Creon's Monologue from "Antigone"

Antigone And The Body Of Polynices, 1880
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Considering he appears in all three plays of ​​Sophocles' Oedipus trilogy, Creon is a complex and diverse character. In ​Oedipus the King, he serves as an advisor and moral compass. In Oedipus at Colonus, he tries to negotiate with the blind ex-monarch in hopes of gaining power. Finally in, Creon has attained the throne after a long civil war between two brothers, ​Eteocles, and Polyneices. Oedipus’ son Eteocles died defending the city-state of Thebes.

Polyneices, on the other hand, dies trying to usurp power from his brother.

Creon's Dramatic Monologue

In this monologue placed at the play’s beginning, Creon establishes the conflict. The fallen Etecles is granted a hero’s funeral. However, Creon decrees that the traitorous Polyneices will be left to rot in the wilderness. This royal order will stir up a singular rebellion when the devoted sister of the brothers, Antigone, refuses to abide by Creon’s laws. When Creon punishes her for following the will of the Olympian Immortals and not the rule of the king, he incurs the wrath of the gods.

The following excerpt is reprinted from Greek Dramas. Ed. Bernadotte Perrin. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1904

CREON: I now possess the throne and all its powers, by nearness of kinship to the dead. No man can be fully known, in soul and spirit and mind, until he hath been seen versed in rule and law-giving.

For if any, being supreme guide of the state, cleaves not to the best counsels, but, through some fear, keeps his lips locked, I hold, and have ever held, him most base; and if any makes a friend of more account than his fatherland, that man hath no place in my regard. For I--be Zeus my witness, who sees all things always--would not be silent if I saw ruin, instead of safety, coming to the citizens; nor would I ever deem the country's foe a friend to myself; remembering this, that our country is the ship that bears us safe, and that only while she prospers in our voyage can we make true friends.

Such are the rules by which I guard this city's greatness. And in accord with them is the edict which I have now published to the folk touching the sons of Oedipus; that Eteocles, who hath fallen fighting for our city, in all renown of arms, shall be entombed, and crowned with every rite that follows the noblest dead to their rest. But for his brother, Polyneices--who came back from exile, and sought to consume utterly with fire the city of his fathers and the shrines of his fathers' gods--sought to taste of kindred blood, and to lead the remnant into slavery--touching this man, it hath been proclaimed to our people that none shall grace him with sepulture or lament, but leave him unburied, a corpse for birds and dogs to eat, a ghastly sight of shame.