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Antigone 5369-Michelides

Antigone is an ancient Greek play by Sophocles. The play is 2,000 years old but the issues are still current: What should our priorities be? family first? country first? How do we stand for our principles? 

Antigone lives by her beliefs even though they cause her to go against the orders of the ruler, Creon. As the daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta and the sister of Polynices and Eteocles, she has had plenty of sorrow in her life. Her family tree alone reveals the roots of some of her problems.

The beginning of the story in the play includes the details that Antigone and her sister Ismene struggle with the decision of their uncle that had already been made when the play begins:

Their uncle Creon assumed the throne and decreed that Eteocles was to be buried with honors but his brother Polyneices was to be left unburied, to rot in the sun and be eaten by scavengers. 

Antigone is considered a classic Greek play. She stands up for what she believes, which requires standing up against the civic powers from the standpoint of a person who has little power from her status in society, that of being a woman.

Be sure you are clear on the identities and roles of the following characters:
  • Antigone - the woman who wants to bury her brother Polyneices; she challenges Creon.
  • Ismene - Antigone's sister; reluctant to go against Creon; she is shy and passive.
  • Eteocles - was in charge of Thebes, got proper burial after he and his brother killed one another 
  • Polyneices - brother who attacked Thebes, did not get proper burial
  • Creon - a general; now that Eteocles is dead, he is the ruler. He is Antigone's uncle
  • Haemon- Creon's son, engaged to Antigone
  • Tiresias - blind poet who provides moral guidance
What do we learn from these characters about stubbornness and pride?
  1. Who was stubborn? 
  2. About what? 
  3. What course of action could he/she have taken? 
  4. What did he/she take?
Haemon talks about learning from the young, considering what the people have to say. What response does he get from his father?

Tiresias gives important advice about "obstinacy." Look up the definition of that word. He calls it equal to "stupidity." How does the play show that to be true?

Key Details
  • Thebes - city where the play takes place
Be sure you understanding the contrasting beliefs of Antigone and Creon about the primary duties and required priorities of a person. What do we owe our first allegiance to?

Here are some other important points to learn from this play:
  1. tragedy - (sad ending) form of drama in which the protagonist meets with disaster
  2. lyric - poetry meant to be sung
  3. chorus - group of actors who speak or sing collectively (in this play, the old men of Thebes)
Important Quotes

p. 14, L 40 (Ismene) But what more, my poor girl, in times like these, could I do that would not tangle the                                    knot further?

p. 15, L 61 (Ismene) Rather, consider that we were born women, proving we should not fight with men,

p. 19, L 180 (Creon) I think him to be the worst of men, now and always; and the man  who considers more important than his fatherland is friend, I think him worthless.

p. 23 L 303 (Creon) for no institution has so harmed humanity as the creation of money.

p. 30 L 487 (Creon) But know that hard minds fall the hardest, and that iron, so powerful of itself baked to exceeding hardness, you might see crack and break to pieces. 

p. 33 L 558(Antigone) Death and the dead will witness who did the deed; I love no friends who are only friends in words.

p. 38 L 683 (Creon) No evil is worse than disobedience.

p. 38 L 698 (Haemon) ...but sometimes another man's opinion is also right.

p. 39 L 721 (Haemon)But, for a man to learn, even a wise man, is nothing shameful, nor to learn to bend and give way.

p. 47 L 915 Antigone I could get another husband when mine died, and a child from another man, if I lost one from him, but since my mother and father both lie in Hell, there is no field where I could grow another brother.

Background on Greek Comedy and Tragedy (spoiler alert!)

YouTube Video

Did you notice the modern setting? The director is emphasizing the fact that people continue to wrestle with some of the same problems.

Listen to Creon explain his dilemma in this excerpt. What is the central question in his mind?

YouTube Video