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A Production Of Sophocles' Antigone Essay

1611 words - 6 pages

To direct a production of Antigone, one has to consider the fundamentals of the playtext and the history of the plays productions. The context that the play was written in, the playwright himself and the major themes of the play and issues of characterization must all be considered before setting out on such a task, especially if the play in question happens to be two and a half thousand years old.

In the fifth century B.C. Sophocles wrote and produced Antigone, the first of a trilogy that would become the most famous works of that age. The first production of Antigone would have been staged as part of a competition for playwrights in front of up to fifteen thousand Greek citizens. At the Theatre of Dionysus as part of the City Dionysia Sophocles presented Antigone, a play that supports the divine laws over the human, staged around an altar at a religious festival. To have been an audience member at that first staging of Antigone would have been an act of worship in itself. The subject matter of ancient Greek theatre was tied up in the mythology already familiar to its audience, through stories passed down through the previous ages. Therefore the task for the playwright was not just what to tell but how to tell it. Since the audience would have been accustomed with these stories dramatic irony and tension were created because the audience knew the fates of the characters on the stage.

Sophocles was the first playwright to introduce a third actor to productions. Up until then it had been customary to only have two actors and a chorus of up to fifty men. Sophocles reduced the size of the chorus to twelve men and opened up the spectrum for himself and other playwrights to have more than just two characters on stage at one time. Sophocles plays are very much about relationships between humans instead of between humans and the Gods and a third actor would help dramatise these relations.

Antigone, as with most of Sophocles plays, is concerned with the foolishness of arrogance and pride and the virtue of accepting ones fate, whatever that may be. Pride is a major theme in Antigone and a common trait amongst its characters. Polynices and Eteocles killed each other because they disagreed on how to rule Thebes and fought over the power to control the city. Creon is corrupted by the same power that caused the two brothers to murder each other yet he honours one and shames and discredits the other, claiming that Polynices was a traitor because Creon supported his brother. He decrees that the body of Polynices is to be left unburied, although this action not only angers the soul of Polynices but violates the laws of the Gods. In disrespecting them and their morality, it is Creons arrogance that eventually cause him to loose his pride, his only remaining son and his wife. Antigone looses her life because she is too proud to let her brother be left unburied despite a decree making Polynices' burial illegal. She risks her own life...

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