A Cup of Creon

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by cheri block sabraw

Joe and I had coffee last Monday to discuss Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides, three Greek tragedians.

Our usual booth was taken.

Our usual server was busy.

Joe wasn’t pleased.

Hell, we’ll take that booth over there, he suggested to the hostess.

I followed without comment.

So Joe, who is the more sympathetic character, Antigone or Creon?

For those of you who read Antigone back in high school, here is a précis: Creon, brother to Jocasta (Oedipus’ wife ,who takes her life after Oedipus blinds himself by stabbing his eyes), ascends the Theban throne after its heirs, brothers Polynices and Eteocles die fighting on opposite sides during the Theban War.

Antigone, sister to the two dead brothers, wants to have both of her brothers buried with respect, but King Creon orders the body of the brother who fought against Thebes, Polynices, to rot in public view. After all, he is a traitor!

Not to be bossed around by the King, ancient flower child Antigone spreads dust over the body twice, hoping to get caught in the act of disobeying the king. She is caught, so Creon, in a kingly fury, orders her to be buried alive. Never mind that she is also his son Haemon’s fiancé.

The central conflict in this tragedy revolves around Creon’s edict and its political implications and Antigone’s emotional reaction to it which is linked to her oikos (family) and the gods.

Joe was in Antigone’s corner; I,  in Creon’s.

The conversation was lively.

Our lunches of soup—Joe had onion; I had tomato basil—arrived, along with our sandwiches, so we abandoned the topics of Polynices’ rotting body and Antigone’s suicide.

Can I get you anything else? our server asked

What’s your name? Joe replied.

Danielle, she said.

You don’t look like a Danielle. You look like a Sarah, Joe randomly added.

Our conversation took an odd turn when I asked Joe what we should do to celebrate his birthday on December 1, when he will turn 78 years old.

Shall we go to New York City?

How about going up to Tahoe to gamble?

Would you like to go to our little beach house?

Joe nixed all three suggestions and then made a big statement.

I don’t do nostalgia, baby.

I objected, citing Victor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he observes that no one can steal our memories. Memories can provide a place to go in times of unhappiness or stress, Frankl wrote.

Nostalgia creates unhappiness and stress, baby.

Why in the hell would I be nostalgic? My parents are dead; I have no siblings and my wife is dead. No. No nostalgia for me. I live only in the present. Doing that serves me well.

Sarah? We’d like some coffee. Baby, you want leaded, right?

We’ll have two cups of coffee, one black, and one with cream for the lady.

The literary conversation resumed.

Why  do you have any sympathy for Creon, Cheri?

For God’s sake, Joe, he dismissed Tiresias. Now what type of character would turn down the advice of a seer? That was huge. His character raises more questions than answers. Antigone is fairly simple.

That was huge, Joe admitted, thinking about Creon.

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About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in On fiction, People and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to A Cup of Creon

  1. andreaskluth says:

    A very intriguing post, and very Blockian, I might add:

    The Blockian part is the “story within a story”. But whereas Shakespeare always made clear which story was within the other, Block Sabraw likes to leave that open. Are Joe and Cheri, assisted by Danielle, within Creon and Antigone, or are Creon and Antigone within Cheri and Joe?

    Having them paired obviously invites us to speculate. It’s curious that Joe is the one taking Antigone’s side, since Antigone, arguably, is being nostalgic–ie, she can’t overcome her sentimental memory of her brother. Perhaps Joe is fooling himself by “not doing nostalgia”.

    Personally, I think Cheri is faking her support of Creon, too (intellectuals do that sort of thing just to see where it leads). Creon represents public morality (the state) at the expense of private morality (the family). More to the point, he threw what we would call a hissy fit. Men do that, but nowadays we get dressed down for it and are left, shrunken, to go about our ways. Creon caused more damage. Road rage in a Hummer on an LA freeway, as it were. Can’t accept that.

    At the end of the day, everybody in the play, starting with the warring brothers, indeed their parents, is silly enough to be part of us.

    But you gotta love Antigone. In the Third Reich she would have been the White Rose.

  2. Cheri says:

    The story of the White Rose is a powerful one that I did not know. Wow.

    I may write more about Creon. I find his insecurity more interesting than Antigone’s passion.

    😉

    • Cheri says:

      And to reply to myself, I wonder about Andreas’ observation that the essence of the play is public morality vs. family morality. If Antigone’s family were somewhat normal, this might make sense to me, but instead we have a family doomed by Fate to some of the most bizarre happenings in all of literature.

      Shall we be sympathetic to Antigone, product of Oedipus and his mother, Jocasta? Shall we assume that she suffers genetically?

      I am not sure this family–with its big-time warts–is representative of an Athenian family.

      Creon is insecure and trying to deal with a traitor. He is faced with a sneaky and overly emotional woman who isn’t satisfied with a first burial. She has something else to prove.

      Creon puts the needs of the polis above the needs of the family.

      Hmmmmm….

  3. andreaskluth says:

    First, nice new mug shot.

    Second, keep going. I want to see where you take this.

    Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus never make it easy for us today to sympathize. Their characters were always too big and weird. What I voiced was what I dimly recall the “mainstream” view of the play. You seem to be developing a contrarian view which is likely to be more interesting.

    If you’re so into men you are insecure and faced with sneaky and overly emotional women, you’d loooove …. me. It’s not fair. Why is Sophocles getting the attention!

  4. andreaskluth says:

    “men you are insecure” == “men WHO are insecure”

  5. Cheri says:

    Ha!
    Insecure?
    Impossible!
    Although I know some very bright and amazing men who refuse to see themselves as such.
    But then, Socrates was a modest man,
    wasn’t he? 🙂

    I shall persue the Creon thread after I write my second paper due for my graduate class… I ‘m thinking of including him.

    • Cheri says:

      Just received my first paper back last night. First graded paper in about 25 years….Pleased with the grade and now even more motivated about the second. Not sure what to approach…Maybe Creon and his view of the polis compared to Virgil’s. What I really want to do is to speculate about how Creon’s reign might have been different had he been a Philosopher King, but the paper must be academic in nature and provable.

      Professor limited the paper to 3 pages, wisely.

      Last night I had a funny thought: what if Odysseus had been Dante’s guide….

  6. kkuukka says:

    Intriguing… as is your verbal duel for fun…here and elsewhere. Loved the link/allusion (is that the correct term?) to the White Rose.

    • Cheri says:

      Verbal duels provide amusing but insightful ways to understand others, no?
      Welcome to the blog. My friend Andreas provided the White Rose link.
      He is a marvelous teacher.

  7. andreaskluth says:

    The White Rose have been heroes of mine (and of many other Germans) for as long as I can remember. The fact that they are obscure in America makes them only more interesting. I might write a blog post about them.

    “Allusion”: Technically, it was not allusion but an analogy. To allude is to point toward something/somebody WITHOUT actually mentioning it.

    • ……The fact that they are obscure in America makes them only more interesting…….

      They shouldn’t be obscure in America, because a film, “Sophie Scholl”, came out in North American film theatres a couple of years ago, and was widely reviewed in the North American media.

      To my chagrin I didn’t see it when it came out. Now that I’m reminded, I’ll track down a DVD of it.

  8. kkuukka says:

    Andreas – yes, I wasn’t sure about the term… too many years of not using the language.
    Cheri says you are a marvellous teacher. I can see that – and both of your blogs are on my RSS-feed. Strange, really if you think about it… majority of other things I follow are of pretty technical nature or somehow related to media.
    I don’t even remember the original reason why I ended up on your blog… Could have been your posting of changing media habits, I really don’t remember. But I have kept coming back and enjoyed it tremendously.
    So you are German, I wonder where I got the idea that you were Dutch…
    Anyway, consider one copy of your coming book sold. 😉

  9. andreaskluth says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Kkuukka.

    As you said, it’s all about storytelling, which is what our three blogs have in common.

    Great photos, btw. And I think you’ve been advise well to write in English. Makes you accessible to a lot more people, without losing any. (I’ve never met a Finn who doesn’t speak fluent English)

  10. Foreign Toe says:

    I shall ask my German daughter-in-law about the astoundingly remarkable people in The White Rose. The more I learn of those times, the better, but I shall never understand them. They would be myth or allegory were they not our reality.

  11. Pingback: The White Rose: German heroes « The Hannibal Blog

  12. Pingback: The Coffee is Percolating « Notes from Around the Block

  13. Amusing tale but I can’t be on Creon’s side…I just can’t do it. Like Shrek, these characters are all about the layers. Antigone says she buries her brother for noble reasons only to realize she buried him because of her own selfish love. Creon’s underlying layer is cruelty. His threats to torture the messenger and his angry claims that he won’t be bested by a woman both point the way to a truly ugly inner person.

    Looking forward to reading your Stevie story next!

  14. Cheri says:

    Welcome to my blog willireallydothis,
    Great connection to Shrek. I will concede that they are both ugly characters. Her sister and his son offer the humanity in the tale!

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