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Language - Antigone

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Introduction

The language of a play serves more than one role. In "Antigone", language is used to help identify the characters and chorus: characters speak more literally whilst the chorus speak metaphorically. The dialect of a character's language is used as an indicator of their social status. The variance of simple and complex language keeps the audience interested in the play. Finally, language sets the mood and atmosphere in sections of the play. However, as this is a play in translation certain problematic issues arise. Identification of characters is possible by observing differences in language. Haemon, as a royal, will speak differently than the Watchman. Both men attempt to tell Creon their views and these differences are visible. Haemon, who is of a higher class, is more educated and this is reflected in his style of speech: (line 699) "For this, hasn't she earned glory bright as gold?" Haemon is not only able to express his opinion tactfully, he raises a question using a simile which creates imagery. This contrasts the Watchman's language which is very simple: (line 238) "First, I want to tell you where I stand". ...read more.

Middle

"So where's it biting you? On your ears or in your mind?" Here the watchman's language is very informal when he is speaking to the king. The way that he is speaking is an indicator of his social status - lower status. If he is speaking to Creon in such a way he must be either ignorant or uneducated. A lack of education is obvious when the Watchman describes the place that Polyneices was buried (Line 249): "The ground was so hard and dry". A person of higher status would have made the statement a bit more elaborate or included a simile or metaphor especially as the news is very sensitive. However, as the Watchman is uneducated he does not have a wide vocabulary or knowledge of such language devices. A mixture of complex and simple language is used in Antigone. An example of how the language varies is monologues (complex) and stichomythia (simple). Monologues are spoken at a slow and comfortable pace which allows the speaker to order his choice of words and think about what he will say. ...read more.

Conclusion

The use of semantic fields is also visible when Antigone is about to die. Sophocles wants the audience to feel sorry for Antigone through her speech so he includes lots of guilt words such as: (page 39) "Hollow, Hope, Abandoned and Misery". Whilst the English edition of "Antigone" is very accurate, certain problems arise with this text in translation. The grammatical arrangement of words in Greek differs from the arrangement of words in English. The way that sentences were structured in Greek might have helped the audience understand the play or might have sounded more poetic. Yet as the language structure between English and Ancient Greek differs this is lost. The nuances of words are also lost as the play is a direct translation. The names of people in Ancient Greece had meanings. Antigone meant "born against". There are obvious parallels between Antigone's name and her character; she goes against Creon's wishes thus making her an antagonist. Yet, modern audiences fail to see the connection of Antigone's name and her character and see her as a protagonist. This has occurred because languages have evolved so much from the original forms of ancient Greek and Latin. ...read more.

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