Every classic epic or play has a main character who is, in one way or another, a hero. Whether or not they are righteous heroes is not always the issue, but the fact that they face some sort of challenge and overcome the challenge despite all the odds, is the important issue behind being a hero. In Sophocles play, Antigone, two completely different characters could be considered the heroes of the play. Creon is a ruler of great strength who stands against all odds and remains strong and solid until his fall from power. He is revered as the hero of the play because he is one of the central characters and the play revolves around his actions. Antigone, Oedipus daughter is also revered as the heroine of the play, she is a character of great strength who also fights against the odds and propels the action of the play. However, she meets with a less than noble end when commits suicide at the plays conclusion. The difference between these two characters is that while Creon was strong and faced his adversaries; he refused to look at the situation from every side and it forced him to fall from power. In the end Antigone turns out to be the hero of this play because her noble and defiant actions against Creon. Her character is more compelling than Creons because she is a true rebel and a martyr who fights strongly for what she believes in. Antigone takes the situation into her own hands and fights for what she believes. She does end up dying by her own hand, but her courageous actions earn her the title of heroine. Antigone is truly a rare character in Greek literature, she is a strong female character written in a time when male characters predominated.
Creon was a man who fought a good fight in the face of many adversaries. He maintained his integrity, such as it was, and was able to confront his problems and the events that took place around him. Despite any problems or issues, he remained strong and stable. However his heroism came through the predominately low characteristic of ignorance. While he did finally accept the will of the gods and the people, he did not face the reality with any great strength or recognition. Creons changes and process of learning as time goes by reflect a deeper humanity than the actions of Antigone, who is perhaps braver than believable. Conversely Creons ignorance allows us to gain a greater glimpse into Creon’s persona, his foibles and fallibility. Because of his lack of strength in the end of the play Creon loses that sense of the hero and becomes another character that helps exemplify the great deed of Antigone.
Antigone was an individual who experienced much pain and yet strove to change the realities that faced her. She had courage and strength, the attributes of a heroine, and used those attributes to fight for what she saw as right. She did not necessarily like the truth anymore than Creon, but she would not turn a blind eye to that truth as her father did. She struggled and remained strong to the end, until the tremendous weight of the truth propelled her to a tragic end. The first sign of heroism and determination inherent in Antigone is in her speech when her brother dies, and she displays her determination to see to it that he has a proper burial. She approaches her sister:
Creon buried our brother Eteocles with military honors, gave him a soldiers funeral, and it was right that he should; but Polyneices, who fought as bravely and died as miserably, they say Creon has sworn no one shall bury him, no one mourn for him, But his body must lie in the fields, a sweet treasure for carrion birds to find as they search for food. That is what they say and our good Creon is coming here to announce it publicly; and the penalty stoning to death in the public square! There it is, and now you can prove what you are: A true sister, or a traitor to your family (The Oedipus Cycle p.189).
This speech proves that she has no fear of consequence for what she is about to do and proves that she is set on a mission without regard for herself or anyone else. She showed signs that she was not a woman who would back down when confronted with issues of righteousness and truth, no matter the consequences to herself. Her sister, amazed at her determination, was not of the same mind, illustrating to Antigone the consequences that were likely to result from such action. Antigone could well have attempted to deny the fact that she had broken the law, she could have broken down or merely run off thereby instilling a vision of a pathetic and weak character in the readers mind. But she was a character that chose not to run away from the problem at hand. Antigone was still determined, and illustrated that she knew well the consequences of such actions, but yet still claims that she will fight for her brothers rights regardless of the results of her heroic actions.
While both Antigone and Creon display evidence of being heroic only one character can be the hero of the play. The character who sticks out as doing something radical or extraordinary usually is seen as the hero of the play, but the hero is not known to take their own life because of the pressure of the situation that they were involved in or end up being defeated by the will of the gods. Achilles, from Homers Iliad, chose to go into battle knowing that he was going to lose his life. People of his day and today revere him as a hero even though in essence he committed suicide because it was for a good cause. Antigone did the same thing in a similar situation and should receive the same credit and title as the plays heroine.