Pride and Selfishness in Sophocles’ Antigone

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In society, pride and selfishness are one of man’s most compelling yet detrimental qualities. It can nurture leadership and most importantly success; however, pride can also exhibit a negative universal connotation which is clearly manifested in the characters’ actions and intentions throughout the novel. In Sophocles’ Antigone, the prominent recurrence of a type of egoistic nature is evidently a key source which resulted in Creon’s as well as Antigone’s ultimate downfall. One who argues that Antigone only advocated for trueness, justice, and righteousness, is ultimately blind and neglectful of the claims at hand.

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The audience most oftentimes views Antigone’s sacrifice for her brother as heroistic and simply due to her good nature, but this is not necessarily the pure case. A vast amount of times throughout, Antigone affirms the fact that she did not solely act out of virtue and goodness when considering to rebel against Creon. Although Antigone truly displays a fierce and brave mentality to seek what she believes, she reveals a selfish intent to only die with her own glory and recognition and not with anyone else including Ismene as she says “no, you may not die along with me. Don’t say you did it!”.

The significance of this claim is that all Antigone truly desires is the fame from the public as well as from the gods themselves that only she had the courage to confront the King’s authority. Antigone assumes that if she acted alone, the spotlight would be on her and the gods would eventually reward her for such brave actions. Therefore, this evidently illustrates Antigone’s true nature as well as gives the audience the idea that her intentions are more self-seeking than out of humility. However, this “boastful” behavior ultimately led to Antigone’s own demise specifically when she was being confronted by Creon. When criticizing Creon’s actions, Antigone displayed great confidence as well as pride when speaking and this caused Creon to feel as if Antigone was a “deadly, crazed revolutionary!”.

This type of unregretful pose aggravated Creon and encouraged him to punish Antigone. Although it was irrational of Creon to act out of rage and anger alone, Sophocles ultimately unveiled Antigone’s actions as evidently being largely responsible for her own unprecedented outcome. Sophocles’ representation of the different forms of pride not only correspond to Antigone, but also to other characters such as Creon. Much like Antigone, Creon’s demise is procured through his very own overbearing nature as King of Thebes. But the author also exhibits differences compared to Antigone such as expressing Creon’s actions in a more clearer representation in order to express to the audience the constant effects of change in pride on society. And this haughtiness is clearly depicted when Creon states the question, “so I should rule this country for someone other than myself?”. What this means is that Creon feels as if his authority overrules anyone else’s desires or even opinions; he never wants to acknowledge that his actions could ever be wrong. Therefore, the audience comes to an understanding that Creon is almost living in his own reality. This question expressed by Creon demonstrates his intent to only rule Thebes for himself which distinctly manifests his selfish behavior which he does not realize would lead him towards a destructive end.

In contrast to Antigone’s “moment” which led to her demise, Creon’s downfall was gradual and expected. It all began ever since he decided to sentence Antigone to death. What this caused was controversy not only from the city, but from his own family. Haemon, his son, even gives his father fair advice, yet all Creon does is lash out and says that he “is fighting for the woman’s cause” (740). We can specifically see in this instance, the excessive ego that Creon has conjured up from having authority. He is evidently blinded from the reality and unable to understand that he will eventually come to regret his actions. This instance is one of many that builds upon the evidence that Creon is in the end accountable for his own ruin.

Another example of Creon’s fatal actions were when he was conversing with the blind prophet Tiresias. With the intention to only help Creon, Tiresias warns him that he will place bad luck upon Thebes due to refusing to bury Polyneices. But of course, Creon’s inability to overcome his prideful mentality undoubtedly serves as a barrier to the advice Tiresias has to say. Without any hesitation, Creon expresses his opinion by proclaiming to Tiresias that he needs to “remember, you are speaking about your commander-in-chief”. This is a clear representation of how Creon has gradually become “Intoxicated by the loftiness of his position” and “fails to recognize his human fallibility and the limits of his authority”. By demanding Tiresias to not forget that he is the ruler, Creon places emphasis that he is wiser and basically condemning Tiresias for even confronting him. What soon comes after is the death of his loved ones which is all due to the result of his excessive amount of stubbornness as well as his pride.

In conclusion, Sophocles’ Antigone demonstrates the dangers of pridefulness and selfishness by using conflict between two significant characters. Although noble in their own specific ways, the author truly depicts how destructive pride can realistically be and showcases how it could lead down a road of sadness and regret. Much like in this play, society is faced with this compelling problem and for Sophocles to demonstrate its harm, the audience can ultimately begin to acknowledge its overall damage as well.

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