What is the background for this drama? What has happened before the events of this drama?
Ismene says, “You ought to realize we are only women, not meant in nature to fight against men, and that we are ruled, by those who are stronger, to obedience in this and even more painful matters.” (lines 70-74) Do Antigone and Ismene differ in their understanding of what is appropriate for man/woman roles? What about Creon?
Antigone says (line 84), “I would not ask thee. No! if though shouldst wish to do it, and wouldst gladly join with me. Do what thou wilt, I go to bury him; and good it were, this having done, to die. Loved I shall be with him whom I have loved, Guilty of holiest crime.” What does it mean to do holy things criminally?
Ismene says to Antigone, “You have a warm heart for such chilly deeds.” What is her point? (line 101)
Do you think Antigone wants to die? Why, or why not?
Creon is a kind of academic? What do you think, do academics make good leaders?
What is the purpose of the bumbling lines of the Sentry? Is his speech nonsense or wisdom?
When Nelson Mandela was serving time in a South African prison, the prisoners received permission to put on a Christmas play and chose to perform Antigone. Why do you think they selected this play? How do lines 490 and following reflect this element of the play?
How do the words and actions of Antigone compare with those of Jim Elliot?
At what point does standing up for what you believe become insolence?
Is Antigone trying to defend Ismene when she refuses to let her be blamed for Antigone’s actions?
Can it be said that the actions of Creon and Antigone reflect their worldviews? Where do the philosophies of Creon and Antigone clash?
Creon talks about the danger of “pleasure in a woman.” (lines 700-710) Is he right?
The address to Haemon (line 630) is attributed to Ismene in all the oldest manuscripts. How does the drama change if Ismene is actually the speaker for this?
Haemon argues for compromise. (lines 768-775) Is compromise good or bad?
Creon asks, “Should we that are my age learn wisdom from young men such as he is?” How would you answer this?
Creon accuses Antigone of wickedness. What determines whether or not she is wicked?
Does this play pit nomos against physis? Where?
Creon asks, “Should the city tell me how I am to rule them?” Why is this question important? Who does the city belong to?
What is Haemon’s point when he tells Creon, “You would be a fine dictator of a desert”?
Can something be lawful and unjust? (line 805)
The Chorus tell Antigone that it is her own self-willed temper that has destroyed her? Do you agree? If not her temper, then what? Noble action? Something else?
Antigone claims that that a sibling is one’s most important relative? (lines 961-969) Do you agree? Why does Antigone believe this?
Antigone believes that the gods want her brother buried. Creon believes that the gods do not what his nephew buried. (lines 1090 -1101) Why do they both believe something different?
Creon has a record of following the advice of Teiresias. Why does he not follow his advice this time? (lines 1110 and following)
You have been asked to do family counseling for this cast of characters; where do you start?
What do you take away from a reading of Antigone? Have you learned anything? What are the questions raised by the play? Are the questions answered?
Aristotle’s was quite interested in the ambiguity of action. The same action can be understood to be both good and bad, good under one description, bad under another. In Sophocles’ Antigone, for example, the fundamental conflict of action is whether or not Antigone should bury her brother, a deed simultaneously commanded and prohibited. Can you think of events in real life that illustrate this ambiguity of action that is the phenomena of tragic conflict?
Sophocles’ – A Timeline
500 – Birth of Sophocles
490 – Battle of Marathon
480 – Battle of Salamis
468 – First victory at Dionysia at age 32 with Triptolemus (lost)
461 – Democratic reforms of Ephialtes
447 – Parthenon begun in Athens
443 – Head of the Athenian Treasury
442 – Antigone
440 – Held Athenian Generalship
440s – Ajax
431 – Start of Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta
430 – Oedipus Tyrannus
429 – Death of Pericles
420–10 – Electra
425 – Trachinian Women (might be earlier: ca. 450)
415 – Athenian Expedition to Sicily
413 – Special Government Commissioner
409 – Philoctetes
406 – Death of Sophocles
405 – Defeat of Athens by Sparta
404–3 – Rule of Thirty Tyrants in Athens
401 – Oedipus at Colonus