Oedipus's Hubris

Abdul Ibrahim English 12R November 9, 2010 Confidence breeds Ignorance Sophocles’ Oedipus Cycle, Oedipus’s uncle and brother-in-law, Creon, has more lines than Oedipus. The story of the deterioration and eventual loss of Creon’s family is a plot point emphasized more in the final play of the Oedipus Cycle, Antigone, than in the latter two plays, Creon’s deterioration, however, is brought about by the same cause that triggers Oedipus’s downfall: his hubris. Though Creon is the voice of reason in Oedipus Rex, his hubris in the latter two plays causes his deterioration and eventual downfall.

Throughout Oedipus Rex, Creon acts as the voice of reason, as displayed by his actions, which are calculated and politically well thought out. Early in the play, as Oedipus waits to have an audience with Teiresias, the seer, Creon, aware of Oedipus’s fate and understanding the dire repercussions should Oedipus’s prophecy be revealed to the public, suggests that the meeting be held in private. Oedipus, however, acting in egregious hubris, insists that Creon speak in front of everyone.

In his explanation, he tells Oedipus that his father was murdered, causing the plague, and that “the god commands us to expel from the land of Thebes/An old defilement we are sheltering. ” Creon’s intentional vagueness saves him from incrimination and allows him to maintain his standing in society and maintain his standing in political affairs. The second scene of the play displays Creon, defending himself against the accusations made that he conspired with Teiresias to accuse Oedipus of murder. Through Oedipus’s blind rage at him, Teiresias remains composed, and waits for his opportunity to speak.

When he does, he speaks with eloquence, and informs Oedipus that he is “the kind of man/Who holds his tongue when he has no facts to go on. ” He goes on to explain to Oedipus that he never longed for the king’s power: only his rights, which he, as the former king, abuses, as evidenced when Creon asks Oedipus if he is equal to he and Iocaste. Oedipus replies by saying, “That is why I call you a bad friend. ” Creon leaves, and reveals the only animosity that he displays until he returns at the end of the novel.

Creon’s prudent behavior serves as a foil to Oedipus’s arrogance throughout the play, however when Creon returns to his throne at the end of the play, he instructs Oedipus to “Think no longer that you are in command here, but rather think/How when you were, you served your own destruction. ” The last lines that Creon speaks in Oedipus Rex embody the behavior that he exhibits throughout Oedipus at Colonus, where his more secretive tendencies give way to a confidence caused by his kingship and his belief that he is the link between mortal beings and gods.

Creon begins to embody the hubris that Oedipus formerly embodied. He begins by showing remorse for Oedipus’s current status, and suggests that he return to Thebes. Though throughout his speech he maintains his tendency toward “rascal’s tricks/In righteous speeches,” as labeled by Oedipus, Creon’s words contain an unmistakable air of superiority about them, which he maintains throughout the entire interaction between him and Oedipus. He no longer embodies the voice of reason as in Oedipus Rex, evidenced by his kidnapping of Oedipus’s daughters in lieu of attempting to reach a reasonable conclusion.

Even as Oedipus fumbles about blindly, Creon maintains his imperious persona, forcefully instructing his guards to pull Antigone away, and eventually trying to pull Oedipus away himself, old and brittle though he is. The chorus is the first to inform him that he is “adjudged to have acted wickedly. ” Creon, however, tries to defend his actions by rehashing Oedipus’s story, and expressing his belief that no one would take in such a pitiful man, which Theseus and the Chorus deny and proceed to return Oedipus’s daughters to him.

Creon’s “wicked” behavior in Oedipus at Colonus is an effective examination of the behavior that Creon displays through the majority of Antigone, the final play of the Oedipus Cycle. Throughout Sophocles’ Antigone, Creon embodies the hubris of Oedipus, however, he lacks the regal experience or influence to rule Thebes. Creon rules that Polyneices, Antigone’s brother and traitor to Thebes, is not to receive a proper burial.

The speech itself is written in prose, one of the few speeches in the Oedipus Cycle to be written in such a way, and the style is uncannily eloquent, the facade implying Creon’s lack of real experience ruling the nation, despite the fact that in the absence of Laios, Creon was the king. While politically in the right, Creon’s decree is a strict violation of the policy of the gods, who state that all bodies, traitorous or otherwise, must be buried without exception. Creon’s pompous facade continues until a sentry suggests to Creon that the dust sprinkled on Polyneices’s corpse could be the work of the gods.

Creon’s outrage at the suggestion is expressed through a hysterical rant devoid of his usual wit and laden with Ad Hominem statements in lieu of his well-placed remarks. A better outlet through which to examine Creon’s deterioration is his interaction with his friends and family. When speaking to his son Haimon, who is infatuated with Antigone, Haimon points out the error of Creon’s ways, which causes Creon to lose his temper and curse his son, who eventually moves out of his house, his last words to his father being, “Go on raving as long as you’ve a friend to endure you. After Antigone is brought to the tomb, Creon goes to visit Teiresias, who informs Creon that he stands “once more on the edge of fate” and recounts the time where he was sitting in his augury chair and the birds surrounding him began to kill one another. As he tried to burn an offering at the shrine, the entrails that he tried to burn would not ignite. He goes on to explain that the gods “glut themselves on the corpse of Oedipus’ son,” to which Creon responds bitterly and accuses Teiresias of accepting a bribe to fabricate a prophecy.

Finally, Creon’s messenger brings the news of the violence that unfolded off-stage: Antigone’s death, Haimon’s suicide, and his wife’s hanging herself, her last words cursing him for the loss of her sons. Creon deterioration is complete in this scene as he weeps over his dead family and prays that “death come quickly,” to which the Choragos replies, “the sky is deaf. ” Creon’s final lines in the play are lines of lamentation, where he admits that he has been “rash and foolish” and that “Fate has brought all my pride to a thought of dust. At the beginning of the Oedipus Cycle, Creon is a witty, businesslike character that uses his cunning to complete the tasks assigned to him. This behavior however, deteriorates steadily throughout the Cycle to the point where Creon is a bitter, miserable man who has lost everything. Creon’s deterioration was brought about by the hubris he acquired when he became the king, and furthered by the fact that he defied the gods, who, in turn, took everything away from him.

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