Scenes in an Ancient Greek play "Antigone"

Topics: Plays

Scenes in an Ancient Greek play were mostly formed chronologically. In “Antigone” the play follows a chronological progression but has sections where people talk about incidents of the past. Ancient Greek Plays followed a format of an opening scene, the episodes and then a closing scene. “Antigone” is in the literary genre of a tragedy: the story shows human downfall as the result of arrogance and leaves the audience thinking about the main points after the show has finished. Theatrical devices, which form the play, diversify as the play progresses: simplistic devices such as monologues grow into stichomythic exchanges.

The monologues are the lines of a character speaks from a speech whilst stichomythia is two people, at a quick pace, engaging in an intellectual battle using words as their weapons. Sophocles used stichomythia to show tension and conflict of opinion which occurs regularly in the play. The Genre Greek tragedies evolved from the primary form of stories about mythology. These were often stories of the gods, real people or a mixture of both and were passed down by word of mouth through the generations.

Playwrights formed plays by mixing such myths with contemporary issues.

In “Antigone” the contemporary issue is the Peloponnesian war which is mixed with Hubris and its effects on man. After the story was selected by the playwright it was then structured to form a play. A play would commence with the prologue: the background and story of the play are revealed to the audience. Ismene and Antigone introduce the background of “Antigone”.

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Following the prologue is the parados which was a song performed by the chorus as they entered. In “Antigone” the chorus sing about the death of Polyneices and Etocles. An episode then takes place followed by a stasimon, alternation occurs this way until the end of the play.

In the episodes the characters will talk with each other and the chorus, whilst the stasimon is the chorus’ chance to comment on the previous dialogue from the episode. The exodus is performed after the final stasimon and marks the end of the play. It is the opposite of the opening prologue as it reveals the outcome of the play. “Antigone” follows the conventional format of an Ancient Greek play precisely. I think that “Antigone” was set out in the conventional way because although Sophocles wished to be innovative if he had changed the structure of the play the audiences would not have understood what was happening.

The Ancient Athenians had become accustomed to the general layout of a play and had not developed a mind for different dramatic structures which today’s modern audiences possess. Conventions of Tragedy * The conventions of tragedy came mostly from a Greek critic and thinker called Aristotle. He created the manuscript “The Poetics” which discusses what should be included in a play in order for it to qualify as tragic. In an Ancient Greek play deaths and violence would occur off stage. Death in Ancient Greece was a very sensitive subject and Aristotle believed that death and violence would not bring any good emotions out of audience.

Examples of this in the play are: Antigone’s, Haemon’s and Eurydice’s passing away. * Tiresias is another typical convention of tragedy which Sophocles includes. Tiresias is a blind prophet known in Ancient Greek as a “Soothsayer”. He has the ability to see events occurring in the feature and knows what the best course of action is. In “Antigone” he advises Creon what to do and warns him of the tragedy which is about to occur. The Soothsayer is important to the play as it shows the audience that some men have special powers, are wise and should be respected.

When Creon disregards Tiresias and encounters trouble, Sophocles scares the audience and promotes respect for such elders. * Sophocles includes a death count at the end of his play. He does this to summarise the play and emphasize the loss of life encountered as a result of bad leadership. This caused the audience to ponder on issues that the play presented which was promoted by Aristotle. He believed that the audience should be emotionally involved with the play and he called this “catharsis”. He thought that if an audience was emotionally involved in a play with a great character it would benefit the audience.

Antigone” ends in an unsentimental way showing harsh disregard for Creon’s loss. Creon was warned several times what he should have done but did not listen. This unwillingness to change or listen was not promoted by the government or Aristotle. To be cruel to Creon the ending is very straight forward in detailing what will happen to him: he will just have to deal with his losses. This means that the audience do not sympathise, which was Aristotle’s goal * Aristotle believed that a great Tragedy should show the downfall of man. It was believed in Ancient Greece arrogant people would fail in life.

This downfall as a result of arrogance was known as Hubris. Creon suffers from Hubris as he is unwilling to look at others perspectives or heed their advice. This complemented Aristotle’s ideology that events should progress from good to worse because of the bad choices made by characters. This is seen in Creon when at the beginning the good event is being crowned king, the bad event is the death of three people and his bad choice is ignoring other people’s advice. Chorus Sophocles’ plays were sometimes hard to comprehend. For this reason he uses the chorus to summarise complex pieces of plot.

When Creon and Haemon are setting out their opinions on women their speeches are very long. The chorus then condense the main parts of the speech to an easily digestible chunk for the audience. Although the story is very compelling, an audience might have lost concentration in some parts. Therefore the chorus’ performances were more visually enticing to hold the audience’s attention. For example in the stasimons the chorus do not simply restate the plot, they use visual words to stimulate the audiences mind into thinking about the play and its values: ”

The chorus was seen as a secretive sect attached to a play: they were the wise elders who knew why characters were doing what they did. The chorus did not reveal their secrets often, so the audience was very attentive, trying to listen for a slip of valued words. One such occurrence is when Eurydices leaves to commit suicide. The chorus wonders aloud: “What could it mean? The woman’s gone inside”. The chorus knows why she has gone inside but they are prompting the audience to think about the significance of her action. Another interaction that the Chorus takes with characters is when they directly ask questions.

For example the chorus asks Creon: “Are you really planning to kill both of them? ” The chorus is doing two things here: questioning motives and attempting to clarify the ambiguity of the situation for the audience who cannot ask questions. The Chorus is wise as they have the ability to see both sides of an argument. In this way they act as ambassadors trying to be diplomatic in acknowledging the good points of each side. When Creon and Haemon are discussing the role of women (p 28 -31) the chorus pick out that Creon is very wise whilst they also acknowledge Haemon’s good thinking.

The Chorus set a different tone and ambiance than the characters by providing a break from the action which occurs in the episodes, by performing choral stasimons. This break also allows Sophocles to vary his literary language. Whereas characters speak very literally and direct about issues, the chorus intergrate the gods, astrology and more out of the box ideas to issues. Therefore the audience not only receives a break from the action they are seeing but also from the one style of language used by the characters. Types of character used Antigone – Antigone is like a modern day activist fighting the good cause.

She knows that she is up against a great power but continues her crusade, much like a martyr, because she knows in her heart that she is right. An audience relating to Antigone on the stage through catharsis would find that Antigone is faced with internal conflict. This might have been what some men visiting the theatre were feeling too. However, some men who did not like women might have found that Antigone was enraging. Men might not have been aware that their women could cause so much havoc and as a result given them less freedom. Tiresias – The Soothsayer adds to the progression of good fortune to misfortune in the story.

In his quest to do right he aggravates Creon and is therefore pitied by the audience for trying to do what is best. Tiresias however is not weak and stands up for himself. The soothsayer is the underdog in the eyes of the audience but in himself knows what he is doing is correct. Under catharsis, audience members would have been encouraged to give wise words to people they know. The audience would be encouraged to help all people even when those people are causing havoc. Creon – The lead protagonist who progresses the tragedy in Antigone as he shows his downfall is due to the bad decisions he makes.

He represents the audience members who have made a few bad decisions which have been catastrophic. He also represents the people in an unfortunate situation; Creon does love his niece but cannot pardon her just because she is family. Audience members who have been in similar situations would be able to associate themselves with Creon and learn from his mistakes. Tension Dramatic tension is built in the conflict which occurs between characters. It is a gradual build up with characters first giving an introductory speech. One person then gives their main speech which builds tension for the opponent.

The same occurs for the other person and by the end of that speech both characters are negatively charged. The characters then begin their conflict in the form of a stichomythic exchange. The tension comes to its apex when either the character is sent away or leaves at free will. This tension is then reduced by the pursuing choral odes which try to give a more balanced and calmer view of what has just been said. How to create a political drama? Two groups were formed to create a political drama. The stimulus for my group’s drama was derived from local influences.

As we live in the Middle East we decided that we would base our drama on a country which is very similar to Ancient Thebes: Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is ruled by a King, it’s women are oppressed and do not have the same rights as men and there is often scandal in the kingdom. Most of these scandals arise from conflict between men and women. The men try to keep the family’s name clean and respected whilst the women are trying to get their rights. One of our main stimuli was the book “Princess: A True Story of Life behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia” by Jean P. Sasson.

We decided that the play would be formed as similar to “Antigone” as possible. We tried to create a tragic play by having the main role an expatriate woman whose choice between saving her daughter’s life and doing nothing lands her in a lot of trouble. We attempted to make the play naturalistic to give the audience an accurate insight into the life of a woman in Saudi Arabia. We did this by studying Saudi culture in depth, especially how to pray, and by talking about what we thought life was like. This was aided by one member of our group who had actually lived in Saudi Arabia as an expatriate.

We used theatrical devices such as chanting and masks to create our “typical” Saudi family. This was done to show that members of a Saudi family are meant to all be of the same mind frame. We then used erratic, inconsistent babble to show the real picture. This was done to emphasize that sometimes people cannot conform to the norms of society and believe in their own ideas. Our play was structured, like “Antigone”, mostly in chronological order with exceptions for referring to incidents which occurred in the past. The structure of our play was the only area where we deviated from the typical of “Antigone”.

The structure was modernised to satisfy the modern audience’s need for a bit more action. We showed violence on the stage as we felt that this would keep the audience’s attention. Our work related to “Antigone” in that the central character was stuck between abiding by the rules of the land and doing what she knew as right. However, our play was not submerged in the political unlike “Antigone”. Our family were not in any way associated with a political ruling, but were only concerned about family reputation, a high importance to most families in the country.

Therefore our character suffered mostly from personal conflict and not political conflict. Creating the play made me realise that Sophocles’ form and structure for “Antigone” was ingenious. He obviously thought out everything thoroughly and devoted a lot of his time perfecting his plays. Our play was good mostly because it dealed with a taboo subject which is rarely discussed in the area. I think, however, that if our play was on any other subject we would not have been able to retain the audience’s attention.

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Scenes in an Ancient Greek play "Antigone". (2017, Sep 25). Retrieved from

Scenes in an Ancient Greek play "Antigone"
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