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Classical Tragedy, Universal Themes: Sophocles’ Antigone

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1 Classical Tragedy, Universal Themes: Sophocles’ Antigone
Geller’s Wonderful World Lit Class Spring 2014

2 Who Was Sophocles? Lived from approximately B.C.E. near Athens, Greece Son of a wealthy merchant One of the three great ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, along with Aeschylus and Euripedes Wrote 120 plays; only seven have survived in their entirety Best known for Antigone, Oedipus at Colonus, and Oedipus the King

3 Background Information
Prophesied at Oedipus’s birth that he would someday kill his father and marry his mother To avoid this, he was left on a hillside to die Found and taken care of by shepherds, eventually taken in by king and queen of Corinth They never told him he was adopted; EXTREMELY long story short, the prophesy came true Jocasta (his wife/mother) commited suicide; Oedipus blinded himself Oedipus asked Jocasta’s brother Creon to care for his four children: two boys, Eteocles and Polynices, and two girls, Ismene and Antigone

4 More Background Information
Eteocles and Polynices agreed to take turns ruling the kingdom of Thebes, but they hated each other and were in constant competition When it was Eteocles’ turn to rule, Polynices and his father-in-law prepared an attack on the seven gates of the city The brothers killed each other and Creon seized power Eteocles was given a proper burial but Creon passed a law forbidding anyone to bury the traitor, Polynices.

5 Important to Note… The ancient Greeks believed that denying a proper burial was an insult to human dignity and doomed the deceased’s soul to wander for eternity, never to rest.

6 As the play begins… Antigone is telling her sister Ismene about her plans to give Polynices a proper burial.

7 Themes to think about… The causes and effects of shame and guilt
Loyalty—to family, friends, and country Justice and the law: divine/moral vs. civil Traditions and ideas surrounding death in different cultures

8 Elements of Classical Tragedy
The Greek philosopher Aristotle defined tragedy as “the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself.” Tragedy typically includes “incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish the catharsis of such emotions.”

9 Elements of Classical Tragedy
Tragic Hero/Heroine as protagonist Usually upper class Fundamentally good or at least well-intentioned Exhibits hamartia: the tragic flaw Hubris: excessive pride Âte: rashness, excessive impulsivity Experiences a reversal or downfall Chorus: a group of singers (in Antigone, the citizens of Thebes) who comment on the action Chorus leader: choragos Songs: Parados (1st song), Odes. Unity of time, space, and action Often occurs in a single day One location One plot (no subplots)

10 The Necropolis (literally, “city of the dead”) at Thebes






16 Characters: Antigone Ant-IG-uh-nee
Daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta (Creon’s sister) Wants to give her brother Polyneices (polly-NEE-sees) a proper burial

17 Characters: Ismene Izz-meanie Antigone’s sister
Wants to abide by Creon’s decree and leave Polynieces’ body exposed

18 Characters: King Creon
KREE-on Became king after Polyneices and Eteocles (eat-EE-oh-klees) killed each other in battle Decrees that Polyneices will not be buried—under penalty of death by public stoning!

19 Characters: Eurydice Your-ID-uh-see Creon’s wife
Lost her son Megareus in the battle of Thebes

20 Characters: Haimon HI-mon Son of Creon and Eurydice Antigone’s fiance

21 Characters: Teiresias
Tie-REES-ee-uhs A blind prophet

22 Characters: The Chorus
Chorus leader=CHORAGOS

23 Intro to Antigone Video
In the margins of your note sheet, jot down at least five additional facts from the video.

24 Make a Prediction As the play opens, Antigone is planning to bury her brother even though King Creon expressly forbade it. What do you think will happen?

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