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Antigone As A Hero

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Category: English

Autor: anton 10 April 2011

Words: 1073 | Pages: 5


Heroes dominate modern culture. John Wayne, Rambo, and Wolverine stand out as modern day heroes. However, Hercules, Achilles, and Ajax still stand as popular heroes, although they come from a long time ago. Most people can recognize the concept of a hero easily, and while many types of heroes exist, tragic heroes lead the way as the easiest to recognize. While many people generalize a hero as the protagonist in a story, not every “good guy” earns the label of a hero, much less a tragic hero. A character must meet certain requirements to deserve the title tragic hero. Aristotle defined what makes one a tragic hero. For the perfect example of a tragic hero, one can look at the character Antigone from the play Antigone by Sophocles. A perfect tragic hero, Antigone meets every requirement in Aristotle’s definition.

The definition of a tragic hero that Aristotle set forth marks a high standard for what makes one a tragic hero. All tragic heroes must possess eight qualities. A tragic hero must belong to a noble family. Some possibilities for a tragic hero’s family include belonging to a royal family or a lord’s family. A true tragic hero always takes his fate into his own hands. Often times he knows full well what awaits him in his choices, although sometimes he does not. Regardless of the knowledge he does or does not possess, a tragic hero always decides his own fate. A tragic hero’s character contains a tragic flaw, such as excessive pride. He always makes a terrible error in judgment. Due to the terrible mistake that a tragic hero makes, he always loses his good reputation and his position of high regard. Although the tragic hero realizes the mistake, he cannot rectify this error in judgment try as he might. A tragic hero must meet a tragic end, with a heartbreaking death. The tragic hero’s death greatly affects the audience to feel fear or pity for the character. The exceptional character Antigone meets these eight qualities.

As the daughter of King Oedipus and Queen Jocasta of Thebes, Antigone meets the criteria of belonging to a noble family. Antigone fulfills another trait when she decides her own fate. Prior to the play’s beginning, the city of Thebes banishes King Oedipus. A battle begins over who should be the new king of Thebes. Antigone’s brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, both die during this fight in which Creon, Antigone’s uncle, becomes the new King of Thebes. Since Eteocles fought on the same side as Creon, Eteocles receives a proper burial. Polynices however fought against Creon and therefore Creon commands that Polynices remain unburied (Funk and Wagnall’s New World Encyclopedia 1). The lack of a proper burial goes directly against Antigone’s religion (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters II 1). Antigone chooses to defy the King’s corrupt command and buries her brother Polynices. She knows full well of the command and even receives a warning from Creon stating that anyone who buries Polynices will receive the death penalty. Antigone makes her decision to bury Polynices regardless of this warning, and Creon seals her in a cave to await her death. (Funk and Wagnall’s New World Encyclopedia 1)

Some could argue that two attributes of a tragic hero remain unfulfilled by Antigone, a character flaw and an irreversible mistake. Because Antigone does what is morally right, she seems to possess an ideal character. However, Antigone’s character does contain a flaw, her excessive loyalty to Polynices. This loyalty to her brother and her religion leads her to make an irreversible mistake when she breaks Creon’s command (Antigone 2). Antigone foolishly went against Creon’s command instead of trying to reason with him for a proper burial for her brother. As a citizen of Thebes, Antigone must obey the laws and commands of King Creon. Antigone broke a law in trying to help her brother receive a proper burial, and as a result she lost her own life (Encyclopedia Britannica 3).

Antigone falls from high esteem by breaking the law and becoming an enemy of the state. However, she does not falter in the face of death. In fact she knowingly and willingly brings about her own death. This proves that death does not scare Antigone. All tragic heroes meet a tragic death, and Antigone meets one of the most tragic. Essentially buried alive for doing what is ethically right, Antigone comes to the realization she made an irreversible mistake. Rather than wait for hunger and malnutrition to take her life, Antigone takes her own life by hanging herself (Discovering Collection 1). Antigone’s actions not only cause her to lose her own life, but two other people die as a direct effect of her suicide. Antigone’s fiancй Haemon, the son of Creon, witnesses the opening of Antigone’s grave. The grief he feels for his dead lover causes him to attempt to kill Creon, however he misses and instead accidentally takes his own life. Upon receiving the news of her son’s death, Queen Eurydice kills herself (Antigone 3). These two deaths in addition to Antigone’s death lead the audience to feel pity and sorrow for the characters.

Antigone epitomizes the tragic hero. It seems that Aristotle followed her story as a model when defining the tragic hero, as she fulfills all eight qualities Aristotle set forth when he defined a tragic hero. Many characters in movies and literature meet several of the requirements for tragic heroes, and almost all meet a few, but only an elite group attains the status of tragic hero. Although Antigone may not receive as much recognition as other tragic heroes such as Romeo or Juliet, and especially not as much recognition as today’s superheroes, Antigone will always hold the honor and recognition of leading the way for all tragic heroes to follow.

Works Cited

“Antigone.” Cyclopedia of Literary Characters II. 1990.

“Antigone.” Funk and Wagnall’s New World Encyclopedia. Alabama Virtual Library. Hoover High School. 30 January 2006. .

“Jean Anouilh: Antigone.” Discovering Collection. Alabama Virtual Library. Hoover High School. 30 January 2006 .

“Sophocles.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 2006. Alabama Virtual Library. Hoover High School. 30 January 2006. .

“Sophocles.” Antigone. Discovering Collection. Alabama Virtual Library. Hoover High School. 30 January 2006. .

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