Antigone PDF - Overview
Antigone is an Athenian tragedy written by Sophocles in (or before) 441 BC and it was first performed at the Festival of Dionysus of the same year. It is thought to be the second oldest surviving play of Sophocles, only after Ajax that was written around the same period. The play is one of the three tragedies, known as the three Theban plays, following the stories of Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus.
Antigone was written at a time of national fervor. In 441 BCE, shortly after the play was performed, Sophocles was appointed as one of the ten generals to lead a military expedition against Samos. It is striking that a prominent play in a time of such imperialism contains little political propaganda, no impassioned apostrophe, and—with the exception of the epiklerate and arguments against anarchy—makes no contemporary allusion or passing reference to Athens.
Characters in Antigone
- Antigone, compared with her beautiful and docile sister, is portrayed as a heroine who recognizes her familial duty. Her dialogues with Ismene reveal her to be as stubborn as her uncle. In her, the ideal of the female character is boldly outlined.
- Ismene serves as a foil for Antigone, presenting the contrast in their respective responses to the royal decree. Considered the beautiful one, she is more lawful and obedient to authority. She hesitates to bury Polynices because she fears Creon.
- Creon is the current King of Thebes, who views law as the guarantor of personal happiness. He can also be seen as a tragic hero, losing everything for upholding what he believes is right.
- Eurydice of Thebes is the Queen of Thebes and Creon’s wife. She appears towards the end and only to hear confirmation of her son Haemon’s death. In her grief, she dies by suicide, cursing Creon, whom she blames for her son’s death.
- Haemon is the son of Creon and Eurydice, betrothed to Antigone. Proved to be more reasonable than Creon, he attempts to reason with his father for the sake of Antigone.
- Koryphaios is the assistant to the King (Creon) and the leader of the Chorus. He is often interpreted as a close advisor to the King, and therefore a close family friend.
- Tiresias is the blind prophet whose prediction brings about the eventual proper burial of Polynices. Portrayed as wise and full of reason, Tiresias attempts to warn Creon of his foolishness and tells him the gods are angry.
- The Chorus, a group of elderly Theban men, is at first deferential to the king. Their purpose is to comment on the action in the play and add to the suspense and emotions, as well as connecting the story to myths.