Antigone. Written by Sophocles. Sophocles 496BC - 406BC. About the Author.
Antigone Written by Sophocles
About the Author The Greek playwright Sophocles was born in 496 BC at Colonus, near Athens. Unlike his younger contemporary, the often-misunderstood Euripides, Sophocles had the fortune of being revered for his genius during his own lifetime. He lived to the age of ninety, and his life coincided with the great golden age of the city-state of Athens. Sophocles came from a stable, well-to-do family, and from the beginning, it seemed that he was blessed in every way. Handsome, wealthy, and well-educated, Sophocles lived and died as one of Athens' most beloved citizens.
About the Author Sophocles was an innovator in his art: he improved stage scenery, reduced the importance of the chorus, and, most significantly, added a third speaking actor to the traditional two. He made some of the best use of this last convention, writing scenes that capitalized on the dramatic potential of three on-stage actors. He is most famous for the Theban Plays, also known as the Oedipus Cycle: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone.
"He will kill his father and marry his mother" According to legend, Oedipus was a mythical king of Thebes. His fate had been foretold by a fortune teller and is important to know if we are to understand the context in which the play was set. The fortune teller predicted that he would kill his father and have children by his mother. This, according to the myth, did happen, when he accidentally killed his father and married his mother, Jocasta. They had four children, Polyneices, Eteocles, Ismene, and Antigone. This makes Oedipus both Antigone’s brother and father and Jocasta both her mother and grandmother.
Thebes, setting for Antigone Colonus, birthplace of Sophocles
When Oedipus learns of his true heritage, he blinds himself and goes into exile. Eteocles and Polynices come of age and agree to rule Thebes in alternate years. Eteocles, at the end of his first year of rule, reneged on the agreement and refused to step down. Polynices then raised an army of traditional enemies of Thebes and led them against his city.The battle ends with the defeat of the invading army, but Eteocles and Polynices are both dead, killed by each other's hand.Their uncle, Creon, becomes king. Creon decrees that Polynices is a traitor and that he is not to have a proper burial. This decree by Creon sets up the context for the play, “Antigone.”
Themes and Subplots • Religious v. Political duty • Tyranny v. Democracy • Indifference v. Awareness • Conformity v. Individuality • Law v. Morality • Free will v. Fate • Democracy v. Autocracy • Feminism v. Male power structure • Individual v. State • Conscience v. Law
Additional Ideas • families torn apart by political differences • gender bias • the death penalty • suicide
What is a tragic hero? According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, a tragic hero possesses a defect, or tragic flaw, that brings about or contributes to his or her downfall. This flaw may be poor judgment, pride, weakness, or an excess of an admirable quality. The tragic hero recognizes his or her flaw and its consequences, but only after it is too late to change the course of events.
Tragic Heroes are: • BORN INTO NOBILITY • RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR OWN FATE • ENDOWED WITH A TRAGIC FLAW • DOOMED TO MAKE A SERIOUS ERROR IN JUDGEMENT • EVENTUALLY BECOMING TRAGIC HEROES • FALL FROM GREAT HEIGHTS OR HIGH ESTEEM • REALIZE THEY HAVE MADE AN IRREVERSIBLE MISTAKE • FACES AND ACCEPTS DEATH WITH HONOR • MEET A TRAGIC DEATH • FOR ALL TRAGIC HEROES • THE AUDIENCE IS AFFECTED BY PITY and/or FEAR (catharsis)
What is Catharsis? emotional purification through Greek tragedy: according to Aristotle, a purifying of the emotions that is brought about in the audience of a tragic drama through the evocation of intense fear and pity
Quotes by Sophocles • Ignorant men don't know what good they hold in their hands until they've flung it away. • The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities. • The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves. • Men of ill judgment oft ignore the goodThat lies within their hands, till they have lost it.
King Creon decrees that Polynices the traitor is not to be buried, but his sister Antigone defies the order. She is caught, and sentenced by Creon to be buried alive - even though she is betrothed to his son Haemon. After the blind prophet Tiresias proves that the gods are on Antigone's side, Creon changes his mind - but too late. He goes first to bury Polynices, but Antigone has already hanged herself. When Creon arrives at the tomb, Haemon attacks him and then kills himself. When the news of their death is reported, Creon's wife Eurydice takes her own life. Creon is alone.
“God and the government ordain just laws; the citizen who rules his life by them is worthy of acclaim. But he that presumes to set the law at naught is like a stateless person, outlawed, beyond the pale.”
“I intend to give my brother burial. I’ll be glad to die in the attempt,-- if it’s a crime, then it’s a crime that God commands.”
Who do you think will be the tragic hero of the play “Antigone”? Why?