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What has drawn so many writers and dramatists to the story of Oedipus or Antigone?

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  • Essay length: 1603 words
  • Submitted: 08/02/2010
University Degree Other Play Writes

An extract from this essay...

What has drawn so many writers and dramatists to the story of Oedipus or Antigone?

Sophocles' Antigone, written circa 441BC, deals with the protagonist Antigone's fight to give her brother, Polyneices, the proper burial that had been denied him by the king, Creon. It is considered among the great Greek tragedies of the time, and is still translated in modern times. When Greece was succeeded by Rome as the great city of the West, the Romans were more concerned with power and commerce rather than culture, therefore Greek drama was pushed aside by the majority, except a small number of Roman playwrights (Bowra, 1970, p. 154), such as Seneca. However, around 16 centuries after the birth of Christ, a collection of the plays were put into print, heralding the return of Greek drama, which is now present in countless different ways in our culture.

As Knox explains in his preface to the plays, Sophocles was known to be one of nine generals campaigning against the revolt of Samos at the time the play is assumed to have been written (Sophocles, 1984, p. 35). His knowledge of politics is clearly reflected in his writing, and Antigone is no exception, as it is greatly concerned with the political issues of the polis (state). Political problems will always have great relevance in society, and Antigone has been used by many practitioners in the twentieth century 'to articulate new visions of how the individual relates to the state' (Wiles, 2000, p. 63). Jean Anouilh's translation is a clear example of how the political messages in the play are highly transferrable into twentieth century situations.

Anouilh's Antigone was produced in 1944 in Paris, when the country was in the grip of the Second World War, and occupied by the German army. Nazi regime was highly oppressive, with Hitler taking an extreme dictatorial position and in Sophocles' Antigone, Creon is also presented in this way when being described by Antigone herself, as a supreme ruler:

'Whoever disobeys in the least will die, his doom is sealed:

stoning to death inside the city walls!'

(Sophocles, 1984, p. 60)

In Knox's preface (Sophocles, 1984, p. 36), he states that in Anouilh's version, Antigone is identified with the French Resistance, made clear from the threats of torture which are characteristic of Gestapo. Although she commits suicide, Antigone could be

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