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Antigone


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A: Jean Anouilh Pf: 1944, Paris Pb: 1946 Tr: 1946 G: Trag. in 1 act; French prose S: Thebes, mythical past C: 8m, 3fThe plot of Anouilh's play is essentially the same as in Sophocles. The main differences are: (1) the anachronisms. The guards smoke cigarettes and play cards, Creon's wife knits, and there is mention of motor transport. (2) the tragic development. Whereas in Sophocles the characters behave as though they have free will, Anouilh makes it clear that each character is obliged to fulfil his or her given role – the tragedy is like a spring that inexorably unwinds. (3) Antigone, a childish figure, concerned about her pet dog, who buries Polyneices with a toy spade, acts not with reference to a higher law but ‘for myself’: ‘what a person can do, a person ought to do’. (4) Creon is treated more sympathetically, a politician with a difficult task to fulfil, who at the end of the tragedy has to attend a meeting at five o'clock.Anouilh's rewriting of Sophocles' Antigone is arguably the most successful modern theatrical treatment of ancient myth. Performed during the German occupation of Paris, its theme of authority in conflict with individual protest resonated powerfully with the public, and it enjoyed 645 consecutive performances. That the German authorities allowed it to be staged was no doubt largely due to the mythical topic, but is probably also a testimony to the somewhat nihilistic portrayal of Antigone, who in a world emptied of religious faith, appears a dangerously self-indulgent, self-dramatizing individual.

A: Jean Anouilh Pf: 1944, Paris Pb: 1946 Tr: 1946 G: Trag. in 1 act; French prose S: Thebes, mythical past C: 8m, 3f

(1) the anachronisms. The guards smoke cigarettes and play cards, Creon's wife knits, and there is mention of motor transport. (2) the tragic development. Whereas in Sophocles the characters behave as though they have free will, Anouilh makes it clear that each character is obliged to fulfil his or her given role – the tragedy is like a spring that inexorably unwinds. (3) Antigone, a childish figure, concerned about her pet dog, who buries Polyneices with a toy spade, acts not with reference to a higher law but ‘for myself’: ‘what a person can do, a person ought to do’. (4) Creon is treated more sympathetically, a politician with a difficult task to fulfil, who at the end of the tragedy has to attend a meeting at five o'clock.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Authors

Jean Anouilh (1910—1987) French dramatist


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