Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out
Get this document free



• Greek playwright Sophocles wrote the last
  play in the Theban Trilogy, Antigone,
  around 442 B.C. The Theban Trilogy
  consists of Oedipus Rex (Oedipus the
  King), Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone,
  but the play considered the last of the
  three was, ironically, written first.
• Only seven of Sophocles's one hundred-
  twenty-three tragedies have survived to
  the modern era—with the trilogy surviving
  the ages intact. These three plays are
  perhaps the most famous of the seven,
  with Antigone performed most often.
• Antigone tells the story of the title
  character, daughter of Oedipus (the former
  king of Thebes, who unknowingly killed his
  father and married his mother, and who
  renounced his kingdom upon discovering
  his actions), and her fight to bury her
  brother Polyneices against the edict of her
  uncle, Creon, the new king of Thebes.
• It is a story that pits the law of the gods—
  "unwritten law"—against the laws of
  humankind, family ties against civic duty,
  and man against woman.
• Many playwrights in Ancient Greece used
  mythological stories to comment on social
  and political concerns of their time. This is
  what Sophocles may have intended when
  he wrote Antigone.
• Based on the legends of Oedipus,
  Sophocles may have been trying to send a
  message to the Athenian general,
  Pericles, about the dangers of
  authoritarian rule.
• These tragedies were written to be
  performed at the Great Dionysia (a festival
  in honor of the god Dionysus, the god of
  fertility, theater, and wine) in Athens.
  Attending these plays was considered a
  civic duty, and even criminals were let out
  of jail to attend.
• Antigone won Sophocles first prize at the
  festival and was an enormous success. It
  is still performed today, and has been
  adapted by French playwright Jean
  Anouilh, who set the play during World
  War II.
• The play takes up the story of the Seven
  Against Thebes, by Aeschylus, but with
  some changes in the situation. Two
  brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, have
  fallen, as will be remembered, at one of
  the gates of Thebes.
• King Creon allows Eteocles to be buried at
  once, that he might receive due honor
  among the shades; but he orders a herald
  to forbid any funeral rites or burial to the
  corpse of Polynices. "Let him lie unwept,
  unburied, a toothsome morsel for the birds
  of heaven, and whoso touches him shall
  perish by the cruel death of stoning."
• Antigone tells these gloomy tidings to her
  sister Ismene, and informs her of what she
  has resolved to do:
• "In spite of the orders, I shall give my
  brother burial, whether thou, Ismene, wilt
  join with me or not."
• In vain her sister bids her keep in mind the ruin
  of their house:
• "We twain are left alone, and if we brave the
  king's decree, an unhappy death awaits us.
  Weak women such as we cannot strive with
  men; rather were it seemly to bow to those that
  are stronger than ourselves. The dead, who lie
  below, will deal leniently with us, as forced to
• Pathetically noble is the response of
• "Gladly will I meet death in my sacred duty
  to the dead. Longer time have I to spend
  with them than with those who live upon
  the earth. Seek not to argue with me;
  nothing so terrible can come to me but that
  an honored death remains."

To top