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Introduction to Antigone by Sophocles

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Briana Harrison

on 11 October 2018

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Transcript of Introduction to Antigone by Sophocles

Introduction to
by Sophocles

Image by goodtextures: http://fav.me/d2he3r8
We are about to read a play written in Ancient Greece. Tell me all you know about both.
What makes a play different from a short story or novel?
What were the people like in ancient Greece?
How were they different from you? What do we have in common with them?

- 1 of 3 masters of Greek drama during
Golden Age of Greece (477-431 BCE)
- Born into wealthy family in Athens, well educated
- Personal friend of prominent statesmen
- Popular for his grace and charm
- Began writing after age of 50 and still active at 90
- Wrote >120 plays, only 7 survived

Greek Religious Ideas
No sacred texts = no one correct, infallible version of stories
Fate a divine force, stronger than gods
Used omens, dreams, oracles, and soothsayers to learn will of gods
Gods became angry with people who were guilty of pride (hubris) or any kind of excess
Soul is immortal and spends eternity in underworld
Most important religious duty: burial of dead relatives

Ancient Greek Burial Ritual
3 parts to burial ritual:
- Laying out and display of the body; Body prepared by family members, usually women.
- Funerary procession and cremation of remains; Family participated in lamenting song and dance with professional lamenters
- Funerary banquet; offerings of food, sacrifices, etc.

Why do you think funeral rites were so important to the Greeks?
Do we still feel this is an important ritual?
(After all, even Cedric Diggory asked Harry to take his body back to his father...)

Women in Ancient Greece
Kept sheltered
Nearly every aspect of lives controlled by male guardians
Very important to the health of the family and city-state
Life cycles defined by marriage and childbirth
Important participants in religious rituals, including funeral lament

Origins of Drama
Great Dionysia: annual spring festival in honor of Dionysus (god of wine, revelry, and fertility)
Simple progression:
choric dancing
leader chanting
poet Thespis introduced speaker who detached from chorus, engaged in dialogue with it
Aeschylus added 2nd actor
Sophocles added 3rd actor to plays
Three poets selected to perform four plays each for prizes (1st, 2nd, 3rd, awarded by board of citizen judges)

Rules – 3 actors to play speaking roles, 15 chorus members
Actors assigned by lots, competing for best actor prize
Protagonist = “first competitor”
Playwright = director, producer, musical composer, choreographer, sometimes actor, usually wealthy
Theater of Dionysus: amphitheater in Athens

To whom would we compare the preacher? Choir? Audience? What do you think the function of the story was? How is it similar to a sermon?

Since we know drama began as a religious ritual, how do you think they compare to our present-day religious rituals?
Experiencing Greek Drama
Dignified, serious experience
People expected to be awakened to truth and experience a discussion on life’s most serious issues
Amphitheaters held up to 14,000 people
Great spectacle –
elaborate, decorative costumes
Intricate dance routines
Broad gestures and booming voices
Masks worked like megaphones
Familiar stories based on Greek myth and legend

Why see the movie if you’ve already read the book? Why would Hollywood want to remake or “reboot” stories and characters that have already been seen?
Why would someone want to experience a story he/she already knows the ending to?
The Acropolis in Athens
Theater of Dionysus from above
Inscribed seats at the theater
Basic Plan of a Greek Theater
Think about experiencing a theater performance today.
What is the same as it was in ancient Greece?
What would have to be different?

What aspects of Greek theater are different from our own?
Characteristics of Greek Theater
Performances during day
No lights, curtains
Few sets
All actors male
Written in poetic verse, not prose
No more than 3 individual characters on stage at once

Unity of time
Unity of space
Unity of action
Action > character
Dramatic irony
No violence shown on stage

The Greek Chorus
12-15 men always on stage
Frequently sang and danced
Leader (choragos) carries on dialogue with main characters or with chorus

Set the tone
Give background info
Recall events of the past
Interpret/summarize events
Ask questions
At times, give opinions, generally stay objective
Give advice, if asked
Act like a jury of elders or wise men

Format of a Greek Play
- Leisurely speeches:
characters set forth position
Rapid fire dialogue
- 3rd character mostly observes/ comments on debate of other 2

Strophe - beginning of ode
Antistrophe - end of ode

Introduction to Greek Theater
Introduction to
by Sophocles
Oedipus the King
Characteristics of a Tragic Hero
Generally highborn
Must be good, but not perfect
Must have good intentions
Must be consistent
Exhibits tragic flaw(
) – often hubris
Experiences a reversal or fall (
Brings about his own downfall and realizes its his fault (
Evokes both pity and fear in audience (

What comes to mind when I say the word tragedy?
What makes something tragic rather than just sad?

by Sophocles
3rd part of Oedipus trilogy,
but not written or performed as a trilogy
About the Royal House of Thebes
. Oedipus the King
– 436-426 BCE
Oedipus at Colonus
– 401 BCE
– 441 BCE

History of Thebes
Founded by Cadmus (Antigone's great-great-great grandfather)
- Grandson of Poseidon and Libya, Nilus (5th generation of mortals)
- Built the Acropolis, city’s intellectual, spiritual, and cultural center
- Formed Greek alphabet

Originally on his way to find his sister who was abducted by Zeus, he was ordered by oracle to follow cow to where she rested, build city on that site
Killed serpent/dragon sacred to Ares, ordered by Athena to bury its teeth, warriors sprang up to found city
One of first Greek communities gathered as fortified city
Seven gates to city wall

Cadmus's Life and Family Curse
Unmerited suffering plagued House of Cadmus
Family misfortune and civil unrest led to passing the throne to grandson Pentheus
Wife Harmonia and Cadmus are turned into serpents before they die...for no reason.

King Laius, great-grandson of Cadmus
The Prophecy -
By the Oracle at Delphi
Unborn son of Laius will kill father and marry mother (Queen Jocasta)
Oedipus born, ordered abandoned and left to die
Servant took pity, delivered him to shepherd, who delivered him to King Polybus of Corinth

A Prophecy Fulfilled
On road Oedipus meets traveling caravan at crossroads
Both claim right of way = road rage = dead guys at crossroads
1st part of prophecy fulfilled
Oedipus continues on road to Thebes

Thebes terrorized by Sphinx, so Oedipus saves day
Reward – given widowed Queen Jocasta’s hand in marriage
2nd part of prophecy fulfilled

4 daughters, all experience tragedy:
Semele dies while pregnant with Dionysus
Ino jumps off a cliff holding her dead son
Agave is driven mad by Dionysus & kills her own son, Pentheus
Autonoë’s son, Actaeon, accidentally sees the naked Artemis, who turns him into a deer

If you could be told your future, would you choose to hear it? Why or why not?
Think of other characters you know who’ve had their futures or prophecies told to them (Pssstttt…Harry Potter!).
How did they react? Do their stories impact your decision?

Oedipus as young man hears rumors he isn’t biological son of king and queen, consults oracle
Oracle at Delphi tells him of his fate/prophecy
Leaves Corinth afraid he will kill King Polybus and wife

Oedipus Saves Thebes
Sphinx: body of lion, wings of eagle, head and chest of woman
Very cunning and ruthless
Asks riddle
Answer incorrectly = eaten whole
Threw herself from cliff when Oedipus bested her

Riddle of the Sphinx
What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?
What can have 2, 3, or 4 feet, can move by air, water, or land, and moves more slowly the more feet it has?

Plot o
f Oedipus the King
15 years pass, city suffers from corruption and plague
King Oedipus sends Queen Jocasta’s brother (Creon) to see Apollo’s oracle at Delphi
Thebes will be saved only by “purging herself” of the old king’s murder
Oedipus vows to track down killer, seeks information from Apollo’s blind prophet Tiresias
Tiresias wishes to be sent away rather than talk, Oedipus threatens him
All start talking, put story together, shepherd confesses
Jocasta hangs herself, Oedipus blinds himself with her brooches
Begs for exile, reunites with daughters Antigone and Ismene

Why do you think Jocasta chose to end her own life and Oedipus chose to blind himself?
Do you think they were merely too emotional, or were there other reasons at play? What role do you think honor and pride played in this situation? What does this tell us about how the Greeks felt about suicide and self-mutilation?

Plot of
Oedipus at Colonus
20 years later – Creon and O’s 2 sons turn against Oedipus
Antigone – father’s guide
Big O travels to Colonus to die, per prophecy
Eteocles and Polyneices are alternating rule over Thebes but Eteocles breaks the agreement and will not give up throne (1 year on/off)
Poly leaves to gather an army
Both brothers die in battle and Creon becomes King

Beginning of
Opens 1 day after battle between Polyneices and Eteocles
Both dead, so Creon now King of Thebes
Creon supported Eteocles and has ordered him properly buried as a soldier
Because Polyneices attacked his own, so Creon orders his body left for carrion birds (vultures)
Antigone promised P she would honor his body but is now forbidden by law.
What will Antigone do???

Everyone has felt the urge to rebel against authority. Tell about a time you felt this way.
Did you act on your desire to rebel? Did you suppress your desire to rebel?
Looking back, how do you feel about your decision and its consequences now?

What is your experience with laws? When can/should an individual ignore the rules?

Aristotle's and Tragedy
"The aim of tragedy," Aristotle writes, "is to bring about a
of the spectators — to arouse in them sensations of pity and fear, and to purge them of these emotions so that they leave the theater feeling cleansed and uplifted, with a heightened understanding of the ways of gods and men."
*the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions through witnessing art.
King Laius - great grandson of Cadmus
The Prophecy at the Oracle of Delphi
Oedipus now adopted son of King Polybus of Corinth
Rumors about prophecy, so back to Oracle
Oedipus leaves Corinth; road rage battle on way to Thebes
Saves Thebes from Sphinx
Marries Queen as reward....wait.
Full transcript