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Sophocles - The Theban Plays.

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Introduction

Sophocles - The Theban Plays. Compare Creon in 'Oedipus Rex', 'Oedipus at Colonus', and 'Antigone'. How are his characteristics brought out in each play in terms of his actions, attitudes, relationships with other characters in the play and his place in the development of the plot? How have the dramatic and thematic concerns of each play governed Sophocles' portrait of Creon? By Luke Marsh English Literature Sophocles wrote Oedipus the King around 425 BC, Oedipus at Colonus in c.401 BC and Antigone in c.441BC. Thus, although Antigone appears to tell some of the story of 'what happened next,' it was not actually intended to act as a sequel, having no true unity of theme or treatment between them. Accordingly, it is noticeable that the representation of Creon depicted in Antigone is a very different character (and respective age) from that of the Creon in either of the other two plays. King Oedipus, chiefly concerns itself with the character Oedipus, the wise, happy, and beloved ruler of Thebes. Though hot-tempered, impatient, and arrogant at times of crisis, he otherwise seems to enjoy every good fortune. One of the major Sophoclean themes present in king Oedipus is the concept of humans attempting to escape their own fate, and failing in the process. It deals with denial, and other human characteristics. It is also a deep tragedy, and attempts to convey a moral lesson. Creon (brother of Oedipus' wife, Jocasta) in King Oedipus plays the role of logic, heroism, and purity: 'There is an unclean thing - polluting our soil, which must be driven away.' He is the model figure of the play, basing decisions only on 'concrete truth.' King Oedipus also sees Creon help to bring forth evidence of the truth of the tragedy and later takes the throne as well, 'What I know I will freely confess.' Even so, his character also has a secondary purpose, as intended, which through antithesis of character acts as an emphasis to highlight the manner of Oedipus' ill-tempered irrationality. ...read more.

Middle

He would indeed, as Haemon tells him, be an ideal ruler 'on a desert island.' Antigone returns later on, primarily to highlight Creon's unreasonable cruelty. The reader is aware of Ismene's innocence, but Creon condemns her at first anyway. Later he relents, and this is the first sign that he is beginning to perhaps doubt himself by attempting to go back on his earlier decisions. Ismene in her second scene now has to play a different role - dramatically her task is to introduce the theme of Antigone's betrothal to Creon's son Haemon, 'You could not take her - kill your own son's bride? This is not character development - she is still subordinate to the dictates of the plot. If Ismene were not there, it would be hard for Antigone to disclose such information to the reader without introducing a subsidiary theme and thus limit Sophocles' economy of writing. Whether they love each other or not, is unimportant to Sophocles; Haemon is similar to Ismene, the perfect Greek son/daughter, whose duty first and last is to his father and his family. A large aspect of the play is that confrontation between father and son because this was a matter of real importance for Athenians. <!-- P {font-family:Arial; font-size:9pt;} H3 {font-family:Arial; font-size:14pt;} --><!-- a { text-transform: capitalize} a:link { text-decoration: none } a:active { text-decoration: none } a:visited { text-decoration: none } --> In Antigone, Creon's delineation places stark contrast to that of his previous character illustrated in King Oedipus. He is now incredibly chauvinistic, sexist, 'Keep them within the proper place for women,' an emotionless dictator and narcissistic, a point echoed through the chorus, 'There is nothing beyond his power.' In summary, we are presented with a negative portrayal of Creon who serves to exemplify all that is bad in human character. Another 'flaw' in Creon's personality is his promulgation of social stereotypes. ...read more.

Conclusion

Drown me in the depths of the sea! Take me!' highly decorative, 'And thunder of war in his ears. The Father of Heaven abhors the proud tongue's boasting; He marked the oncoming torrent, the flashing stream...' or perfectly plain and simple, 'We are very sorry for you, Oedipus, and for your daughters.' Sophocles has also been universally admired for the sympathy and vividness with which he delineates his characters; especially notable are his tragic women, such as Antigone in the third play. She at first is portrayed unfavourably to the audience as the rebellious, non-conformist. However, when summoned to her death, Sophocles softens her image yet she remains morally strong - she now is painted as the tragic heroine of the play and Sophocles attempts to extend our sympathy to her. These thematic and dramatic devices meld into a compact drama. The action is usually limited to one setting and to a single day. There are few digressions; the play moves swiftly and directly, and the plot is often compressed. Sophocles' economy can be seen in Antigone. Even before Creon's edict concerning Polynices' burial is made public, Antigone has disobeyed it. Partly as a result for this compression, offstage action is very important in Greek tragedy. For example, the Greeks made no attempts to portray violence onstage. Consequently, the messenger becomes an important figure in Sophocles' plays. The messenger acts as a traditional figure of exposition - the witness who comes to tell others of events that have transpired elsewhere. Creon throughout the Theban trilogy is an individual moving in a complex entanglement of will and circumstance, passion and altruism, guilt and innocence. Essentially speaking, he is a tragic character and his mistakes serve as an example for our lives perhaps resulting in our own self-change and catharsis as we try to define ourselves and the roles we play in society. Although such characters may be fictitious, they have the same aspirations as we do, only on a more intense level allowing us to see exemplary consequences of human nature: 'What is to be, no mortal can escape.' ...read more.

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