"The mission of the theater, after all, is to change, to raise the consciousness of people to their human possibilities." 

 Arthur Miller, playwright

"There is great power in the inability of theatre to create a complete illusion."

 Tony Kushnerplaywright, screenwriter, Pulitzer Prize winner for Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes 



Sophocles' Antigone, translated and directed by Don Taylor: available for viewing via "Films on Demand" 

Jean Anouilh's adaptation of Antigone, translated by Lewis Galantière and directed by Gerald Freedman

National Theatre You Tube: An Introduction to Greek Theatre 

National Theatre You Tube: An Introduction to Greek Tragedy


Art as activism

"Good fences make good neighbors": a large-scale public art exhibition by Ai Weiwei in NYC, October 2017

"Good fences make good neighbors": a maxim (proverb) found in many cultures and languages and
                                                      a reference to Robert Frost's 1914 poem "Mending Wall"    

STUDY QUESTIONS: Sophocles' Antigone

1. Does Antigone really expect Ismene to help her with Polynices' burial? Explain your reasoning.

2. Why does Creon choose to leave Polynices' body unburied?

3. Why does Creon sentence Antigone to death? What purpose does this serve in the play?

4. Why does Ismene attempt to share responsibility for Antigone's actions?

5. What does Haemon's appeal to Creon reveal about Haemon's character?

6. What purpose does the Guard's role serve?

7. Why does Creon become so obsessive and stubborn in his leadership? (He won't change his edict.)

8. What are the underlying feelings of the Chorus toward Creon? 

9. What is the role of Teirisias, the blind prophet? How does Creon react to him?

10. What does Creon eventually decide to do? Why?

11. What happens in the cave?

12. What is the role of the Messenger towards the end of the play? 

13. What motivates Eurydice's suicide?

14. Who is the tragic figure in this play? Justify your response.


A. Questions

1. If you were a juror in Thebes asked to rule on Antigone’s guilt or innocence, how would you vote?  

Is your response due to logical or emotional persuasion?

2. Consider the interlocking conflicts in the tragedy: between men and women, age and youth, society

and the individual, human justice and divine law, the obligations we owe to the living and the dead. 

Choose one of the conflicts and explain how it is played out.

3. What is the moral lesson being represented in this play?  Justify your response with evidence from the 

play (that is, with specific references).

4. Do you think that Antigone's choice to defy Creon shows tragic pride and inflexibility, or heroic 

dedication to virtue? Explain your opinion.

5.  Do you think that Creon's decisions show heroic dedication to the well-being of Thebes and its 

citizens, or tragic pride and inflexibility? Explain your opinion.

6. Identify and discuss an example in recent history where individuals have been forced to choose 

between obeying established laws and human rights.

B. Read the statements below and discuss your interpretation of each of them. Decide if you agree 

    or disagree, and explain your reasoning.

1. Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle

   "It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen."

2. Nineteenth-century American philosopher Henry David Thoreau

    "I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward."

3. Twentieth century civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.

   "One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

   "An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who 

    willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over 

    its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law." 

GROUP CREATIVE ACTIVITY: Antigone is right but Creon is not wrong!

Compose a dialogue between Antigone and Creon that exposes each of their positions AND results in an

outcome that respects moral authority as well as political authority. 


GROUP ONE prefaces their dialogue with this explanation: "In this text conversation that ends before the resolution, the communication isn't face to face. This makes the exchange between Antigone and Creon more difficult and less sincere. The way words are said means so much especially when what's being said contains very emotional content.

Our version starts at the scene where Creon brings in Antigone, but in our story, they are in separate places. Therefore Creon can not physically arrest her yet. All he can do is threaten her and this gives Antigone a bit better of a situation. Our version of Antigone would like to avoid death it seems, and this is partly how a compromise is possible in our texting edition of the play."

Antigone: Wut up boss, you busy?

Creon: Excuse me young lady,
            You won't address,
            The king that way...

Antigone: K. 🙄 I don't like the way you did P dirty. 

Creon: Polynices knew he was committing treason when he marched on his own state, he doesn't deserve a burial... 

Antigone: P was my bro and your nephew and he deserves better! 

Creon: Law is law, even my family isn't above it. Do you really believe that I would jeopardize the integrity of the state's authority? This is madness....

Antigone: OMG WTF😡  he won't find peace in the afterworld and might be stuck in purgatory if you keep him unburied. 

Creon: I hold the final say, little girl, just because you are marrying my son doesn't mean any different about you breaking the law. 

Antigone: Do you think we can come up with a compromise? 😁

Creon: I shall only offer you this once... 

GROUP TWO dialogue
Antigone: I want to bury my brother.

Creon: He cannot be buried. He committed treason and I must make an example of him.

Antigone: Why do we not come to a compromise and put moral and state well-being together. He should be buried, but his grave marked as to show he is a traitor. That way he may still pass into the afterlife, and an example is still being made of him so you authority goes unquestioned.

Creon: NO! Treason deserves death without a proper burial! I will allow no woman to undermine this!

Antigone: I am a woman, but I'm not undermining your authority with this compromise. If anything, this compromise adds to your integrity as king because it shows you respect the ancient truths of proper burial and morality, yet still punish those who deserve it.

Creon: Compromise does not befit a king. Undermining one facet of my authority undermines all of it. I cannot relent. But I can convince the public of my complete control by improperly burying an imposter in your brother's stead while giving Polynices a secret but proper burial.

AND from the poetically inclined BR: 

Sonnet 7.6
As King I may reform law as I choose
I must also stand firm to my choices
As the King I have far too much to prove
It would be folly to ignore the voices

I cannot overlook morality
My brother lies in malicious dishonor
I mustn't live in immorality
If this law proceeds, I am a goner

My dear son need'th a wife and a child
Spare yourself my daughter, my law will change
It's clear my law is immoral and wild
Your brother shall go into that free range

At the very least my brother will be free
Alas, I'll marry with reluctant glee.

  Below: Antigone: A Clean House for the Dead Season, by Sam Weber  


Plays of Sophocles (The Gutenberg Project): translation by F. Storr

Antigone (Poetry in Translation): translation by George Theodoridis

Director Don Taylor's film of Antigone: The Theban Plays by Sophocles

National Theatre You Tube: An Introduction to Greek Theatre

National Theatre You Tube: An Introduction to Greek Tragedy

National Theatre You Tube Antigone: The Ancient Greek Chorus 

National Theatre You Tube Antigone: An Introduction

Read about Chiraq, Spike Lee's movie spin of the ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata, by Aristophanes

Crash Course Literature 202: "Fate, Family, and Oedipus Rex"

NY Times article: "Antigone Speaks to a Modern World"

Sophocles' "Ode to Man" from Antigone, recited in ancient Greek: watch the video here; read about it here.

Conversation with Martha Nussbaum on 21st century enlightenment

Film scenes that break the fourth wall

1957 film of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex (William Butler Yates version, filmed by Tyrone Guthrie - the actors wear masks)

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

Martha Nussbaum on moral decency: "Equal Respect for Conscience: The Roots of a Moral and Legal Tradition"

Theatre of the Absurd

Mike Nichol's revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, with Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Willy Loman: complete audio recording here

"The Muted Melancholy Between the Lines": A.R. Gurney's epistolary play Love Letters on Broadway

The UK's Telegraph list that includes plays from different cultures and different time periods:
 Best plays of all time

Goodreads' Top 100 Stage Plays of All Time (274 books) 

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