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  • Created on: 03-02-16 15:44

This play, it is generally agreed, was produced before and fairly close to the year 441BC. Sophocles, as we know from a reliable contemporary source, was one of the nine generals elected, with Pericles, for a campaign against the revot of Samos in that year. The anciet introduction of the play, found in most of the manuscripts, records a tradition that Sophocles owed his election to office to the popularity of Antigone. True or false, this story could have been based on a widely accepted belief that the play wa produced before the year 441.

The story also, by setting Antigone in a political context, draws attention to the political content of the play, its concern with the prolems of the polis, the city state. Antigone resurfaces in a highly political context once again in the fourth century some sixty years after Sophocles' death; it had by that time become a classic. The orator and statesman Demosthenes had the clerk of the court read out Creon's speech on the proper loyalties of a citizen as alesson in patriotism to his political oppoent Aeschines (who had once been a professional actor and had played the part of Creon). And in that same century Aristotle quoted the play repeatedly in his treatise the Politics.

To the modern world, particulary the world of Victorian England, with its comfortable belief in progressand it confidence that such barabric acts as exposure of an enemy's corpse were a thing of a distant past, the subject matter of the play seemed academic. Matthew Arnold wrote in 1853 that it was 'no longer possible that we should feel a deep interest in the Antigone of Sophocles.' The twentieth century has lost any such illusions. Two modern adaptations of the play, both of them alive with political urgency, are highlights in the history of the moder theatre. In February 1944, in a Paris occupied by the German army, four months before the Allied landings in Normandy, Jean Anouilh produced his Antigone, a play in which Antigone is unmistakably identified with the French reistance movement. This is clear from the frequent threats of torture leveled at the heroine (not to be found in Sophocles but characteristic of Gestapo interrogations): the fact, well-known to everyone in the audience, that the German Nazi military police often exposed the corpses of executed resistance fighters a a deterrent; and finally from the brilliat charcaterisation of Creon's guards, whose low social origins, vulgar language and callous brutality accurately recall the contemporary miliciens, the French fascist terror squads, which were more feared and hated than the Gestapo itself. The reason the German authorities allowed the production of the play is its treatment of Creon. Anouilh presents him as a practical man whose assumption of power faces him with a tragic dilemma: his desire to rule firmly but fairly,to restore and maintain order in a chaotic situation, is frustrated by a determined, fanatical, apparently irrational resistance. These are exactly the terms in which the German military authorities…


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