The Character of Creon as a Foil for Oedipus in Oedipus Rex
Each and every person is different, we all have our own flaws and strengths. But everybody is different and sometimes we compare ourselves to others that are far beyond us in a certain way. While it does occur in the real world many authors specifically write characters to do just that to their protagonist. Creon and Oedipus are just one example out of hundreds but they are the one example I will be focusing on. In Oedipus Rex Creon is used as a character foil to Oedipus to bring out his irrationality, stubbornness, and overt pride to the point where he believes he is superior to the gods. Sophocles usage of Creon as a foil to Oedipus makes a protagonist who is seemingly deranged and irrational in comparison to his brother in-law
Aristotle writes about fate vs free will and the heroes ability to choose his fate whether or not they are aware of it. The closest Oedipus comes to making a decision about fate is when he continues to press Tiresias for information. But when Tiresias finally tells all Oedipus won’t hear it, he refuses to believe the prophet of the gods. Creon on the other hand provides an example of the model greek, hanging on the seer’s every word. Early in the play Creon explains orders to Oedipus. Creon says “Then let me report what I heard from the god. Lord Phoebus clearly orders us to drive away the polluting stain this land has harboured—which will not be healed if we keep nursing it” Here Creon is encouraging Oedipus to listen to the gods. He is encouraging his brother to make a rational and well thought out decision. Later when they are speaking with Teiresias Creon asks Oedipus “I know not if he hath so spoken now. I heard him not.—But let me ask and thou Answer me true, as I have answered thee.” Teirisias has now told them everything he knows and Creon believes him and wants to hear from Oedious a confirmation of the seer’s words. Even when Creon encounters a man who may have performed evil acts he still wants to help. He has told his truths and now wishes for Oedipus to do the same.
After hearing witnesses to Laius’ death Creon makes his position very clear “Laius was killed. And now the god is clear: those murderers, he tells us, must be punished, whoever they may be. “ Whether or not Creon believes Oedipus is Laius’ killer we don’t know but he is unwavering in his stance. Creon believes that the only right way to proceed would be punishment for it is what the gods would want. Creon’s willingness to carry out punishment may also come from his own fear of being punished by the all powerful gods.
Oedipus’ hamartia is his hubris. When compared to a character like Creon who shows rationality, humility, and composure at all times. When Oedipus’ pride is compared to all these traits of Creon he looks even more like the overly proud king he is scripted to be by both Sophecles and the gods.
Throughout the play Oedipus makes hasty and questionable decisions and many bad things come as a result of his lapses in judgement. His brother in-law/uncle Creon is his character foil and shows many moments of rationality, humility, and composure. Hubris is considered the hamartia of Oedipus and Creon makes it show.
While Creon never holds the throne he is the brother of the queen of Thebes and in turn becomes the king's right hand man. “The man who thinks that bitter pride alone can guide him, without thought—his mind is sick.” Creon is a humble man despite his proximity to the crown. Creon acts more similar to a mentor than brother at times. He is much older than Oedipus and has much to teach him so it makes Oedipus who is supposed to be the figure of power seem that he is not the wisest in the room and that he is still learning.
Throughout the story both Oedipus and Creon seem to want what is best for everybody Creon seems to be a little more pure of heart with no ulterior motives while even if it is just a small bit Oedipus has personal stake in each deed. “Were I the King, full half my deeds were done to obey the will of others, not mine own.” This shows during the investigation into the death of Laius. While both men want to know what happened Creon appears to have no personal stake in the results while Oedipus in fact does. Creon is trying to teach Oedipus to be pure and to do things for the greater good and not himself. This is a great quote to show this difference in the two characters because it really shows no matter how much Oedipus wants the best for himself Creon will always be more pure of heart.
Creon is an advisor to both King Laius and to King Oedipus and makes it clear that is as high as he wishes to go up on the chain of power. “To cast aside and plot to be a King? Doth a sane man turn villain in an hour? For me, I never lusted thus for power nor bore with any man who turned such lust to doing.” Humble is the ultimate description of Creon and he shows that off very well when he claims that power is the root of evil and therefore he wants no spot of power. His opposition to evil is more so his deciding factor in that ideology than his actual disdain for power. While Oedipus is undoubtedly a good king he sometimes enjoys the celebrity and wealth more than the doing of good. Creon doesn’t have as much of those things and works for the good of the people anyways.
Creon is a perfect character foil. He outdoes Oedipus in every positive category while having almost no blemishes on his record. Even as Oedipus tries to be good he is still himself and he can never seem to be a better man, king or greek than his seemingly perfect brother in-law.