Objective for this Page: To summarize episode 1 and to explore Creon’s motives.
In the first scene, after Creon's inaugural address, which stresses loyalty to Thebes, and his blasphemous decree not to bury Polynices, a sentry reluctantly comes to explain to Creon that someone tossed dust on Polynices. Creon has just assured the citizens of Thebes that the "ship of state" is "on course"; now he and the sentry wonder "what man" would do such a thing, and the chorus of Theban elders wonders aloud if the gods didn't step in. Creon calls them insane [though, of course, they're right], scoffing at the idea that "the gods could have the slightest concern for that corpse" (line 320).
After accusing the guards of taking bribes, Creon threatens the sentry if he doesn't apprehend the culprit. The sentry, not having been killed on the spot, scampers off "free," apparently planning to leave town to escape Creon's wrath.
The sentry who has lost a casting of lots to come to tell Creon the bad news that someone buried Polynices is a comical character. Knowing that ancient rulers may "shoot the messenger" in their anger, he tries to defuse the possibility by openly fearing it.
Creon's Motives: One has to wonder if Creon aspired to the throne,
having ruled as regent for nearly two decades while the sons of Oedipus came of
age. The plan to take turns ruling sounds like his "compromise";
but did he sew the seeds of jealousy in the younger brother, who should have
been secondary to his elder brother? Did Creon, perhaps, work on Eteocles
during his year of rule to suggest that it would not be fair to allow Polynices
to take his place on the throne? In fact, how did the brothers die in
battle? If they did not die fighting each other, did Creon hire assassins
in both armies to make sure arrows found their ways to each brother's
Assessment: Write an answer to the study question in at least one paragraph.
This instructional web was made in July, 2002, by Prof. Eric Hibbison, who is solely responsible for its content.