English Wlit: Antigone and Visit

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An audience encountering an unfamiliar story pays more attention to the story than to its treatment; of necessity, then, such a play must be richer in detail and circumstances than one with a well-known story line.

                                                                  - Friedrich Durrenmatt, Selected Writings Vol. 3

        The Plot is the first principle, the most important feature of tragedy. In his Poetics Aristotle states that, tragedies where the outcome depends on a tightly constructed cause-and-effect chain of actions are superior to those that depend primarily on the character of the protagonist. Conflicts originate in the characters’ wrestling with forces and result in moving the main action of the play forward.

          The protagonists of Jean Anouilh’s Antigone and August Strindberg’s Miss Julie break all stereotypical gender prototypes. Keeping this context in mind, one realizes that the conflicts and tensions within Antigone and Miss Julie and their societal norms, lie at the heart of these two innovative theatrical masterpieces. In these Tragedies, the authors have used, well defined gender conflicts which have definitely helped in advancing the plot, giving the characters reasons for their actions and bringing about unity of action, an integral part of a Classical Plot structure.

         The political backdrop of Antigone is the French Resistance Movement. The entire play is an allegorical reference to this movement. Antigone’s rebellious act against Creon brings out the gender conflict, an undercurrent running throughout this play and is meant to inspire the movement to revolt against the Nazi occupation in France. J.L Styan states that “Anouilh was a dramatist before he was a politician, and it was a matter of pure chance that Antigone met the need for an anti-Nazi play. However the main ideological underpinning behind Miss Julie is the theory of Social Darwinism which brings out the concept of Natural Selection within civilized society as well. With Strindberg’s history of his step mother trying to dominate his father, his misogyny  is a natural outcome and is evident in Miss Julie in the form of gender conflict. These sexual tensions and racial conflicts ignite in a struggle for power, freedom and social change during the Oscarian period in Sweden.  Hence both these playwrights use gender conflict as a vehicle for conveying their thoughts.

         The Domestic Tragedy Miss Julie is set in the kitchen of the Count’s house with features of a typical Swedish manor house kitchen because that is the only place where Miss Julie could interact with the servants and give us insights into the thoughts of the lower class. This insight helps us learn about Julie’s misogyny and Jean’s gender dominance. On the other hand, the setting of Antigone is universal and is “set without historical or geographical implicationsas the opening sentence of the diadascalia itself indicates. Just as Anouilh had adapted Sophocles’ original play and the Greek myth to political advantage during the 1940s, other producers could adapt it to their own settings and interpretations of characters. In a few productions, the role of the page is played by a woman as opposed a man. The page being a woman emphasies on the importance of this gender being the basic advisor in Creon’s life.

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           Antigone’s refusal to accept the traditional role of a dutiful fiancé and wife is at the root cause of the main complications that arise in the plot. Her rebellion is foreshadowed when the Chorus says that Antigone will suddenly stop being the “thin dark girl whose family didn’t take her seriously and rise up alone against everyoneand creates a mood of anxiety. The mood in Miss Julie, is one of passion and foreboding which is created by the romantic environment of the midsummer night, the influence of the aphrodisiac, the absence of the count ...

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