Oedipus of Rex and Antigone

In the plays Oedipus of Rex and Antigone by Sophocles, Oedipus and Creon exert similar characteristics as leaders that ultimately result in their characterization as tragic heroes. Their overbearing determination, relentless pride, uncontrollable fate, and enormous grievances all portray the inevitable outcome. Sophocles writes that the characters in the plays are chasten not because of something they had done in the past but merely it is their fate.

Oedipus and Creon can not stop their fate no matter what great lengths they go to. Revealing that catharsis is created when the audience has pity or fear when hey see that bad things can happen to good people. For this purpose, neither Oedipus nor Creon where good leaders because both were hypocritical tragic heroes. Initially, both Oedipus and Creon exert an overbearing determination that can be the tragic flaw that destroys their lives. However, both have contrasting motives.

Oedipus was determined to find the killer of King Laius saying, “As for the criminal, I pray to God- whether it be a lurking thief, or one of a number- I pray that that man’s life be consumed in evil and wretchedness and as for me this curse applies no less… (World Lit 316). Creon’ s motive of determination was not to back down from his word and law. The law was whoever buries Polyneices would be publicly stoned to death, since Polyneices didn’t deserve a proper burial for his actions in war.

Creon later finds out that Antigone has buried her brother and Creon replies ” She has much to learn. The inflexible heart breaks first, the toughest iron cracks first, and the wildest horses bend their neck at the pull of the smallest curb… Breaking the law and boasting of it. Who is the man here she or I, if this crime goes unpunished? (Western Literature 692) Neither Oedipus nor Creon wants to show that they are weak leaders so they ironically empower their tragic flaws with what they think is right.

In addition to their overbearing determination, both Oedipus and Creon show relentless pride that fulfills their fates. Oedipus’ pride doesn’t allow him to see that he is the killer that he is looking for, and consequently gouges out his eyes because he was so dishonored by his unwillingness to stop looking for the killer. He banishes himself, even though blind, so not to embarrass himself anymore. On the other hand, Creon’s pride causes him to have a fight with his son Haimon about Antigone’s punishment.

The fight was never intended, but when Haimon suggested how Creon should rule by what he thought was right and by what he had heard on the streets Creon’s pride couldn’t take it. Creon was so absorbed in himself, he questions how could he take advice from a prince when he gloats in his own wisdom. As leaders Oedipus and Creon let their pride take over good judgement and allow fate to play a role. Equally important, is that neither Oedipus nor Creon could ontrol their fate. Oedipus even went to great lengths not to let fate be carried out.

Oedipus moves away from home and refuses to see or speak to his parents even though this causes both of them much pain. Oedipus knew that he would kill his father and sleep with is mother and he takes many precautions but they were only in vein. Oedipus finds out that he was adopted and had killed his father Laius and unknowingly slept with his mother Jocasta. Parallel to this was the fact that Creon would lose his son to his pride and also lose Antigone, even hough he later decided to set her free. He now has to live with his decision and the fact that he was wrong.

The fate that controls the lives of Oedipus and Creon shows that bad things can happen to good people whether or not they deserved it and that fate controls everyone even kings. Simultaneously, both Oedipus and Creon end with grievances beyond comprehension. Oedipus’s grievance is that his own law exiles him and that he looses his children. Oedipus shows his remorse to his children when he says “Children: I could say much, if ou could understand me, but as it is, I have only this prayer for you: Live where you can be happier, please God, than God has made your father! (World Lit. 366). Likewise, Creon looses his son Haimon. He also looses his wife because his wife lost her child as well and couldn’t live with out him and so she kills herself.

Creon’s reply is “Oh pity! All true, all true, and more than I can bear! Oh my wife my son!… It is right that it should be. I alone am guilty. I know it and say it. Lead me in quickly, friends. I have neither life nor substance. Lead me in. Western Literature 711) The humanity is now showing through Oedipus and Creon and as leaders they both realize now what they have done and how they want to take everything back, but they can’t. Therefore they live in their misery. Such catharsis that pours from the audience is unbearable. In brief, the actions and words of Oedipus and Creon can account for their poor leadership, but fate played the upper hand. Fate did not allow for Oedipus or Creon to rule long enough to have the experience to be considered wise, noble leaders who could face any situation.

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