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Introduction to Antigone and Greek Tragedy. General Information  Classical tragedies were composed within a definite structural framework, with occasional.

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Presentation on theme: "Introduction to Antigone and Greek Tragedy. General Information  Classical tragedies were composed within a definite structural framework, with occasional."— Presentation transcript:

1 Introduction to Antigone and Greek Tragedy

2 General Information  Classical tragedies were composed within a definite structural framework, with occasional minor variations in some plays. Greek tragedy was performed without intermissions or breaks.  In the history of Greek drama, early Greek plays were part of a religious ceremony. They were enactments of religious celebrations- performed in Athens.

3 Elizabethan vs. Greek Theater  Much like Elizabethan England, ancient Greece only allowed men to participate in the plays. It had minimum scenery. Actors had to provide clues to the setting. As Elizabethans, the audience was familiar with traditional tales and ancient legends on which the plays were based. They did not attend to learn WHAT it was about but HOW a playwright interpreted it.  The main dissimilarity was that the drama was rooted in religion NOT entertainment. Performances of Greek tragedy involved a great deal of ritual. Tragic festivals were religious in nature because they were celebrations of the god Dionysus. In fact, the theater was a temple.  The plays were performed each year at the Festival of Dionysus, in which the great writers of the time would compete. These festivals were dedicated to the Greek god Dionysus, god of wine and fertility.

4 Elements of Tragedy  The subject is serious.  The tragic hero or heroine (protagonist) is of noble birth and displays a nobility of spirit which the audience admires.  The protagonist is pitted against forces beyond his or her control.  The protagonist makes decisions that lead to a “no-win” situation.  The protagonist struggles courageously until his or her fall.  The protagonist, though defeated, usually gains a measure of increased wisdom, self-awareness, or nobility.

5 Greek Tragedy  The style of Greek tragedy was ceremonial. Music played a great part in the performance; however, since none of this music has survived, we cannot be certain what it sounded like. We also cannot be certain how much of the play text was spoken, chanted, or sung, or what kind of movement was used by the chorus.  We do know that the Greek theater allowed for tremendous spectacle, including earthquakes, avalanches, and gods descending from the sky. Masks and colorful costumes were worn by the performers. Without a doubt, performances were vivid and very exciting.

6 Structure of Greek Tragedy  Prologue - the opening scene that introduces the conflict of the play - the background of the story is established, usually by a single actor or in a dialogue between two actors. Sophocles' contemporaries often included a monologue in which a character delivers the necessary background directly to the audience.  Parodos - the entrance of the chorus, usually chanting a lyric which bears some relation to the main theme of the play. The parados is an example of a choral ode. These odes supply exposition, comment on action, and contribute to thematic development. Odes also can suggest the passage of time.  Episode – the counterpart of the modern act or scene - the plot is developed through action and dialogue between the actors, with the chorus sometimes playing a minor role.

7 Structure of Greek Tragedy, Cont.  Stasimon- the choral ode. A stasimon comes at the end of each episode so that the tragedy is a measured alternation between these two elements.  Exodos- the final action after the last Stasimon, ended by the ceremonial exit of all the players.  The chorus is not an uninvolved group in Sophocles' plays. The group often interacts with principal characters, engaging in dialogue. The choragos, or chorus leader often speaks for the entire chorus in these moments.  In Sophocles' plays, these devices meld into a compact drama. The action is usually limited to one setting and to a single day. There are few digressions; the play moves swiftly and directly, and the plot is often compressed.

8 Structure of Greek Tragedy, Cont.  Partly as a result for this compression, offstage action is very important in Greek tragedy. For example, the Greeks made no attempts to portray violence onstage. Consequently, the messenger becomes an important figure in Sophocles' plays and those of other Greek playwrights. The messenger acts as a traditional figure of exposition-the witness who comes to tell others of events that have transpired elsewhere.

9 Greek Terminology  Epithet- an adjective or descriptive phrase which describes a noun, EX: John “The Great”  Chorus- consists of twelve to fifteen elders (men)  Choragos- the leader of the chorus  Ode- indicates the end of a scene - also used to provide the chorus’s response to the proceeding scene.  Lyric Poem- verse which focuses on emotions and thoughts  Protagonist-one who plays the first part, chief actor; the main character (the central or primary personal figure) character  Deuteragonist-is the second most important character; sidekick who accompanies the main protagonist, the main character or hero, in a narrative; the playwright Aeschylus introduced the deuteragonistAeschylus  Tritagonist-the third most important character, after the protagonist and deuteragonist

10 1. To provide background information for the audience 2. To talk and give advice to the main characters 3. To interpret important events that occur in drama Function of the Chorus

11 Aristotle’s Definition of Tragic Figure  The character must be a person of stature.  The character must be neither totally good nor totally evil.  An error of judgment or a weakness in the character causes the misfortune.  The character must be responsible for tragic events.  Action involves a change in fortune from happiness to misery.

12 Greek Theatre The arena would seat 15,000 to 20,000 spectators.



15 Parts of the Theatre  Theatron - the area in which the audience sat. It was shaped like a horseshoe and had rows of stone seats rising upward and backward in tiers. In the first row were stone thrones for the principal citizens and the priest of Dionysus.  Orchestra - The circular area at ground level which was enclosed on three sides by the u- shaped theatron.  Thymele - an altar to Dionysus on which sacrifices were made and which was sometimes used as a stage prop during plays.

16 Parts of the Theatre, Continued  Parodos - entrance passage  Skene - a wooden structure, the dressing room  Proscenium - the level area in front of the skene on which most of the play's action took place  Eccyclema - a wheeled platform which was rolled out of the skene to reveal a tableau of action that had taken place indoors (mainly scenes of violence )

17 A. Theatron-audience B. Orchestra- where the actors and chorus perform C. Altar-for Dionysos (god of wine and fertility) D. Skene-dressing room E. Proskenion-side of the skene that acts as a backdrop F. Parados-entrance to the theater





22 Sample Greek Theatre Masks








30 Sophocles  496-406 B.C.  Sophocles, (about 496-406 B.C.), was the second of the three great Greek writers of tragedy. The others were Aeschylus (28 yrs older)—the earliest of the three—and Euripides (12 years younger). He was considered the greatest of the ancient Greek playwrights.  Sophocles' plays deal with a struggle of a strong individual against fate. In most of the plays, this individual chooses a course of action that the chorus and the lesser characters do not support. This course costs the individual suffering or even death, but it makes the individual nobler and somehow benefits humanity. Sophocles did not create ordinary characters who could be used to criticize conventional morality as Euripides did. The Greek philosopher Aristotle said that Sophocles portrayed people as they should be and that Euripides portrayed people as they are  Sophocles was known for his musical, poetic, and dramatic talents  At the age of seventeen, he was the choragos, or chorus leader, in a dramatic celebration of Greece's victory over Persia

31 Sophocles, Cont.  When he was twenty eight, he caused a sensation by winning first prize for tragedy at the festival of Dionysus, defeating Aeschylus, the leading playwright of the day.  Over the next sixty-two years, Sophocles went on to win twenty- four first prizes and seven second prizes in thirty-one competitions--the best record of any Greek playwright.

32 Sophocles, Cont.  Wrote more than one hundred and twenty tragedies, of which only seven survive today. These are Ajax, Antigone, Trachinian Women, Oedipus Rex, Electra, Philoctetes, and Oedipus at Colonus. Part of a play called The Trackers was found in 1907. Sophocles wrote one of his greatest plays, Oedipus at Colonus, when he was nearly 90.  His plays always contain a moral lesson--usually a caution against pride and religious indifference.  also a great technical innovator: He added a third actor to Aeschylus's original two, introduced painted sets, and expanded the size of the chorus to fifteen.

33 Sophocles, Cont.  Sophocles wrote the three tragedies about King Oedipus of Thebes and his family over a forty-year period  began with the third part of the story, Antigone, first performed in 442 B.C  Twelve years later, Sophocles backtracked and wrote the first part of the story, Oedipus the King.  The last year of his life Sophocles wrote the middle segment, Oedipus at Colonus.

34 GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF SOPHOCLEAN DRAMA Sophocles created the form of tragic drama that has become dominant in Western literature. Instead of the explicitly theological concerns and cosmic scope of his great predecessor, Aeschylus, he focuses his plays on one or two protagonists of heroic proportions and engrossing, complicated character. While retaining Aeschylus' mood of deep religious seriousness, Sophocles deals with the question of divine justice and the problem of suffering in a more naturalistic way. He depicts the moral and emotional issues of credible, if grandiose, human beings, rather than cosmic themes. His focus remains clearly on the human rather than the divine world.

35 Sophoclean Chorus  "The chorus," Aristotle says in the remark mentioned previously, "should be included as one of the actors and should be a part of the whole and share in the dramatic action, not as in Euripides, but as in Sophocles." This assessment of the Sophoclean chorus seems to fit the plays that have survived. In all of them the chorus takes its full share in the events onstage. It can even be deceived or misled, either by the protagonists (Ajax) or by the same delusions or lies that blind major protagonists (Oedipus Tyrannus, Trachinian Women, Electra). It can also act as the agent of deception and even become temporarily at odds with the protagonist, as in Philoctetes. It can be at odds with or hostile to the main hero, as in Antigone and, initially, in Oedipus at Colonus.

36 ANTIGONE Prologue  Antigone was actually the earliest of the plays Sophocles devoted to the Theban cycle of myths. It was first produced about 442 BCE, when the playwright was in his fifties. Oedipus the King was produced about 429 BCE, and Oedipus at Colonus was written in the extreme old age of Sophocles and produced sometime after his death near the end of the fifth century.  Story of Oedipus and his family: Cadmus, founder of the city of Thebes, was an ancestor of Oedipus (see genealogy). When Laius, one of the Theban kings, asked Apollo, through his oracle at Delphi, whether he and his wife Jocasta would have a son, the oracle replied that they would, but that this son was destined to kill his father. After the child was born, Laius pierced his ankles, bound them together with a leather thong, and gave the baby to a herdsman to expose. Pitying the infant, the herdsman instead gave the baby to another shepherd, who took the child back to his native city, Corinth, and gave him to the Polybus and Merope, the childless rulers of that city. The royal couple named him Oedipus (“swollen foot”) and raised him as their own son.genealogyApolloDelphi  When Oedipus was grown, some companions taunted him, saying he was a bastard, not the legitimate son of Polybus. Troubled, Oedipus traveled to Delphi to consult the oracle, which prophesied that he was destined to kill his father and marry his mother. Odeipus left Delphi swearing never to return to Corinth, seeking in that way to avoid the awful fate predicted by the oracle. However, at a cross-roads where three roads came together, he met an entourage led by a haughty aristocrat who refused to make way for him. Enraged, he killed the older man and all his servants except for a lowly herdsman. Oedipus soon arrived at Thebes, which was suffering terribly from a Sphinx, a monstrous winged lion with the head of a woman who posed a riddle to all travelers and devoured them when they failed to solve it. When the Sphinx confronted Oedipus with her riddle—“What animal goes on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening?”—he solved it with the answer “Man, who crawls as a baby, walks on two legs in his prime, and walks with the aid of a stick when old.” Defeated, the Sphinx cast herself from the cliff. Having saved the city, Oedipus was proclaimed king to replace the slain Laius and married the queen, Jocasta. When the Theban herdsman finally made his way back to the city, he saw that the man who had killed his master was now king, so he asked to be assigned to an outlying pasture far from the city.Sphinxdevoured themSphinx confronted Oedipus  After many prosperous years during which four children were born to Oedipus and Jocasta, a terrible plague ravaged the population of Thebes (the plague in Oedipus the King may allude to the devastating plague that swept through Athens in 429 BCE, killing many, including the statesman Pericles; some modern scientists claim that the symptoms described for this plague resemble those caused by the ebola virus). The Delphic oracle proclaimed that Thebes was harboring a pollution, the murderer of Laius, and the sickness would not leave until this pollution was cast from the land. Oedipus’ efforts to discover who this murderer was ultimately reveal that he was the land 's pollution; seeking to avoid his fate, he had unknowingly killed his real father, married his mother, and produced four children who were also his siblings. When the truth is revealed, Jocasta hangs herself and Oedipus takes her brooch and stabs his eyes until he can no longer see. A rare vase painting depicts masked actors enacting the scene when the Herdsman discloses the truth to Oedipus as Jocasta silently listens.rare vase painting  Oedipus’ two daughters, Antigone and Ismene, accompanied him into exile, while his two sons, Eteocles and Polyneices remained in Thebes, where Jocasta's brother Creon was ruling as regent. When the boys were grown, they agreed to rule Thebes alternately. Eteocles ruled first, but when his year was up he refused to relinquish the throne to Polyneices. Polyneices, who had married the daughter of the king of Argos, led the Argives and six other cities in an assault on Thebes (The Seven Against Thebes). Thebes drove off the attackers, but in the course of the battle the two brothers killed each other. Their uncle Creon assumed the throne and decreed that Eteocles was to be buried with honors but his brother Polyneices was to be left unburied, to rot in the sun and be eaten by scavengers.

37 The Oedipus Myth  Characters and Terms: King Laios Queen Jocasta Thebes Oracle at Delphi Oedipus Corinth Sphinx Chorus Choragos

38 The Oedipus Myth  Characters and Terms, Cont. Polyneices Eteocles Antigone Ismene Creon Teiresias Haimon Eurydice Sentry


40 Map of Corinth

41 Map of the Mediterranean

42 Antigone’s Family Tree


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