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The Two Theban Tragedies: Antigone and Oedipus the King

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  1. Introduction
  2. Recurrent themes in Greek mythology
  3. Creon and the lack of a prescribed fate
  4. Creon's refusal to take the advice of Teiresias
  5. Conclsusion

Greek tragedies all possess a common trait: the protagonist displays a tragic flaw, which ultimately leads to his or her downfall. In the two Theban tragedies, Antigone and Oedipus the King, Creon's tragic flaw is immoderation, while Oedipus' unwillingness to accept his fate causes his demise. However, Creon and Oedipus have differing levels of control over their fates and the fates of others. In these famous plays, readers can see morals being clearly set forth: moderation is necessary for a balanced life, and fate is inescapable. Sophocles also demonstrates that the mistakes of one person can have disastrous consequences for those surrounding him. In his plays, Sophocles puts forth two very distinct protagonists: Oedipus and Creon; the former's fate has already been determined, whereas the latter creates his own tragedy.

[...] However, Teiresias knows what lies in store if the truth surfaces and he tells Oedipus, will not bring this pain upon us both on you nor on myself.? (Oedipus the King, Lattimore, 332-333) Oedipus gives no consideration to what Teiresias says; he does not consider why Teiresias refuses to speak, but instead focuses on his task. Oedipus cannot relate to Teiresias because he stubbornly ignores the prophet's warnings. Furthermore, once Teiresias denounces Oedipus as his ?land's pollution?, Oedipus immediately tries to say that Teiresias is lying, and that Creon is framing him. [...]


[...] (Antigone, Lattimore, 1050-51) Even when told that he is offending the gods, Creon still does not want to admit that his decree and his punishment of Antigone were unreasonable. However, eventually, like Oedipus, Creon hears what will happen if he does not yield and can no longer deny his mistakes. Teiresias tells Creon of your own loins bred, a corpse for a corpse, for you have thrust one that belongs above below the earth, and bitterly dishonored a living soul by lodging her in a grave.? (Antigone, Lattimore, 1135-38) Teiresias also tells Creon that these acts of violence are his fault because of his immoderation. [...]

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