man he was at the start of the play. As Goneril and Regan become more conniving and vile our sympathy for Lear grows further. Lear’s rages soon become pitiful as opposed to powerful and authoritarian, his loss of power maintains our sympathy with him and as he suffers and is exposed to the suffering of others, the audience can feel more affection for him.
His power and authority is replaced by madness due to the suffering he experiences and he begins a learning process. He becomes more humble and as a result realises his tragic hero status. He learns how ignorant he was to what was really happening due to his poor judgement, he realises that Cordelia is the daughter who has genuine love for him; “Pray you now, forget and forgive – I am old and foolish” however it can be argued that he blames is age rather than his fault in character as being the way he was although I believe that this is not the case, he is truly sorry for the way he acted. A tragic hero gains insight through suffering. Lear doesn’t realise he has committed an error until he has suffered. Lear’s suffering is so intense that it drives him mad; it is on the desolate health that he fully realises his mistake in giving the kingdom to his two savage daughters and disowning the one daughter who loves him.
Throughout the play we can see how Lear’s tragic flaw, his hubris and poor judgment led to his peripeteia which began when he gave Goneril and Regan the kingdom and disowned Cordelia which then led to his dramatic downfall. Lear then experienced suffering when he was thrown outside into the heath which eventually drives Lear to madness. His anagnorisis then comes when he has the self-knowledge due to his grown wisdom that he was to blame for what has happened and it was no one’s fault but his own.
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When Lear dies there is a sense of waste as Lear had finally changed and realised his fault in character. I believe that while Antigone does possess some qualities that a tragic heroine would possess, she cannot be considered as a true tragic heroine due to having no anagnorisis or epiphany. She is incapable of change due to her tragic fault which leads to her taking her own life. On the other hand, Lear is deemed as a tragic hero as he does go through a change and epiphany; he realises his downfall is due to his own tragic fault.
Author: Brandon Johnson
King Lear and Antigone as Tragic Hero
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