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Sophocles and Antigone

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1 Sophocles and Antigone
A Look at Ancient Greek Tragedy

2 Ancient Greek Theater A Review

3 Greek Drama: Three Main Types
Comedy – Old Comedy began as plays that were mainly satirical and mocked men in power. New Comedy was the evolution of plays to make fun of every day life and ordinary people. Tragedy – Tragedy depicts the downfall of a noble hero or heroine, usually through some combination of pride, fate, and the will of the gods. The tragic hero's powerful wish to achieve some goal inevitably encounters limits, usually those of human frailty, the gods (through oracles, prophets, fate), or nature. The hero need not die at the end, but he / she must undergo a change in fortune. In addition, the tragic hero may achieve some revelation or recognition about human fate, destiny, and the will of the gods. Satyr plays – Satyr plays were short plays conducted between the acts of tragedies that would mock the plight of the tragedy’s characters.

4 Greek Tragedy’s Dramatis Personae
Tragic Hero – our main character, usually noble in birth, who must go through unfortunate events. Chorus – a group of twelve or fifteen men, led by a Choragus, who would sing and choral songs that dictated what was happening in the play and forced the audience to question what was going on in the tragedy. The Gods – either the gods themselves or prophets or oracles acting as mouthpieces for the gods. The gods prevent the tragic hero from reaching his goal or they attempt to tell the tragic hero for what he should be on the lookout. Deus ex machina – literally, “god out of the machine,” refers to a plot device used by ancient playwrights in which gods interfere in the storyline, often in creating a resolution for the play. Minor Characters – act as supports for or obstacles to the tragic hero.

5 Who is The Tragic Hero? Usually of noble birth, sometimes royalty, and always a leader of men, the tragic hero is a man who encounters a series of unfortunate events. The audience usually feels pity for him. Hamartia, or tragic flaw, such as hubris, or pride, leads to the eventual downfall of the tragic hero. It is not the tragic hero’s fault that he has this flaw, but he is responsible for his actions that lead to his downfall. The tragic downfall is not senseless; it must have meaning! After his tragic downfall, the tragic hero encounters peripetia, or a reversal of fortune. As a result of his downfall, the tragic hero has increased self-awareness and knowledge of life and reality.

6 The Chorus (12 – 15 men) Sang three primary types of songs:
Parados – entrance song Stasima – songs throughout Exodos – exit song Choral songs divided into three sections: Strophe Antistrophe Epode **What else has strophes, antistrophes, and epodes?** Choral songs reaffirm what had happened in the play and point out deeper questions about the plot and themes of the play to the audience. The chorus often engaged in dialogue with the tragic hero of the play.

7 Performance of Greek Tragedy
Set in an outdoor auditorium or amphitheater, and, because of the lack of artificial light, set mostly in the daytime. If scenes were at night, which was rare, the protagonist or chorus would give clues to the audience members, who would have to use their imaginations. Advantages to outdoor setting: action of tragedy almost always took place outside; and Greek citizens were used to events being held outside, such as political, religious, and civil forums. Stage was circular, with audience seating going up a sloping hill. A tent, or skene, would be located towards the rear of the stage for the actors to change costume, and on the other side would be a crane for the more “realistic” entrance of the gods (deus ex machina).

8 Sophocles The Story of a Playwright

9 Who was Sophocles? Born around 495 B.C. just north of Athens, Greece to a wealthy merchant father. Educated in all of the arts, and known to be successful in his academic endeavors as a teenager. Entered a number of playwriting competitions, which were fashionable in his lifetime. He won first place in the first competition he entered, besting well known playwright Aeschylus. He won eighteen other first place prizes, and never took less than second place in the other 150 competitions he entered. Fulfilled many occupations aside from playwright: he acted in many of his own plays, he was an ordained priest, served on the Board of Generals, and for a time was the director of the Treasury of Athens. The Oedipus Cycle, in particular, Oedipus Rex, is considered his best work.

10 The Oedipus Cycle Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone

11 Oedipus Rex, or literally, “Oedipus the King”
Setting Thebes, ancient Greece, in a polytheistic society. States are ruled by kings and queens. Dramatis Personae King Laius – Oedipus’ biological father Queen Jocasta – Oedipus’ biological mother…and something else! Oedipus – protagonist, tragic hero King Polybus of Corinth – Oedipus’ adopted father Queen Merope of Corinth – Oedipus’ adopted mother Oracle at Delphi – messenger of the gods The Sphinx – torturing Thebans, riddles passersby Creon – Oedipus’ brother-in-law Tiresias – blind prophet

12 Plot summary: King Laius and Queen Jocasta hear a prophecy that says Laius will be killed by his son. When Jocasta bears a son, they abandon him in the woods. This child is brought by a shepherd to Corinth, where he is reared as Oedipus by King Polybus and Queen Merope. When Oedipus gets older, he hears a rumor that he is not the biological child of Polybus and Merope. He goes to the Delphic Oracle who does not answer his question, but tells him he will kill his father and mate with his mother. In order to protect Polybus and Merope, Oedipus leaves Corinth. On the road to Thebes, Oedipus encounters a man and his guards who attempt to run him off the road; he fights to stay alive and eventually kills this man. When he gets close to Thebes, he encounters the Sphinx, who, along with tormenting the city of Thebes, kills passerby who cannot answer its riddle. Oedipus correctly answers the riddle and, as a reward, is given the Queen Dowager to marry. This Queen happens to be Jocasta, a fact Oedipus is still unaware of, and thus the prophecy is fulfilled. Now King of Thebes, Oedipus seeks out Creon, Jocasta’s brother, to determine what the cause of the plague is that is upon Thebes; Creon says that it is caused by the fact that King Laius’ murderer has never been caught. Oedipus, still unaware that Laius was his father and he is married to(and having children with!) his mother, seeks the help of the blind prophet Tiresias in finding the murderer who has brought this plague upon Thebes. Tiresias is at first silent, but Oedipus forces him to speak; he tells Oedipus the truth, which Oedipus only takes as a bid by Creon to kill him and take over the throne. Oedipus, prepared to execute Creon, listens to Jocasta who says to take no note of prophets and oracles because one important one about her and Laius did not come true. She then describes how Laius was killed: by bandits at a crossroads. When a messenger arrives to tell Oedipus about Polybus’ death, Oedipus finds himself relieved because he believes he cannot fulfill half of the prophecy. He mentions this to the messenger, who tells him that Merope is not, in fact his mother. Oedipus, now curious, threatens the messenger to tell him everything, and the facts of his birth, life, and now marriage and sexual relationship with his mother, is revealed. When Jocasta finds out, she runs into the palace and hangs herself. Oedipus wishes to kill himself, but instead gouges his eyes out with pins from Jocasta’s dress. Oedipus is to be exiled, while his daughters (and half-sisters) Antigone and Ismene will be watched over by Creon.

13 Oedipus at Colonus Setting
Colonus, just northwest of Athens, said to be Sophocles’ actual birthplace. Dramatis Personae Oedipus – protagonist, tragic hero Antigone – Oedipus’ daughter Ismene – Oedipus’ daughter Polyneices – Oedipus’ eldest son Eteocles – Oedipus’ son Theseus – King of Athens Creon – Oedipus’ brother-in-law

14 Plot summary: Oedipus has been exiled from Thebes, and finds himself brought to Colonus, just north of Athens, by Antigone. He finds himself on the sacred land of the Furies, which he believes will be his burial ground (when he was told by Apollo that he would kill his father and marrying his mother, he was also told his burial place would be of great sanctity and he would bring it honor and strength). Upon arriving in Colonus, the chorus of the city is horrified to learn who he is, and, though they promise not to hurt him, request that he leave in order not to pollute their land and fate. Oedipus asks to see their king, Theseus. While awaiting the arrival of Theseus, Ismene returns, overjoyed to see Oedipus and her sister. She brings news that Eteocles has seized the throne of Thebes from his older brother Polyneices, who is now trying to gain support to win back his seat of power. Both Eteocles and Polyneices have heard from an oracle that who wins the throne depends on their father’s burial place; in order to prevent anyone from receive the prophesied power of Oedipus’ burial, Creon intends to come for him and bury him without proper burial rites at the border of Thebes. Condemning his sons’ lack of loyalty when compared to his daughters, Oedipus begs the Elders of Colonus (the Chorus) for protection from Creon. While Ismene leaves to offer sacrifices for the holy ground Oedipus has trespassed upon earlier, Theseus arrives, offering Oedipus unconditional support. Theseus offers Oedipus his own burial spot, hoping to guarantee victory in any future battle with Thebes. Theseus leaves, and Creon arrives, feigning concern for Oedipus and his family. Oedipus is not fooled, and Creon erupts, telling him he has already captured Ismene and forcibly takes Antigone in the hopes that Oedipus will follow. Theseus returns, is infuriated by the Thebans lack of justice, and has his forces overpower the Thebans and return both girls to Oedipus. Polyneices is banished from Thebes by Eteocles, and tells Oedipus he is to blame for their fate and aid him in attacking his younger brother. Oedipus refuses and warns Polyneices that he and Eteocles will kill each other. Polyneices does not listen to the warning, and leaves. Shortly after Polyneices leaves, Oedipus hears an oncoming thunderstorm, a sign from Zeus that it is his time to die. Only Theseus knows of Oedipus’ burial place, and he may not share that information with Ismene or Antigone, for whom he now must take care. Antigone, in the hopes of preventing the battle between her brothers (also called “The Seven Against Thebes”) returns to Thebes.

15 Antigone Setting Thebes, ancient Greece, after the battle that killed both Eteocles and Polyneices in their fight for the throne. Dramatis Personae Antigone – protagonist, Oedipus’ daughter Ismene – Antigone’s sister King Creon – Antigone’s uncle Queen Eurydice – Creon’s wife Haemon – Creon’s son Polyneices – Antigone’s dead brother Eteocles – Antigone’s dead brother

16 Basic plot summary: Antigone tells the story of Antigone’s struggle to provide a proper burial for her brother Polyneices after he and Eteocles killed each other in a battle for the throne. Creon, now King, has provided a proper burial for Eteocles, but refuses to allow Antigone to give Polyneices that burial rites required by the Greek gods.

17 Now that you’ve received some background information…
Make a family tree for Oedipus’ whole family! Include the in-laws and his adopted parents.

18 Here’s an example using my family…

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