Antigone - Mizz Parnaby`s Classes

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ANTIGONE
Reading Guide
and
Study Questions
Prologue
• According to Ismene, what is the role of women; i.e., how should
women behave?
• Do you sympathize at all with Ismene’s caution, and does Antigone
treat her fairly?
• What is a martyr, and why does Antigone see herself as one?
Parados (scene 1)
The Chorus emerges from behind the scenes for their first choral
ode, which concerns the previous night’s battle.
• In the simplest terms, outline what happened in the battle
between the brothers.
• Contrast the two pictures of Polynices drawn here: the chorus’s
version, and Antigone’s. Does your opinion of him, and of
Antigone’s position, change at all?
Episode 1
Creon emerges and expounds on the situation.
• Cite lines where Creon explains the kind of wise ruler he intends to
be. How does he view the laws of the state?
• Compare Creon’s tone during his speech to the chorus and his
tone when the Sentry appears. How does this differ, and what
does this say about him?
• The Sentry states, “. . . Nothing bad can happen that isn’t on one’s
ticket.” What does this mean? (in another translation, it states:
“. . . I came seized by one hope, to suffer nothing but my fated
doom.”)
Episode 1 cont’d.
• Creon believes he knows what is or isn’t important to the gods.
Cite lines that show what he thinks he knows.
• What does Creon believe really happened to Polynices’ body?
According to him, how was someone able to bury the body?
First Stasimon / Ode 1
• What image of man does this ode present? In this vision, what is
human greatness? What are the limits of human ability and action?
When can a daring man get into trouble?
• Choral odes often generalize a given problem specific to the play’s
action into a statement about human life as a whole. Is that the
case here? If so, then is the chorus alluding to Antigone, Creon, or
both? What is your evidence?
• Note that Creon consistently uses metaphors and images which link
him with these skills and with civilization in general. On the other
hand, Antigone and the resistance to Creon’s edict is generally
represented by images connected with nature. Why do you think
that Sophocles organized his imagery in this way? What meaning
does this organization of imagery suggest for the play as a whole?
Episode 2
• Why is Creon so surprised when the Sentry/Guard/Sentinel brings in
Antigone?
• Explain the comparison between Antigone and a bird. How is this
an accurate comparison?
• Ismene defends Antigone and asks Creon how he could kill his own
son’s bride. What is the purpose of this relationship being
revealed?
• There are several comments about gender in this scene. What is
the significance of them What do they show about Greek life? Mark
any further examples in your text.
• Antigone makes a comment regarding dictatorship. What is it?
Make note of other thoughts on leadership and politics as you read
the play. Draw a conclusion about Sophocles’ view of politics and
Greek society.
Second Stasimon / Ode 2
• Contrast this stasimon with the previous one. Is this ode’s thought
and tone similar or different? What, if anything, has changed?
Episode 3
• Compare the Creon in this scene with the one who first entered the
play. How has he changed in language or conduct?
• To what does Haemon appeal in his attempt to save Antigone, and
how effective is it?
• Does Haemon threaten his father as Creon thinks he does? Explain
how this happens.
• What is Creon’s rationale for choosing this particular method of
execution? What does this say about him?
Third Stasimon / Ode 3
• The ancient Greeks had two words for love: philia, meaning
something like “friendship,” and eros, which has more to do with
passion. When the chorus talks about love in the ode, which of the
two loves do they mean? Why is the chorus generalizing about love
here?
• What is the main theme of this brief ode to Love? Since choral odes
generally comment upon the action of the previous episode,
explain what connection this song has with the preceding scene.
What is the lesson for Creon in this ode?
Episode 4
• How would you characterize the chorus’ exchange with Antigone
here?
• Does Antigone’s tone change at all during this episode, or does she
remain completely self-assured and defiant? Give examples to
support your opinion.
Fourth Stasimon / Ode 4
• The chorus sings an ode about well-known figures of the past who
were also forced to endure cruel punishments. Explain at least two
of these myths and how they correspond with Antigone’s fate.
Fourth Stasimon / Ode 4 (cont’d.)
• The fourth stasimon presents three mythical examples which
comment upon Antigone’s situation. What do the first two
mythical personages Danae and Lycurgus (the son or Dryas), have in
common with Antigone? The third example, Cleopatra, may have
also shared the same characteristic with Antigone, but it is not
mentioned. According to C.M. Bowra (Sophoclean Tragedy, Oxford,
1944, 105), these examples may indicate the doubts the Chorus has
with Antigone. The Chorus has been alarmed by her defiant
behavior, but it also has been impressed by her heroism. Bowra
writes, “The three stories seem to suggest different interpretations
of what is happening and to hint that any one of them may be
right.” Examine each example carefully and determine whether it
puts Antigone in a favorable or unfavorable light.
Episode 5
• What is Teiresias’ warning?
• Specifically, what in Teiresias’ warnings leads Creon to change his
mind?
Fifth Stasimon / Ode 5 / hyporchema
• Why in the hyporchema* does the Chorus choose to pray to
Dionysus at this critical moment rather than to any other god? What
request does it make of the god?
• *an unusual feature of Antigone is the substitution of a lively dance song called a hyporchema for the more stately
rhythms of what would have been the fifth stasimon. The optimistic tone of the hyporchema has been occasioned by
Creon’s change of heart and is meant to emphasize by contrast the horror of Antigone’s death and Creon’s misfortune in
the next scene.
Exodos
• Why does Antigone choose to commit suicide? Aren’t there
options?
• What is Haemon’s reaction to this event?
• Creon’s wife in only onstage momentarily, yet she plays a key role in
Creon’s disaster. What does her suicide mean to him ? Why would
Sophocles bother including this?
• The leader of the chorus (the Choragos) has the last lines of the
play. In your own words, what is his message?
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