Throughout history, there have been countless kings and rulers that have shaped government systems and history as a whole. The bad kings and rulers are often remembered as tyrants and unfair dictators. It is a fair assumption that throughout the play Antigone, Creon ruled with an “iron fist,” but undoubtedly over-exercised his powers when dealing with his punishment for Antigone for burying Polyneices’ body. He continually insisted that his law was in accordance with what the gods wanted. His stubbornness kept him from listening to Haemon, even though his son tried to persuade Creon from executing Antigone.
Sophocles intentionally has Creon lose everything towards the end of the play to show the consequences of confusing his own law with what the gods would want. In his play Antigone, Sophocles shows the danger in being too stubborn and self-reliant a ruler, as well as mixing human law with divine law by presenting a proud, overbearing ruler in Creon. When the Sentry was brought in to find out who buried Polyneices, the Chorus suggests that it might be the gods’ doing. Creon immediately shot down this idea: For what you say is surely insupportable when you say the gods too forethought for this corpse.
Is it out of excess of honor for the man, for the favors that he did them, they should cover him? This man who came to burn their pillared temples, their dedicated offerings-and this land and laws he would have scattered to the winds. (312-318) Reportedly, both Eteocles and Polyneices tried to obtain the throne from their father but killed each other in the process. Creon’s opinion was that Eteocles went about obtaining for the throne in a more honorable way than his brother did, so Creon believed that Eteocles deserved a lavish burial and the Polyneices did not deserve to be buried at all.
Creon proclaimed that the gods supported this, although his opinion on the brothers was very subjective and was not necessarily in accordance with what the gods wanted, especially since there was no way of knowing exactly what the gods wanted. Sophocles has Creon’s stubbornness and pride be his downfall as he faces tragedy throughout the play. Creon and his son Haemon have a long discussion about whether or not Antigone committed a crime by burying her brother. Haemon seems very open to his father’s opinion especially when he says, “give me good advice and I shall follow it” (636).
Ironically enough, as reasonable as Haemon is, his father Creon is just as stubborn. Creon continually talks about what a man should be to his son, and when Haemon refutes Creon, Creon belittles Haemon by suggesting that a woman has made Haemon think unclearly and irrationally. Creon proclaims that there must be “no surrender to a woman” (678). Creon and Haemon disagree and quarrel, but Creon’s stubbornness overtakes Haemon’s sensibility. After Creon’s fight with Haemon, Creon decides that both Antigone and Ismene are to be executed.
The Chorus questions whether or not Ismene should be spared, which also raises into question Creon’s decision-making. By the end of the play, Antigone and Haemon both kill themselves, and his wife, Eurydice, kills herself as well. Effectively, Creon lost everything and everyone of meaning around him, which is symbolically a consequence or punishment for being too proud to listen and heed the advice of others. His confusion of man’s law and divine law ultimately led to his downfall, and Sophocles aptly displays this by having Creon lose everything.