Those who have read the play Antigone by Sophocles will all share the common sentiment that Creon, uncle of Antigone, was the ‘villain’ of the tragedy. Indeed his autocratic attitude and his sexist opinions are classic characteristics in one. However, in the final moments of the play, readers are exposed to a vulnerable man who seemingly regrets his previous judgements. This leads to the important revelation that there are two sides to every story.
It is true that Creon’s primary motivation for freeing Antigone was purely self-serving, but what about after the end of the play? In accordance with the assumption that Creon has lost his crown, this monologue serves the purpose of letting his feelings be known after the initial devastation has faded away. The language he uses in this is far more coherent than the last moments of the play and gives him the opportunity to let his grief over the loss of his family out as he speaks to a portrait of his wife Eurydice, a character who appears only briefly in the play before committing suicide.
Readers will be able to see how the weight of his guilt has broken him and left him without confidants or friends. His inner conflict is another focused upon aspect: his rightful duty towards his kingdom versus loyalty to his family. He is undecided as to whether what he did was really a bad thing, as he believes that he was merely doing what was right as king, but in the end was ultimately seen as the villain. While it is true that many of his acts were indeed criminal, at the same time many could have been done under the impression that he was doing the right thing as king by upholding his principles.
‘A man in command of an entire city, who does not adhere to the best policies, but keeps his mouth closed through fear, is worthless,’ said the new king to his subjects; a valuable guiding principle, my dear. It could have been safely assumed that he would have had the benefit of a fruitful rule over grateful citizens, with the blessings of Zeus himself showered on him! Now, there is strife in the heavens that impairs judgements and tilts the balance of justice.
I, that very king, find myself ousted from my seat of principle, thrust forcefully from the safety of my cocoon out into a barren wasteland that mirrors my existence. I, who swore never to let a loved one, especially a woman impair my judgment and my sense of duty to my city now taste irony, bitter as Artemisia on my tongue as I confide in you, thoughts of a troubled nature, my wife, my only confidant. From within the confines of your panelled home you look down on me with judgement in your visible eye despite an ever ready ear with which you listen to your husband’s ruminations. Your voice, however, now resides only in memories.
I have questioned myself time and time again as to whether what I did was right – and I know that the common sentiment sides with the negative. I myself understand having felt the consequences of my actions most severely. But, one can’t help but wonder when a man is torn between loyalty to his kingdom and loyalty to the gods, which road should he traverse down? Moreover, when his family is intertwined with the two?
Yes, that man was related to me by blood, but was I to give such bloody intentions a respectful passing? I could not allow my people to suffer the insult. He came with the sole intention of murder and pillaging, but was slain, by his own brother no less. Should I have granted him a proper burial in front of the very people who would have become his victims? Was Ajax granted the same under disgraceful circumstances?
When ruling, partiality must never be shown in all fairness to the citizens, so I did what I felt was right by condemning the girl the way I did. It is ironic indeed that when she poured dust on Polyneices the public celebrated and mourned her. Had I deigned to do the same, I would have been lower than the traitor himself in their eyes! How then, was it fair that in the end, despite my impartiality I was the one who lost the most? Was…Am I a bad man? But no! I should have abandoned my suspicion for that was my shortcoming. I should have listened to my dear son, who tried to impress his ideas upon me. In accordance with his words…when I was laid bare, I was found to be an empty, empty man! Oh Eurydice, sweet woman, forgive your empty husband of his follies as he pays dearly for them now! As my mind slowly unravels, I am once again back where I started…Oh! Give me a cup of Borage, so that I may revel in the bliss of forgetfulness…