Background Notes on Antigone (Pronounced “An-tih-go-knee”)
The History of Greek Theater • Drama grew out of ancient celebrations (bacchanalians) honoring Dionysus (Bacchus), god of wine and fertility. • Athens, 6th century B.C.: The celebrations became an annual festival, and a “hero” would wear masks and sing hymns about his character. • Drama was born when Aeschylus added a second character at the performance, creating the possibility of conflict.
Greek Masks • Exaggerated mouthpieces (like megaphones) to be heard from far away • Familiar Character-types (happy, sad) to be seen from far away • By switching masks, each actor could play several roles.
Who Was Sophocles? (496?-406 B.C.) • Considered greatest of Greek playwrights • Of 123 plays, only 7 survive. INNOVATIVE: • He introduced elaborate scene-painting • Added the 3rd actor to the cast, allowing for more complicated staging and conflict.
Antigone, 442 B.C. • Antigone is the second sequel to Oedipus Rex, which was actually written after in 429 B.C. • Sophocles also wrote a third play, Oedipus at Colonus, just before he died in 406 B.C. • The order in which the plays were written: 1) Antigone, 2) Oedipus Rex, 3) Oedipus at Colonus • Order of the Trilogy: 1) Oedipus Rex, 2) Oedipus at Colonus, 3) Antigone
Background Plot to Antigone • Oedipus Rex marries his mother Jocasta and kills his father Laius • After his tragedy, Oedipus (the King of Thebes) exiles himself. • His two sons, Eteocles and Polynices, become the rulers. • They agree to reign in alternate years, but after the first year, Eteocles refuses to surrender the throne.
Antigone continued… • To get revenge, Polynices attacks Thebes. • In a duel, the two brothers kill each other, and Creon, their uncle, takes the throne. • Creon allows Eteocles to be given a heroic funeral, but he orders the body of Polynices be exposed in the fields for attacking his hometown.
Antigone continued… • The play Antigone is about how Antigone, the sister, goes against Creon in this decision, believing that her brother deserves a proper burial. • A key element of conflict: Antigone is engaged to Creon’s son, Haemon.