"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 



Readings




Viewings

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.



GROUP DISCUSSION PROMPTS 

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.


7. Imagine the story enacted with role reversals: a woman in the role of Creon, a man as Antigone, an all-

female Chorus, etc. How does that alter the dynamic of the play and its effect on spectators?



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. 





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



INTERESTING SUPPLEMENTAL INFO

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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