Antigone by Sophocles
- A work of literature that results in a catastrophe for the main character.
- The main character was always a significant person, a king or a hero, and the cause of the tragedy was a tragic flaw or weakness in his/her character.
- Allusions were frequently used (usually based on familiar myths).
Ancient Greek Theater
- Athens in the 5th century B.C.
- limited characters, no curtains, no violent actions on stage
- Held at festivals honoring Dionysos
- Dionysos was the Greek god of wine and fertility
- 5 days were devoted to the performances
- Until the 5 th century B.C. the playwrights acted their plays alone
Famous Greek Tragic Playwrights
- The three main contenders for the tragedy prize were:
Actors and Costumes
- Aeschylus introduces a second actor.
- In the 4 th century B.C. Sophocles introduced a third actor.
- Sophocles did not act in any of his own plays, and this becomes the norm.
- Three actors required one actor to play many roles.
- Elaborate masks and costumes were worn by the actors.
Presentation of Plays
- Chorus enters and sings a parados (opening song)
- The Chorus’s song, called an ode , divided the scenes
- Interpreted the meaning of the play
- Leader was called the choragos - exchanged thoughts in dialogue
- Strophe and antistrophe refer to the movement of the chorus across the stage
- Concluded with thanks to Dionysos and an exodos, exiting scene
The Oedipus Myth
- Oedipus was abandoned at birth by his parents, the King and Queen of Thebes: Laios & Iocaste.
- A fortuneteller proclaimed that the infant would one day kill his father and marry his mother.
- The servant who was ordered to kill the child could not do so and instead gave him to a childless couple in another city.
- Oedipus never knew who his real parents were.
- As a young man, Oedipus left to start his own life.
- He traveled to Thebes where he killed a man without knowing it was Laios. (Yes, his father.)
- He confronted the Spinx, a riddle telling monster that killed those unable to answer his riddle.
- The Sphinz leaped into the sea after Oedipus gave the correct answer and Oedipus became a hero in Thebes.
A Royal Marriage
- Thebans reward Oedipus by making him their king and giving him Iocaste as his wife. (Yes….his mother!!)
- The couple lived happily for years and raised four children of their own.
- A plague befell the city.
- Priests claim that the plague was punishment for some unknown sin.
- During an investigation into his own background, Oedipus learned the facts of his birth.
- At this revelation, Iocaste committed suicide.
- Iocaste’s brother, Creon, took control of the city and allowed one of Oedipus’ children, Antigone, to lead him into exile.
A Family Mourns
- Antigone, her sister Ismene, and brothers Eteocles and Polyneices were burdened by their family background.
- The two sons have argued over who is to rule Thebes and Polyneices has left home to find help to support his claim to the throne.
- Back in Thebes, Eteocles had taken the throne.
- Polyneices returns to Thebes with an army from Argos and fights his brother and Uncle Creon.
- Polyneices and Eteocles kill each other and Creon takes the throne to restore order to Thebes.
The King’s Decree
- Creon orders that Eteocles be buried with honors because he has supported Creon’s established order.
- However, because Polyneices was a traitor to Thebes, Creon ordered that his corpse be left to rot. (Which was an unimaginable violation of religious laws.)
- Antigone’s decision to disobey that command is central to the play.