Antigone by Sophocles

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SCA Clark English

Jean Anouilh

adapted Sophocle's classic into modern day English (1944)

Antigone

The play's tragic heroine. In the first moments of the play, Antigone is opposed to her radiant sister Ismene. Unlike her beautiful & docile sister, Antigone is sallow, withdrawn, & recalcitrant.

Creon

Antigone's uncle. Creon is powerfully built, but a weary and wrinkled man suffering the burdens of rule. A practical man, he firmly distances himself from the tragic aspirations of Oedipus and his line. As he tells Antigone, his only interest is in political and social order. Creon is bound to ideas of good sense, simplicity, and the banal happiness of everyday life.

Ismene

Blonde, full-figured, and radiantly beautiful, the laughing, talkative Ismene is the good girl of the family. She is reasonable and understands her place, bowing to Creon's edict and attempting to dissuade Antigone from her act of rebellion. As in Sophocles' play, she is Antigone's foil. Ultimately she will recant and beg Antigone to allow her to join her in death. Though Antigone refuses, Ismene's conversion indicates how her resistance is contagious.

Haemon

Antigone's young fiancé & son to Creon. Haemon appears twice in the play. In the first, he is rejected by Antigone; in the second, he begs his father for Antigone's life. Creon's refusal ruins his exalted view of his father. He too refuses the happiness that Creon offers him and follows Antigone to a tragic demise.

Nurse

A traditional figure in Greek drama, the Nurse is an addition to the Antigone legend. She introduces an everyday, maternal element into the play that heightens the strangeness of the tragic world. Fussy, affectionate, and reassuring, she suffers no drama or tragedy but exists in the day-to-day tasks of caring for the two sisters. Her comforting presence returns Antigone to her girlhood. In her arms, Antigone superstitiously invests the Nurse with the power to ward off evil and keep her safe.

Chorus -

Anouilh reduces the Chorus, who appears as narrator and commentator. The Chorus frames the play with a prologue and epilogue, introducing the action and characters under the sign of fatality. In presenting the tragedy, the Chorus instructs the audience on proper spectatorship, reappearing at the tragedy's pivotal moments to comment on the action or the nature of tragedy itself. Along with playing narrator, the Chorus also attempts to intercede throughout the play, whether on the behalf of the Theban people or the horrified spectators.

Jonas

The three Guardsmen are interpolations into the Antigone legend, doubles for the rank-and-file fascist collaborators or collabos of Anouilh's day. The card-playing trio, made all the more mindless and indistinguishable in being grouped in three, emerges from a long stage tradition of the dull-witted police officer. They are eternally indifferent, innocent, and ready to serve..

Second Guard

Largely indistinguishable from his cohorts, the Second Guard jeeringly compares Antigone to an exhibitionist upon her arrest.

Third Guard -

The last of the indifferent Guardsmen, he is also largely indistinguishable from his cohorts.

Messenger -

Another typical figure of Greek drama who also appears in Sophocles' Antigone, the Messenger is a pale and solitary boy who bears the news of death. In the prologue, he casts a menacing shadow: as the Chorus notes, he remains apart from the others in his premonition of Haemon's death.

Page -

Creon's attendant. The Page is a figure of young innocence. He sees all, understands nothing, and is no help to anyone but one day may become either a Creon or an Antigone in his own right.

Eurydice -

Creon's kind, knitting wife whose only function, as the Chorus declares, is to knit in her room until it is her time to die. Her suicide is Creon's last punishment, leaving him entirely alone.

Antigone is written by

Sophocles

Antigone picks up where Oedipus at Colonus leaves off. Oedipus has just passed away in Colonus, and Antigone and her sister decide to return to Thebes with the intention of helping their brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices, avoid a prophecy that predicts they will kill each other in a battle for the throne of Thebes.

Upon her arrival in Thebes, Antigone learns that both of her brothers are dead. Eteocles has been given a proper burial, but Creon, Antigone's uncle who has inherited the throne, has issued a royal edict banning the burial of Polyneices, who he believes was a traitor. Antigone defies the law, buries her brother, and is caught. When Creon locks her away in prison, she kills herself.

Meanwhile, not realizing Antigone has taken her own life, the blind prophet Teiresias, Creon's son and Antigone's fiancé Haemon, and the Chorus plead with Creon to release her. Creon finally relents, but in an instance of too-late-timing, finds her dead in her jail cell. Out of despair, Haemon and Creon's wife have by now also killed themselves, and Creon is left in distress and sorrow.

...

Teiresias

Teiresias is kind of a cranky old fellow. We can see why. Though he's blind, he can see better than any of those around him. He's in tune with the mind of Apollo and receives visions of the future. Teiresias is also gifted in the magic art of augury, or telling the future from the behavior of birds. You might think these are pretty awesome skills, but it probably really stinks when everybody around you is doomed to shame, death, or mutilation. It's probably especially annoying that whenever Teiresias does drop a little knowledge, people don't believe him. In Oedipus the King, Jocasta and Oedipus are both skeptical of his prophecies. Oedipus even goes so far as to accuse Teiresias of conspiring against him with Creon.

Teiresias drops the knowledge that Creon's own family will die as a result of his blasphemous actions. Before Creon can reply to news of this dark prophecy, Teiresias exits the stage. If the seer had stuck around he would've seen that his words do in fact move Creon. Along with the urging of the Chorus, Creon quickly runs off to try and avert oncoming tragedy.

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