Antigone

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Antigone Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Sophocles's Antigone. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Sophocles

Considered one of the three greatest playwrights of the classical Greek theater, Sophocles was a friend of Pericles and Herodotus, and a respected citizen who held political and military offices in fifth-century B.C.E. Athens. He won fame by defeating the playwright Aeschylus for a prize in tragic drama at Athens in 468 B.C.E. Only seven of his complete plays have reached the modern era, but he wrote more than 100 and won first prize in 24 contests. Best known are his three Theban plays, Antigone, Oedipus Rex, and Oedipus at Colonus. Sophocles's other complete surviving works are Ajax, Electra, Philoctetes, and Trachinian Women. He is credited with changing Greek drama by adding a third actor, reducing the role of the chorus, and paying greater attention than playwrights before him to character development.
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Historical Context of Antigone

Antigone was performed sometime around the year 441 B.C.E., just before Athens fought a campaign against the revolt of Samos. Sophocles was selected to be one of nine generals in that campaign. These historical events are relevant because some of the play's central issues are the appropriate use of power by the state, the possibility of justifiable rebellion, and the duties of citizens to obey the laws of their government. A long-held tradition suggests that the popularity of Antigone lead directly to Sophocles's election as a general.

Other Books Related to Antigone

Of Sophocles's surviving dramatic works, Antigone, Oedipus Rex, and Oedipus at Colonus treat different episodes of the same legend, using many of the same characters. Sophocles's writing career overlapped with that of Aeschylus and Euripedes, the other great tragic playwrights of fifth-century Athens. Among Aeschylus's best-known tragedies are Seven Against Thebes, Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides. Euripedes's most influential works include Medea, Electra, and The Bacchae.
Key Facts about Antigone
  • Full Title: Antigone
  • When Written: Circa 442 B.C.E.
  • Where Written: Athens, Greece
  • Literary Period: Classical
  • Genre: Tragic drama
  • Setting: The royal house of Thebes
  • Climax: The suicides of Antigone and Haemon
  • Antagonist: Creon

Extra Credit for Antigone

World War II Antigone: In 1944, when Paris was occupied by the Nazis, Jean Anouilh produced a version of Antigone in which the audience was able to identify Antigone with the French Resistance fighters and Creon with the occupying forces.

World War II Antigone 2: The German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht produced a version of the play in German, in 1948, which had even more obvious references to the Nazis. Brecht's version of the play begins in a Berlin air-raid shelter.