VCCS Litonline

Episode 1
Home Up

Objective for this Page: To summarize episode 1 and to explore Creon’s motives.

Summary

Creon in a French-language productionIn 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.

Commentary

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 heart? 

Creon's Decree: Since Antigone is the person chiefly responsible for caring for the dead brothers, Creon's decree forbidding burial to Polynices seems aimed directly at her.  Is he trying to solidify his new-won power by eliminating opposition? Such is the way of the tyrant.

Study Questions

bulletCharacterize Creon:  What do we know about him and what can we speculate about him?  Provide evidence (examples) from the text to support your point(s). 

Assessment:  Write an answer to the study question in at least one paragraph.

 

Back Up Next

This instructional web was made in July, 2002, by Prof. Eric Hibbison, who is solely responsible for its content.