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Study Questions for Sophocles' Antigonê
Vocabulary: Moira, Protagonist,
Hamartia, anagnorisis, peripeteia,
catharsis, catastrophe, chorus, choragos, korthorni,
strophe, antistrophe, omen, tragedy.
is moira? What happened to Antigonê's father, Oedipus?
Lecture or Handouts:
When did Sophocles live? Antigonê is
the third play in a three-part series or trilogy. What
are the other two plays that
precede it? Although Antigonê takes place
after the other two plays, in what order were the plays
early Greek belief, what would commonly happen to
unburied corpses? Who got to be the choragos in
a Greek stage production? How did Greek drama originate?
Hint: It wasn't for entertainment!
Identify the following characters:
Teiresias, Eurydicê, Creon, Haimon,
Antigonê, Ismenê, Polyneices, Eteoclês,
and in brief allusions, Bachos (Bacchus), Aphrodite,
and Danaê. Look up the last three in mythology guides
online, so you can understand what the allusions refer to.
- What royal decree does Antigonê reveal to Ismenê
in the opening scene of the play?
- What happened to Antigonê's two brothers? How
did they die?
- Why has Creon decided to handle the funeral arrangements
for each brother so differently?
- What penalty has Creon proclaimed as punishment for
anyone who defies his commands?
- How does Antigone plan to break the law? (i.e., what
law is she going to break?)
- Why does Ismenê refuse to help Antigonê?
List at least two of the three of the reasons she presents
at various times during the play.
- Why does Antigonê think that the dead, not the
living, make the longest demands?
- Why does Antigonê respond with scorn to Ismenê's
helpful suggestions about how to go about burying the
body on page 63?
- In scene one, Creon is speaking to the chorus. What
does he compare the state to? What obligations does he
say a person has when that person sees the government
"headed for ruin"? Why does that become ironic
given his later actions in the play?
- Characterize the way the sentry talks when he first
appears to bring Creon the news about the body. What do
his hesitations and ramblings suggest about his emotional
- How did this particular sentry get stuck with the job
of delivering this news to Creon? Why do you suppose the
sentries chose to make the selection this way? What does
this suggest about Creon's characteristics? What does
that in turn suggest about how a director might cast this
- What does Creon think must have happened to cause the
sentries to neglect their duty and let the body be buried?
- Who does the sentry drag in as the culprit before Creon's
throne? Why is this shocking?
- Why is Ismenê arrested after they have the culprit?
What does Creon think the two girls have been up to? What
do his suspicions reveal about Creon's motivations?
- Why does Antigonê refuse to let Ismenê be
executed with her?
- What is Haimon's relationship to Antigoné?
- What is the general public's reaction to Antigonê's
- How does Haimon respond to his father's argument that
"the state is king"?
- Note the line where Haimon says, "Then she must
die.--But her death causes another." What is he actually
talking about or predicting? What does Creon mistakenly
think Haimon's talking about or predicting?
- When Creon calls Haimon a "girlstruck fool,"
what does he mean? How do you know the word "girlstruck"
meant that even though you won't find it in a dictionary?
(from Lecture: what is the technical
term for a made-up word like this?)
- Ode III contains a hymn sung to a deity. What deity
does the chorus sing to?
- When Antigonê is locked away in the vault, she
speaks of the deity Persephone. Who is Persephone and
why is she an appropriate mythlogical allusion for this
situation? (You might want to look in a mythological guide
on-line to find this out).
- In Ode IV, the Chorus sings about Danaê. Who was
Danaê and why is she an appropriate mythological
allusion? (You might want to look in a mythological guide
on-line to find this out).
- What horrible omens does Teiresias point to in scene
5 that indicate the gods are upset?
- What motivates Teiresias's prophecies, according to
Creon's cynical view?
- What does Antigonê do in her cell at
the end of the play? How does she manage to do this when
she has no rope?
- What does Haimon do when he discovers what Antigonê
- What does Eurydicê do when she finds out about
- When Creon finds out about his wife's death, what does
he ask for from the choragos and the messenger? Do either
the choragos or the messenger grant him his request?
Food for thought: What does this play suggest about the
Greek attitude toward the state? Toward the divine? Toward
Sample Identification Passages: Be
able to identify who wrote the following passages, what
literary work they come from, who is talking or described,
and what the context or importance of each passage is.
A."You would think that we had already
for the curse on Oedipus.
I cannot imagine any grief
That you an dI have not gone through. And now--
Have they told you of the new decree of our King Creon?"
B. "Creon buried our brother Eteoclês
With military honors, gave him a soldier's funeral,
And it was right that he should; but Polyneicês,
Who fought as bravely and died as miserably,--
They say, that Creon has sworn
No one shall bury him, no one mourn for him,
But his body must lie in the fields, a sweet treasure
For carrion birds to find as they search for food."
C. Think how much more terrible
Our own death would be if we should go against [the king]
And do what he has forbidden! We are only women,
We cannot fight with men. . . !
The law is strong, we must give in to the law
In this thing, and in worse. I beg the Dead
To forgive me, but I am helpless. I must yield
To those in authority. And I think it is dangerous business
To always be meddling.
D. ". . . I will bury him; and if I must die,
I say that this crime is holy. It is the dead,
Not the living, who make the longest demands:
We die for ever . . . "
E. "I say to you at the very outset that I have nothing
but contempt for the kind of Governor who is afraid,
for whatever reason, to follow the course that he knows
is best for the State; andd as for the man who sets private
friendship above public welfare--I have no use for him,
either. I call God to witness, that if I saw my country
headed for ruin, I should not be afraid to speak out plainly."
F. "No, from the very beginning
There have been those who have whispered together,
Stiff-necked anarchists, putting their heads together,
Scheming against me in alleys. These are the men,
And they have bribed my own guards to do this thing."
G. "Here is the woman. She is the guilty one:
We found her trying to bury him.
Take her, then; question her; judge her as you will.
I am through with the whole thing now, and glad of it."
H. But I, at any rate,
can listen; and I have heard them / Muttering and whispering
They say no woman has ever, so unreasonably, / Died so
shameful a death for a generous act: "She covered
her brother's body. Is this indecent? / She kept him from
dogs and vultures. Is this a crime? / Death? -- She should
have all the honor that we can give her!" This is
the way they talk out there in the city.
I. The time is not far off when you shall pay back
Corpse for corpse, flesh of your own flesh.
You have thrust the child of this world into living night,
You have kept from the gods below the child that is theirs:
The one in a grave before her death, the other,
Dead, denied the grave. This is your crime:
And the Furies and the dark gods of Hell
Are swift with terrible punishment for you.
Do you want to buy me now. . . .?
J. "Her death shall cause another."
K. "O God, I am sick with fear.
Are there no swords here? Has no one a blow for me?"