Antigone

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Antigone in front of the dead Polyneices by Nikiforos Lytras 1865

In Greek mythology, Antigone (/ænˈtɪɡəni/ ann-TIG-ə-nee; Greek: Ἀντιγόνη) is the daughter of Oedipus and his mother Jocasta. The meaning of the name is, as in the case of the masculine equivalent Antigonus, "worthy of one's parents" or "in place of one's parents".

Mythology[edit]

Genealogy of Antigone

Antigone is the subject of a story in which she attempts to secure a respectable burial for her brother Polynices. Oedipus's sons, Eteocles and Polynices, had shared the rule jointly until they quarrelled, and Eteocles expelled his brother. In Sophocles' account, the two brothers agreed to alternate rule each year, but Eteocles decided not to share power with his brother after his tenure expired. Polynices left the kingdom, gathered an army and attacked the city of Thebes in a conflict called the Seven Against Thebes. Both brothers were killed in the battle.

King Creon, who has ascended to the throne of Thebes after the death of the brothers, decrees that Polynices is not to be buried or even mourned, on pain of death by stoning. Antigone, Polynices' sister, defies the king's order but is caught.

In the oldest version of the story, the burial of Polynices takes place during Oedipus' reign in Thebes, before Oedipus marries his mother, Jocasta. However, in other versions such as Sophocles' tragedies Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone, it occurs in the years after the banishment and death of Oedipus and Antigone's struggles against Creon.

Antigone is brought before Creon, and admits that she knew of Creon's law forbidding mourning for Polynices but chose to break it, claiming the superiority of divine over human law, and she defies Creon's cruelty with courage, passion and determination.

Sophocles' Antigone ends in disaster. Creon orders Antigone buried alive in a tomb. Although Creon has a change of heart and tries to release Antigone, he finds she has hanged herself. Creon's son Hæmon, who was in love with Antigone commits suicide with a knife, and his mother Queen Eurydice, also kills herself in despair over her son's death. She has been forced to weave throughout the entire story, and her death alludes to The Fates.

Sophocles' play is a typical Greek tragedy, in which inherent flaws of the acting characters lead to irrevocable disaster. Antigone and Creon are prototypical tragic figures in an Aristotelian sense, as they struggle towards their fore-doomed ends, forsaken by the gods.

Euripides' lost story[edit]

The dramatist Euripides also wrote a play called Antigone, which is lost, but some of the text was preserved by later writers and in passages in his Phoenissae. In Euripides, the calamity is averted by the intercession of Dionysus and is followed by the marriage of Antigone and Hæmon.[1] Antigone also plays a role in Euripides' extant play The Phoenician Women.

Appearance elsewhere[edit]

Different elements of the legend appear in other places. A description of an ancient painting by Philostratus (Imagines ii. 29) refers to Antigone placing the body of Polynices on the funeral pyre, and this is also depicted on a sarcophagus in the Villa Doria Pamphili in Rome. And in Hyginus' version of the legend, founded apparently on a tragedy by some follower of Euripides, Antigone, on being handed over by Creon to her lover Hæmon to be slain, is secretly carried off by him and concealed in a shepherd's hut, where she bears him a son, Maeon. When the boy grows up, he attends some funeral games at Thebes, and is recognized by the mark of a dragon on his body. This leads to the discovery that Antigone is still alive.[1] The demi-god Heracles then intercedes and pleads with Creon to forgive Hæmon, but in vain. Hæmon then kills Antigone and himself.[2] The intercession by Heracles is also represented on a painted vase (circa 380–300 BC).[3][4]

Gallery[edit]

Cultural references[edit]

Adaptations[edit]

The story of Antigone has been a popular subject for books, plays, and other works, including:

Writings on[edit]

In the works of Hegel, in particular in his discussion of Sittlichkeit in his Phenomenology of Spirit and his Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Antigone is figured as exposing a tragic rift between the so-called feminine "Divine Law," which Antigone represents, and the "Human Law," represented by Creon. The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan writes about the ethical dimension of Antigone in his Seminar VII, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis. Others who have written on Antigone include theorist Judith Butler, in her book Antigone's Claim, as well as philosopher Slavoj Žižek, in various works, including Interrogating the Real (Bloomsbury: London, 2005) and The Metastases of Enjoyment (Verso: London, 1994).

Contemporary productions[edit]

A new translation of Antigone into English by the Canadian poet Anne Carson has been used in a production of the play produced by BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) and put on at the BAM Harvey Theatre in Brooklyn, New York. The performance featured Juliette Binoche as Antigone, with Ivo van Hove as the director. The play ran from September 24 to October 4, 2015.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Antigone (1)". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 125.
  2. ^ Scott Smith, R.; Trzaskoma, Stephen; Pseudo-Apollodorus; Hyginus (2007). Apollodorus' Library and Hyginus' Fabulae: two handbooks of Greek mythology. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-87220-820-9.
  3. ^ Heydermann, Heinrich (1868). Über eine nacheuripideische Antigone [On a post-Euripideian Antigone] (in German). Berlin: Adolph Enslin. ISBN 978-1-160-28969-6. OCLC 601932362.
  4. ^ Sophocles; Jebb, R. C. (1890). Sophocles: The Plays and Fragments. Cambridge: CUP Archive.
  5. ^ commissioned by the Royal Ballet, 1959
  6. ^ Brecht, Bertolt (1948). Antigonemodell 1948 (in German). Berlin: Gebrüder Weiss Verlag. LCCN 50056426. OCLC 1456885.
  7. ^ Charles Spencer (31 May 2012). "Antigone, National Theatre, review". Telegraph.co.uk.
  8. ^ Antigone at Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Further reading[edit]