Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I don't want to do this

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Antigone Reading Review

By Sophocles

Genre tragedy

I. Information About the Author

Sophocles was born in 46 B.C. at Colonus, near Athens. He grew up in a wealthy family and had a happy childhood, unlike some of the characters he wrote about in his plays. Sophocles received a good education, and later became an Athenian general and chief treasurer of the city, as well as a talented playwright. When Sophocles was 8, he was recognized when he won in an annual dramatic competition. Then he wrote 4 winning plays in the next six decades. Overall he produced 1 plays, although there are only seven left today. These are Ajax, Antigone, Electra, Oedipus & Colonus, Oedipus Rex, Philocteles, and Trachinian Women. Sophocles plays were influenced by the era he lived in and the people of Athens.

II. Authors Unique Style

Sophocles advanced many of the techniques used in play writing. He set the chorus, a group of people that represent the public citizens, at 15 people. The chorus suggests how much time has passed, by using poetic interludes. It also helps set the mood and tell what is happening in the play. For example, in the First Ode the chorus says, Welcome, light of the Sun, the fairest Sun that has ever dawned upon Thebes, the city of seven gates! That lets the reader know what time it is and where the play takes place. The chorus leader is the voice of reason and his words usually follow along with those of Tiresias, the blind soothsayer. After Tiresias leaves the palace, Creon asks the chorus for advice. Tiresias had said that Creon would not live, unless he did something about Antigone. The chorus leader suggests that Creon release her from where she lies in the cave. Sophocles used the chorus to assist Creon in his decisions.

Point of view is another technique Sophocles likes to vary from the different characters in his plays. Antigone and Creon are the two major conflicting characters. They each act on their own thoughts, and Sophocles writes the play based on both of their views. Neither Antigone nor Creon will budge in their beliefs. Because Polynices rebelled against Thebes and died, Creon thinks that he should be left outside to perish. Antigone strongly believes that her brother should have a proper burial, although it goes against the kings wishes. She is willing to do it herself, therefore Creon thinks she should also be killed. He does not change his mind until he talks with Tiresias, who says nothing good will come of it. By that time it is too late and Antigone has hung herself. In the play, the two clashing points of view ultimately led to the destruction of Antigone and Creon. Chorus and point of view are just two of the many techniques Sophocles used in his writing.

III. Setting

Antigone was written in Athens around 441 B.C. All the dialogue takes place outside the Royal Palace of Thebes, although some events were reported to have occurred on Mt. Parnassus. The play takes place over the course of one day.

The first half of Sophocles life was filled with optimism due to the Greek war victories. His earliest works reflect those happy times, including the rise of the Parthenon. However, Antigone was writen just as the Greek Society began to decline. The Peloponnesian War started in 41 B.C. and ended in 404 B.C. That contributed to why all of Sophocles works written after 440 B.C. are so disturbing. Those plays portray characters with unsolvable problems.

IV. Theme

There are many different themes in Antigone. Two of them are, rebellion and the expression of free will. There is a long chain of rebellious events that begins with Eteocles rebelling against his father, and not turning the throne over to his brother, Polynices. He gets angry and rebels against Thebes, by attacking the king, and both brothers end up getting killed. Because Creon will not give Polynices a proper funeral ceremony, Antigone buries him herself, saying, But I shall bury him. And if I die for this pure crime, I am content. Although Antigone is going against the kings wishes she is doing it on her own free will. This is because Antigone said she would die for her crime, if needed, and she does. Another example of the characters expressing their freedom is when Creon goes to save his niece. He does this after he has talked to Tiresias and consulted the Chorus, but he made the decision to release her on his own conscience. Freedom and rebellion are the most consistent themes throughout the drama.

V. Characterization

Antigone is the main character and probably the most static. She never changes her mind through the play, and she keeps to her word. When she is burying Polynices she says that she will die for her crime, and she does not lie when confronted about being what she did. Antigone is the first to die in this tragedy. She does so by tearing a strip of her dress and hanging herself in the cave, which she chose over starving to death.

Creon is also a major character in the play, although he is dynamic. Creon is the king of Thebes and Antigones uncle. He is extremely stubborn, and disbelieves what Tiresias has to say because he does not want to admit he was wrong. Creon is finally persuaded to free Antigone from the cave after hearing from the Chorus. The play does not specifically tell the audience that Creon dies, but we can assume that because he feels there is nothing left for him to live for.

Ismene and Haemon are two of the minor characters. Ismene is Antigones beautiful sister, who is not as strong as Antigone. She is the ideal lady for that time, because she did not want to help her sister, her reason being she was not brave enough to go against the kings law. We are not sure what happens to Ismene in the end, although she stated earlier, But what is life to me, without my sister? Haemon is the son of Creon and Antigones future husband. He agrees with Antigone and truly loves her. When he sees his bride dead, he commits suicide and stabs himself.

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