The Greek drama Antigone, written by Sophocles, has many antitheses. Among them are love versus hate, life versus death, and the state versus the individual. However, the dominant antithesis is the one of pride versus wisdom. Polyneices and Eteocles, two brothers, had killed each other in battle. Their uncle Creon, the new king, buried Eteocles with military honors, but forbad the burial of Polyneices as he considered him a traitor.
Antigone, the sister of them both, feels she has to bury her own brother even though it is against the king's will. The play begins with an argument between Antigone and Ismene, her sister. Ismene tries to dissuade her against burying Polyneices, because she is afraid that Creon will punish Antigone by death; but her effort comes to no avail. Creon became the king of Thebes after the death of the former king, Eteocles. Originally, Creon tries to do what is best for his country. However, he is a proud man. Even when he is wrong, he does not back down. Aristotle believed that some error or frailty brings about the misfortune of a character in a tragedy. For Creon, this frailty is a weakness in his character.
His excessive pride brings about his own downfall. I have nothing but contempt for the kind of Governor who is afraid, for whatever reason, to follow the course that he knows is best for the State; and as for the man who sets private friendship above the public welfare-I have no use for him, either. I call God to witness that if I saw my country headed for ruin, I should not be afraid to speak out plainly.
Creon, being a new king, is determined to establish his authority. He is self-righteous and swears to do only what is best for Thebes. When he finds that Antigone has disobeyed him, he is outraged. He is harsh and unforgiving in his judgment of her. This is only amplified by the fact that they are kin. For Creon wishes to prove to his subjects that he is impartial, and does not lessen the punishment, even for his own family. Antigone is proud as well, and does not back down. Even in the face of death, she maintains her ideals and continues to believe that her actions are justified.
At the close of the second scene, the audience learns that Antigone is the fiancée of Haimon, the son of Creon. Haimon has every reason to be angry. After all, his father has robbed him of his bride. Yet, he goes to Creon not with grief or bitterness, but with respect and love. Calm and composed, Haimon is the voice of wisdom and reason. He begs Creon to be yielding, to realize that he is not the only one capable of reasoning. Haimon asks his father to let go of pride and anger, and to allow himself to be counseled by others. Unfortunately, Creon is not moved. Instead of compromising and meeting Haimon halfway, he is infuriated, convinced that his son has sold out to a woman and a criminal.
This is the beginning of the downward spiral for Creon. Convinced of his own righteousness, he alienates his son. Haimon leaves swearing never to return. However, he makes a promise before leaving: "Then she must die. - But her death will cause another."
Creon's guards seal Antigone in a cave and leave her there to die. Soon after, Teiresias, the blind prophet, brings disturbing news to Creon. The gods are deaf to their prayers, the fire recoils from their offerings, and the birds of omen have killed each other. Creon's actions have greatly angered the gods. Teiresias says to Creon, "These are no trifles! Think: all men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride." Once again, Creon refuses to listen to the wise words of others.
This time, though, it is not a mere mortal but the gods who demand reparation. Even so, Creon cannot admit to his mistakes. The idea that he, the king, is wrong is so alien to Creon that he instead places the blame on Teiresias, the prophet who speaks for the gods. He accuses Teiresias of taking bribes, of exchanging his wisdom for gold. Creon does not truly listen until the chorus, the people of his land, speaks out. When they reason with him, his pride finally gives in to wisdom.
Creon goes forward, prepared to do what is necessary to right his wrongs. However, as is often the case in life, he does not repent soon enough. In the aftermath, he is left with the deaths of three people, all of which he caused. He is left to remember all the things he could have done differently, and that is possibly the worst punishment of all. Ultimately, King Creon learns his lesson, but it is a hard lesson and one that brings down everyone around him. Perhaps he, himself, says it best. " I have been rash and foolish."