Antigone

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Creon Character Analysis

Brother-in-law of Oedipus, Creon becomes king of Thebes when Oedipus's two sons die while battling each other for control of the city. Creon believes in the rule of law and the authority of the state above all else. Bending the rules leads to anarchy, in his opinion, and anarchy is worse than anything. Creon's stubborn refusal to honor Antigone's desire to bury her slain brother and to acknowledge the opinions of the Theban people, his son Haemon, and the seer Tiresias, leads to the deaths of his wife Eurydice, Haemon, and Antigone.

Creon Quotes in Antigone

The Antigone quotes below are all either spoken by Creon or refer to Creon. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Antigone published in 1984.
Lines 1-416 Quotes
And speech and thought, quick as the wind
and the mood and mind for law that rules the city—
all these he has taught himself
and shelter from the arrows of the frost
when there's rough lodging under the cold clear sky
and the shafts of lashing rain—
ready, resourceful man!
Never without resources
never an impasse as he marches on the future—
only Death, from Death alone he will find no rescue
but from desperate plagues ha has plotted his escapes.
Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Creon
Page Number: 396-405
Explanation and Analysis:

A nervous sentry has informed Creon that someone has begun giving Polynices' body proper burial rites, and Creon reacts furiously, threatening to torture the sentry unless he finds the man responsible. Creon and the sentry have exited, and the chorus remains onstage to deliver a chant about humanity. The chorus claims that mankind is the greatest of the world's wonders, with immense skill and "resources." According to the chorus, men can be stopped by no impasse except death––"from Death alone will he find no rescue." These words directly echo Antigone's claim about the transience of life in comparison to the permanence of death. As the chorus emphasizes, humans may possess impressive talents and abilities but these are rendered somewhat meaningless in the face of the inevitability of death. 

By facing death without fear, Antigone displays a humble awareness and acceptance of the limitations of humanity's power. She knows that she may be killed, yet reasons that this is a worthwhile risk because in defying Creon she is honoring the importance of dignity in death, as well as obeying the will of the gods and natural law. Creon, meanwhile, is blind to the point made by the chorus in this passage that humanity is unable to escape death. Indeed, he is suffering from hubris, an excess of pride and lack of humility. Creon has forgotten that the world of death, the afterlife, and the gods is more powerful than he will ever be as a mortal king. 

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Lines 705-1090 Quotes
Spit her out,
like a mortal enemy—let the girl go.
Let her find a husband down among the dead.
Related Characters: Creon (speaker), Antigone
Page Number: 728-730
Explanation and Analysis:

Haemon has arrived, and Creon has checked if Haemon wishes to obey him, to which Haemon replies that he does. Relieved, Creon lectures his son about the importance of obedience, and tells him to reject Antigone and move on. Creon's words show that he takes submission to the authority of the patriarchal family and the state much more seriously than romantic love or the gods. Indeed, his callous statement "Let her find a husband down among the dead" conveys his dismissive attitude toward Antigone's claims about the power of death and the afterlife. Of course, this viewpoint ultimately proves to be foolish; while Creon's words suggest that he has grown cruel from power, this power is meaningless in the face of fate, death, and the gods. 

Anarchy!—
show me a greater crime in all the earth!
Related Characters: Creon (speaker)
Page Number: 751-752
Explanation and Analysis:

Creon, still lecturing Haemon, has anticipated that Antigone might object to being killed on the grounds of family. But Creon is resolute in his decision to execute her, because, in his mind, to do otherwise would be like inviting anarchy into Thebes. In this quotation, he exclaims that there is no "greater crime" than anarchy. We can interpret Creon's intense hatred of anarchy in two ways. It's possible that he is simply a tyrannical, dictatorial character obsessed with preserving his own power. Antigone threatens this power, and thus no amount of pity will provoke him to spare her. 

On the other hand, it is possible to read view the presentation of Creon's beliefs in a more sympathetic, nuanced way. Rather than being invested in the power of the state for personal gain, perhaps Creon truly does believe that strict adherence to the laws of the state is the only way to maintain fairness, justice, and harmony. While Creon's treatment of Antigone may be harsh, pardoning her because she is his niece and soon-to-be daughter-in-law could constitute preferential treatment. Of course, while this is a more sympathetic account of Creon's motives, it does not excuse his lack of respect for the dead and the gods. 

Whoever thinks that he alone possesses intelligence,
the gift of eloquence, he and no one else,
and character too…such men, I tell you,
spread them open—you will find them empty.
Related Characters: Haemon (speaker), Creon
Page Number: 791-794
Explanation and Analysis:

Creon has demanded obedience from Haemon, before launching into a lecture about the importance of law, order, and submission to the rule of the state. When Haemon has a chance to speak, he begins in a tentative and deferential way, stressing his loyalty to his father. However, in this passage he notes that it is foolish for any man to think "that he alone possess intelligence." Haemon goes on to tell Creon that the people of Thebes are siding with Antigone, and his warning against hubris can be seen as a rhetorical strategy designed to persuade Creon to take public opinion seriously. 

In this scene Haemon is shown to be diplomatic, humble, and dutiful. His words in this passage are perceptive, and cohere with the overall moral message of the play. Like the men Haemon describes, Creon is blinded by his confidence in his own knowledge and power. Haemon's comment that the men are "empty" highlights the fact that––despite his superficial glory––Creon remains spiritually hollow because he cares more about power than morality and does not respect the gods. 

Am I to rule this land for others—or myself?
Related Characters: Creon (speaker)
Page Number: 823
Explanation and Analysis:

Despite Haemon's careful and submissive manner, Creon has grown furious at Haemon's suggestion that he should spare Antigone's life. He has accused Haemon of behaving in a ludicrous and immoral way, causing Haemon to grow more defensive. Yet Creon refuses to acknowledge that he should take into account the opinion of the people, asking if he should rule "for others" or for himself.

This question is a quintessential example of Creon's corrupt and selfish attitude toward political rule. His statement suggests that adjusting laws based on public opinion would be irresponsible––however, this is the guiding principle of democracy. Clearly, Creon's unswerving belief in the power of the state is self-serving and megalomaniacal, given that he is the leader of the state. Although he insists on strict adherence to the rule of law, he has little interest in actual morality.

What a splendid king you'd make of a desert island—you and you alone.
Related Characters: Haemon (speaker), Creon
Page Number: 826
Explanation and Analysis:

Creon and Haemon have continued to argue, with Creon objecting to the suggestion that he should pardon Antigone because the people are sympathetic to her. When Creon asks rhetorically if he should "rule this land for others" or for himself, Haemon replies that he would make a "splendid king" of "a desert island."

With this sardonic comment, Haemon criticizes Creon for his selfish, tyrranical mode of rule. The image of the desert island also raises the point that Creon isolates himself by refusing to acknowledge the will of the people or to pardon Antigone because she is his niece. As a cruel, dictatorial king, Creon essentially positions himself on a metaphorical desert island, cut off from the rest of the City and only interested in pleasing himself.

If a man could wail his own dirge before he dies,
he'd never finish.
Related Characters: Creon (speaker)
Page Number: 970-971
Explanation and Analysis:

Antigone and the chorus have reached the conclusion that her terrible fate is indeed the result of her father's misdeeds, and Antigone has ended her lamentation by saying that at her death she will not allow for any love to be shown or words to be spoken. At this moment, Creon enters, heartlessly declaring that if they could, men about to die would continue lamenting forever. Creon's words are exceedingly harsh, highlighting his absolute lack of sympathy for Antigone.

On the other hand, Creon's comment also points to the fact that people tend to indulge in lamentations because it is only at the point of death that they are able to fully understand (and likely regret) their actions. This observation is both perceptive and ironic, considering that at this point Creon still cannot foresee the extent to which he will regret his own actions. This irony suggests that people's judgment of others is usually hypocritical. 

But if these men are wrong, let them suffer
nothing worse than they mete out to me—
these masters of injustice!
Related Characters: Antigone (speaker), Creon
Related Symbols: Antigone's Tomb
Page Number: 1019-1021
Explanation and Analysis:

Creon has instructed the guards to build Antigone a tomb and place her in it. Antigone mourns her fate, but has stated that she would not have done anything differently. As she is led away, she exclaims that she is being punished for honoring the gods, and asks the gods to punish those responsible for her death. She calls Creon and his men "masters of injustice," though asks that the gods do nothing worse to them than has been done to her. Antigone's plea to the gods highlights her strong sense of fairness and fundamental belief that she has made the right decision. Despite breaking the law, she feels confident that she is on the side of divine justice. 

This paradox illustrates the importance of natural law versus the law of the state. While particular rulers and regimes can be unjust, the law of the gods is eternal and always correct. Indeed, as Antigone's case proves, the laws of a particular mortal political regime may in fact violate the will of the gods; yet, as the play shows, this violation will not go unpunished. 

Lines 1091-1470 Quotes
Then reflect, my son: you are poised,
once more, on the razor-edge of fate.
Related Characters: Tiresias (speaker), Creon
Page Number: 1099-1100
Explanation and Analysis:

Tiresias the seer has entered, led by a young boy. He addresses Creon, who seems tentatively willing to listen. In this passage, Tiresias warns Creon that he is at a pivotal juncture, "poised... on the razor-edge of fate." Tiresias' clarity here is key––although in Greek tragedy the advice of seers is often presented as difficult to comprehend, in this instance Tiresias is exceptionally direct. This makes it all the less excusable that Creon ultimately chooses to ignore him.

Note that Tiresias' words stress the intermingling of free will and fate. The events that have led up to this moment were doomed to take place, and Tiresias' vision of the future illustrates that the events to come are similarly predetermined. On the other hand, Tiresias stresses that the decision facing Creon is his to make, thereby placing responsibility on him for the consequences of his choice. 

These arrows for your heart! Since you've raked me
I loose them like an archer in my anger,
arrows deadly true. You'll never escape their
burning, searing force.
Related Characters: Tiresias (speaker), Creon
Page Number: 1206-1209
Explanation and Analysis:

Creon has reacted furiously to Tiresias' advice, accusing Tiresias of being a false prophet who has accepted bribes. In response, Tiresias responds by informing Creon that he will pay for Antigone's death by losing a child of his own. Before he exits, he tells Creon that Creon has angered him, and that as a result he is releasing metaphorical arrows aimed at Creon's heart. Tiresias warns that Creon will "never escape their burning, searing force." This is a climactic moment in which it is clear that Creon has sealed his own terrible, tragic fate. However, the fact that Creon had so many chances to redeem himself proves that this fate has come about as a result of his own free will. 

Tiresias' words also confirm the long-lasting nature of his curse. Creon will be punished not only with one terrible event, but an eternal legacy from which he will never be able to escape. This emphasizes the theme of curses and suffering living on through many generations, and children paying for their parents' wrongdoing. 

Take me away, quickly, out of sight.
I don't even exist—I'm no one. Nothing.
Related Characters: Creon (speaker)
Page Number: 1445-1446
Explanation and Analysis:

Creon, terrified by Tiresias' curse, has decided to free Antigone and bury Polynices. However, this decision has come too late, and not only Antigone but also Haemon have both killed themselves. Creon has entered, carrying Haemon's body and cursing himself; moments later, a messenger informs him that Creon's wife, Eurydice, has also killed herself after hearing of Haemon's death. At this point, Creon is mad with grief and longs to die, and in this passage asks to be taken away, saying that he is "nothing." Despite Creon's foolish mistakes and cruel behavior, his terrible ordeal at the end of the play is likely to elicit pity. Having spent the majority of the play "blind" to the consequences of his actions, Creon is now able to fully comprehend what he has done. 

Creon's longing for death is ironic, as up until this point he has mocked Antigone for her willingness to die. Indeed, Creon's statement "I don't even exist––I'm no one. Nothing" suggests that living with the knowledge that his pride led to the suicides of his wife, son, and niece is a fate far worse than death. Finally, Creon's fate shows that the gods vindicated Antigone as she requested, forcing Creon to lose his family members just as Antigone experienced the death of her parents and brothers. 

The mighty words of the proud are paid in full
with mighty blows of fate, and at long last
those blows will teach us wisdom.
Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Creon
Page Number: 1468-1470
Explanation and Analysis:

Creon has been led offstage by his attendants, destroyed by grief and guilt over the suicides of his wife and son. Alone onstage, the chorus speak directly to the audience, explaining that proud people are punished by fate and thereby taught wisdom. This statement makes the moral message of the tragedy clear: Creon was consumed by hubris – a too-great confidence in his own knowledge and power – and because of this was punished in order to restore the natural order.

While Creon has suffered one of the worst fates imaginable and considers himself a broken man, the chorus emphasizes that this suffering is not meaningless. Rather, like his brother-in-law Oedipus (Oedipus was married to Creon's sister), Creon will eventually be able to grow wiser as a result of his experience – as will the audience. 

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Creon Character Timeline in Antigone

The timeline below shows where the character Creon appears in Antigone. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1-416
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...years earlier when Eteocles overthrew him. Now that both brothers have died, the brothers' uncle, Creon, is king of Thebes. (full context)
Citizenship vs. Family Loyalty Theme Icon
...Antigone and Ismene, discuss their grief in the palace. The outraged Antigone tells Ismene that Creon has decreed that the slain attackers will not be given proper burial rites. Eteocles, who... (full context)
Citizenship vs. Family Loyalty Theme Icon
Civil Disobedience Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...Antigone challenges Ismene to help her bury their brother Polynices. Ismene is frightened, both of Creon's decree and of her sister's rash words. She begs Antigone to think of all of... (full context)
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
Natural Law Theme Icon
Citizenship vs. Family Loyalty Theme Icon
Civil Disobedience Theme Icon
...plead with Antigone, but Antigone only grows angrier with her and more determined to defy Creon's decree. Antigone challenges Ismene to tell the world what Antigone is about to do, and... (full context)
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Creon enters and addresses the chorus. Creon explains that, after the death of Oedipus's two sons,... (full context)
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...sentry enters. He's afraid to speak because he brings bad news and is afraid of Creon's reaction, but is at last persuaded to say what he knows. The sentries have discovered... (full context)
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Citizenship vs. Family Loyalty Theme Icon
...the chorus suggests that this might be the work of the gods. This idea sets Creon into a rage. He accuses the sentry of having been bribed to allow the burial... (full context)
Lines 417-704
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The sentry returns, escorting Antigone. He calls for Creon and presents Antigone as the culprit who defied the law and gave burial rites to... (full context)
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Creon asks Antigone if she denies this charge. She does not. Creon dismisses the sentry and... (full context)
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Creon asks why she would dare to break the law. Antigone says that Creon's law was... (full context)
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...of it. But she could not bear to leave her brother to rot. And if Creon thinks she is acting stupidly, she says, that's because Creon is a fool. (full context)
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
Citizenship vs. Family Loyalty Theme Icon
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...leader of the chorus notes that Antigone is as passionate and stubborn as her father. Creon responds that he will break her stubbornness, and that he refuses to let her go... (full context)
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
Natural Law Theme Icon
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...support her actions, and would speak up in her favor if they weren't afraid of Creon. She calls him a tyrant. (full context)
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Creon asks how Antigone can honor Polynices, who killed her other brother, the patriotic Eteocles. Antigone... (full context)
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Ismene turns to Creon and asks him if he'd really kill his son Haemon's intended bride (Antigone is Haemon's... (full context)
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Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...remain subject to the whim of the gods. The chant ends when Haemon, son of Creon, enters, weeping. (full context)
Lines 705-1090
Natural Law Theme Icon
Creon asks Haemon if he comes in anger or obedience. Haemon says he will obey Creon.... (full context)
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Civil Disobedience Theme Icon
Creon says that had he not punished Antigone's defiance of the rule of law, it would... (full context)
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Natural Law Theme Icon
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Haemon tells Creon that it's not his place to correct the king, but that the rumors in the... (full context)
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Creon reacts with anger at his son's offering of advice. Again he calls Antigone a traitor.... (full context)
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The king and his son continue to argue. Creon accuses Haemon of supporting Antigone against his father. Haemon responds that he is trying to... (full context)
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The leader of the chorus worries that Haemon may do something violent. Creon doesn't care. He decides to spare Ismene, but says that he will take Antigone into... (full context)
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Civil Disobedience Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...intense mourning. The chorus tells Antigone, "Your own blind will, your passion has destroyed you." Creon enters, and tells the guards to interrupt her lament, to take her away, build a... (full context)
Natural Law Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...being punished for her devotion to the gods. She then begs the gods to punish Creon as terribly as he is punishing her if they agree with her that Creon has... (full context)
Lines 1091-1470
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Tiresias, the blind prophet, enters, led by a young boy. Creon greets him and agrees to follow Tiresias's advice. Tiresias warns Creon that he is at... (full context)
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Creon flies into a rage, cursing Tiresias and swearing that the body will never be buried.... (full context)
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...for burying Antigone alive, the gods and the Furies will soon take the life of Creon's own child. In addition, the hatred of all those whose dead loved ones have not... (full context)
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Creon is shaken by the prophet's words, but is reluctant to undo his decree. He asks... (full context)
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...and asks the messenger to tell her what happened. The messenger says that he and Creon first went to bury Polynices. Just as they were finishing, they heard a cry at... (full context)
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Creon and his attendants enter. Creon is carrying Haemon's body, and is almost mad with grief.... (full context)
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As Creon weeps, the messenger returns with the news that Eurydice, the queen, has killed herself. The... (full context)
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Creon calls for his attendants to take him away. He says, "I don't even exist—I'm no... (full context)