Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 5 | Words: 1302
Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Changes are an integral part of human development. Changes occur around and within us. Dramatic works often pinpoint various changes that trigger the reader or viewers’ imagination, sustain and engage their interest and leave them with a plethora of mixed feelings. Sophocles’ tragedy Oedipus Rex (also known as Oedipus the King) establishes rapport with the viewers and readers through memorable characters that convey important messages for responsive audience. While Oedipus and Jocasta experience the downfall in the course of the play, Creon surpasses them in virtues and good deeds. In fact, the changes that occur in him are the most significant, as he raises from a humble messenger to a leader capable of the wise and well-considered decisions.

At the beginning of the play Creon appears as Oedipus’ loyal and trustworthy friend. Despite his high social position, as he is Jocasta’s brother and, accordingly, Oedipus’ brother-in-law, he does not aim at the crown after Laius’ death. He shows no jealousy of not becoming the king of Thebes, and he obviously yields this position to Oedipus who saved the town from the sphinx and, as a result, was granted the throne. Oedipus trusts Creon and sends him to learn the will of god Apollo in order to be able to cure the land from a terrible plague. Creon delivers the message, refraining from any comments and judgments. The only advice he gives is to consult the prophet Teiresias. When Oedipus confronts Creon about conspiring against him and sending the prophet to accuse him of the murder, Creon makes it clear that he does not want to be the king. He is comfortable with his lush life, people like him and he does not have to bear the responsibility for making momentous decisions: “If I were king myself,/ I’d be doing many things against my will./So how can being a king be sweeter to me/ than royal power without anxiety?/ I am not yet so mistaken in my mind/ that I want things which bring no benefits” (Sophocles, lines 713-718). Creon’s logic in defending himself is indicative of his inner strength. Besides, he was the one who crowned Oedipus in the first place. Creon expresses his indignation at the unproved charges, saying that, “to throw away a noble friend/ is like a man who parts with his own life,/ the thing most dear to him”. Creon is cleverer than Oedipus and he does not jump at hasty conclusions without investigating deep into the matter. Creon does not hate Oedipus after all accusations, demonstrating his moral superiority over the king. Creon’s experience makes him condescending to and patient with Oedipus who loses his head completely.

As Creon sees his brother-in-law’s inability to govern the country effectively, he reminds about his rights to the throne: “I have some rights in Thebes as well “”/it is not yours alone” . He is not afraid to stand up to the king and tells him about his mistakes and delusions. Creon is honest and straightforward with everybody. He resorts to the help of his sister Jocasta to justify him in front of the obsessed king, but he does not think about using familial connections to his advantage. He believes that “only time/ can fully validate a man who’s true./ A bad man is exposed in just one day” (Sophocles, lines 742-744). Besides, Jocasta takes her brother’s side: “Oedipus,/ for the sake of the gods, trust him in this./ Respect that oath he made before all heaven “”/ do it for my sake and for those around you” (Sophocles, lines 784-787). She appeals to reason to set things straight, but eventually becomes overpowered by emotions that she cannot cope with and commits a suicide. The principal difference between the brother and sister is guilt. Creon has nothing to fear, as he is innocent, and, therefore, has enough fortitude to face problems and act reasonably. Jocasta cannot overcome the pangs of remorse and her guilty consciousness seals her fate.

After witnessing the downfall of Oedipus and Jocasta, Creon has no other option but to occupy the throne. He seems reluctant to become the king, but he loves his country and people and “he’s the only one who’s left/ to act as guardian of Thebes”. He demonstrates compassion and forgiveness towards Oedipus and meets his requests, forgetting the past wrongs: “Oedipus, I have not come here to mock/ or blame you for disasters in the past” (lines 1680-1681). However, as soon as Creon realizes his power, he resorts to his high position to underscore his superiority, saying to Oedipus: “Don’t try to be in charge of everything./ Your life has lost the power you once had” (Sophocles, lines 1803-1804). At the end of the play, Creon is portrayed as a wise, caring, stern and even-tempered man. He would become a great leader of his people, promising to consult the gods about his role. Unlike his predecessor, Creon does not want to alter his destiny, but gratefully accepts it. Creon represents the dominance of reason that is contrasted with emotions and mysteries symbolized by Oedipus and Jocasta. “Oedipus Rex, for one, raises questions about the power of human reason against the mysterious forces of the archaic world”. Creon does things the right way, he pays heed to gods’ messages and he does not lose his heart, when life turns its back on him. His high moral standards combined with his ability to look for good in people are the cornerstones of his success.

The complexity of Creon’s character is that the readers or viewers have to ascribe him certain qualities that make him neither good nor bad. Some critics (Shelton, Carel) may consider him sinister and greedy, while others (Donnely, Dodds) view him as an honorable and honest man. Probably, this ambiguity arises from his simplicity that allows various interpretations. In fact, Creon is the only character in the play worthy of emulation. In fact, in ancient Greece the play had to convey very distinct messages to the public. It is the privilege of modern day readers and viewers to read between the lines and search for hidden meanings embedded in the narration.

The development of Creon’s character is shown in the plays Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone that together with Oedipus Rex form Oedipus Trilogy. The other two plays vividly demonstrate Creon’s degradation, as too much power makes him an arrogant and revengeful king. Therefore, many critics and scholars try to pinpoint any indications of Creon’s corruptness in the first play of the trilogy. However hard they may try, there are more instances of Creon’s virtues that attest to his goodness. In Sophocles’ plays life can take surprising directions and the characters we admire may easily fall into disgrace. Sophocles excels at showing that people are prone to changes and teaches not to harbor any expectations of high rank officials. The latter are burdened with more problems and responsibilities than ordinary people. They also have their weaknesses that should be sympathized with and mistakes that should be avoided.

Although often overlooked and underestimated by critics and scholars, Creon is an embodiment of an ideal ruler, who has wisdom and realistic view of the circumstances. He pursues the truth, but not riches and power, and he is always cautious with his decisions, allowing gods to decide what to do rather than making choices himself. His reputation means everything to him, and he would protect it even at the expense of his life. Creon’s transformation can hardly be called impressive, because he is introduced as a man of integrity that always remains in the shade, and towards the end of the play he comes into prominence, displaying the whole range of positive qualities. The play Oedipus Rex emphasizes that Creon has potential of becoming a great king and in the subsequent plays he debunks the readers and viewers’ expectations.

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