Antigone Notes


Historical Context:

·       Don’t know the exact date of when it was first performed

·       People in the past thought Sophocles had won election to be general in Athens because of the sensible political and religious advice in Antigone

·       Because of becoming general in 441 BC, they thought Antigone must have been put on around there, despite not being sure of that

·       The fact that people in the past thought it was politically correct shows a significance of this text, and shows how Sophocles was telling the audience in his opinion how to run a city

·       He was an experienced politician and statesman, as being general could be linked to the modern role of Prime Minister

·       All of his plays tend to have people in charge of cities or armies facing moral challenges, with both positive and negative examples given of how to react in moments of crisis

·       In Antigone, there is the most extreme of them, as Creon can be seen as the worst leader in the works of Sophocles, and even in Greek tragedy

·       Creon makes many mistakes on his first day in power and ends up destroying his entire family as a result


The City of Thebes:

·       It is not set in Athens (Sophocles’ city), but is set in Thebes

·       Thebes is about a day’s journey in the ancient world from Athens: 24 hours of hiking

·       It wasn’t a port city, i.e. wasn’t close to the sea, which was unusual as Greeks tended to live in port cities due to sailing and travelling

·       Thebes was in a hot, airless, dusty plain under the mountains, which adds to the creepily inward-looking feel of Antigone, and also to the intensity

·       The location of Thebes affects the relationships in the city, as for the democratic Athenians, Thebes represented a city of tyrants, where people don’t freely elect their generals and where a particular family holds onto power, which could also include incest (linked to Oedipus)

·       Geography connected to political and social circumstances


Dramatis Personae:

·       Only contains people from one city

·       All other Greek tragedies except from one (by Aeschylus) contain visitors to the city or country talking to each other

·       As well as this, almost everybody is biologically related

·       Creon – Antigone’s maternal uncle and the brother of her dead mother Jocasta

·       Creon came into power only because Antigone’s two brothers Eteocles and Polynices killed each other in a battle about ruling the city, who were going to inherit it after Oedipus

·       The Athenian audience may have questioned why they wouldn’t hold an election to find the best man suited for the role

·       Antigone and Ismene open the play – teenage girls as they were not married, potentially 13 and 15 years old

·       The eldest daughter


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