A boy leads in the blind prophet Tiresias. Oedipus begs him to reveal who Laius’s murderer is, but Tiresias answers only that he knows the truth but wishes he did not. Puzzled at first, then angry, Oedipus insists that Tiresias tell Thebes what he knows. Provoked by the anger and insults of Oedipus, Tiresias begins to hint at his knowledge. Finally, when Oedipus furiously accuses Tiresias of the murder, Tiresias tells Oedipus that Oedipus himself is the curse. Oedipus dares Tiresias to say it again, and so Tiresias calls Oedipus the murderer. The king criticizes Tiresias’s powers wildly and insults his blindness, but Tiresias only responds that the insults will eventually be turned on Oedipus by all of Thebes. Driven into a fury by the accusation, Oedipus proceeds to concoct a story that Creon and Tiresias are conspiring to overthrow him.
The leader of the Chorus asks Oedipus to calm down, but Tiresias only taunts Oedipus further, saying that the king does not even know who his parents are. This statement both infuriates and intrigues Oedipus, who asks for the truth of his parentage. Tiresias answers only in riddles, saying that the murderer of Laius will turn out to be both brother and father to his children, both son and husband to his mother. The characters exit and the Chorus takes the stage, confused and unsure whom to believe. They resolve that they will not believe any of these accusations against Oedipus unless they are shown proof.
Creon enters, soon followed by Oedipus. Oedipus accuses Creon of trying to overthrow him, since it was he who recommended that Tiresias come. Creon asks Oedipus to be rational, but Oedipus says that he wants Creon murdered. Both Creon and the leader of the Chorus try to get Oedipus to understand that he’s concocting fantasies, but Oedipus is resolute in his conclusions and his fury.
As in Antigone, the entrance of Tiresias signals a crucial turning point in the plot. But in Oedipus the King, Tiresias also serves an additional role—his blindness augments the dramatic irony that governs the play. Tiresias is blind but can see the truth; Oedipus has his sight but cannot. Oedipus claims that he longs to know the truth; Tiresias says that seeing the truth only brings one pain. In addition to this unspoken irony, the conversation between Tiresias and Oedipus is filled with references to sight and eyes. As Oedipus grows angrier, he taunts Tiresias for his blindness, confusing physical sight and insight, or knowledge. Tiresias matches Oedipus insult for insult, mocking Oedipus for his eyesight and for the brilliance that once allowed him to solve the riddle of the Sphinx—neither quality is now helping Oedipus to see the truth.
In this section, the characteristic swiftness of Oedipus’s thought, words, and action begins to work against him. When Tiresias arrives at line 340, Oedipus praises him as an all-powerful seer who has shielded Thebes from many a plague. Only forty lines later, he refers to Tiresias as “scum,” and soon after that accuses him of treason. Oedipus sizes up a situation, makes a judgment, and acts—all in an instant. While this confident expedience was laudable in the first section, it is exaggerated to a point of near absurdity in the second. Oedipus asks Tiresias and Creon a great many questions—questions are his typical mode of address and frequently a sign of his quick and intelligent mind—but they are merely rhetorical, for they accuse and presume rather than seek answers. Though Tiresias has laid the truth out plainly before Oedipus, the only way Oedipus can interpret the prophet’s words is as an attack, and his quest for information only seeks to confirm what he already believes.
The Chorus seems terrified and helpless in this section, and its speech at lines 526–572 is fraught with uncertainty and anxiety. Though, like Oedipus, the Chorus cannot believe the truth of what Tiresias has said, the Chorus does not believe itself to be untouchable as Oedipus does, consisting as it does of the plague-stricken, innocent citizens of Thebes. The Chorus’s speech is full of images of caves, darkness, lightning, and wings, which suggest darkness, the unknown, and, most significantly, terror striking from the skies. The Chorus’s supplications to the benevolent gods of lines 168–244 are long past. The gods are still present in this speech, but they are no longer of any help, because they know truths that they will not reveal. Thebes is menaced rather than protected by the heavens.
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In both plays Creon is of high social status. In Antigone he is the king of Thebes. In Oedipus the King he is the brother in law to Oedipus and becomes king at the end of the play. In Antigone, Creon is portrayed as a main character as the plot revolves around him and his decisions as he is the King of Thebes. In this play Creon’s character is irrational, as he does not obey the Laws of the Gods by sentencing his son’s fiancee to a slow death, ‘she’ll never escape, she and her blood sister, the most barbaric death. ‘ Creon’s character in Antigone shows great hubris.
This is shown when he harshly punishes Antigone as she betrays him in public. This is made far worse by the fact that she is a woman and his son’s fiancee. Creon shows no care for the Laws of the Gods, as he punishes Antigone for her brother’s burial, which is against the God’s rules. Also he is not considerate to others. He ignores his son’s pleads to save Antigone, and he also disregards her want to bury her brothers so that they can have a proper afterlife. In this play Creon condemns others, for example he condemns Antigone to death and also accuses her sister Ismene.
Creon’s pride rapidly diminishes when he realises his wrong doings. ‘Ai, dead, lost to the world, not through your stupidity, no, my own. This occurs when he founds out both his wife and son have died. At this point he loses all respect from the men in Thebes, even though many disagreed with his decision to disallow Polyniece’s burial. At the end of the play comes Creon’s downfall as loses his crown and has to live in suffering as both his wife and son committed suicide, therefore some sympathy is felt for him. ‘ Therefore in Antigone, Creon goes from powerful to powerless through his wrongdoings.
In Oedipus the King Creon is a background character, i. e. the plot does not revolve around his actions. In this play Creon does not wish to be king either, which in comparison to his character in Antigone is very different. ‘Not I, I’m not the man to yearn for kingship. ‘ He is also portrayed as rational, as he tells Oedipus to go to Delphi and ask the Oracle if the prophecy is true. As in Antigone, Creon is seen as proud and arrogant, ‘Now all men sing my praises. ‘ He believes he is powerful, even though he is not the King.
Creon respects the Laws of the Gods in Oedipus the King and he shames Oedipus for not doing so, ‘First I wanted the God to clarify my duties. ‘ Unlike in Antigone, Creon is shown as considerate, as he brings Oedipus’ children, Antigone and Ismene, to say goodbye to him before he is exiled. As in Antigone Creon blames others, he blames Oedipus for his own downfall. Creon becomes the King of Thebes when Oedipus is exiled; therefore he becomes more proud towards the end of the play and more respect from the people of Thebes. Unlike in Antigone, Creon goes from powerless to powerful as what he believes is right.
In conclusion I think that both of Creon’s portrayals are effective. For Creon’s character I think that in Oedipus the King is the more effective as it shows him in a better light, powerful and correct in his beliefs. He also is very considerate to other people’s needs; although he is a secondary character therefore there is less response from an audience towards him. However for an audience I think Creon’s portrayal in Antigone provokes a far more emotional response, as you feel pathos for him yet also go through a stage of dislike for the character, especially as he is a main character of the play.
Author: Brandon Johnson
Compare the portrayal of Creon in Oedipus the King and Antigone.
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