Comparing and contrasting versions of Antigone by Sophocles and Jean Anouilh
Comparing and contrasting versions of Antigone by Sophocles and Jean Anouilh

Comparing and contrasting versions of Antigone by Sophocles and Jean Anouilh

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  • Published: October 11, 2017
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In either version of Antigone, the plot is essentially the same.

The King forbids the burial of a traitor to the city of Thebes, but the man’s sister disobeys the order and is eventually killed, along with the King’s son and wife. The characters are relatively constant between the two versions. Ismene, Creon, Antigone, and the guards all play similar parts. Since these two plays are extremely alike, the similarities would be impossible to all list. However, on of the most interesting differences involves Antigone herself.

While her motives and understanding of the situation are the same, much of her inherent character is different between the two plays. As the titles of the plays would suggest, Antigone is one of the most significant characters to either production. The entire story centers around her. For this reason there are many opportunities to gain deep understanding of her character. Possibly the first scene in which we truly see Antigone’s character is in the scene where she is brought to Creon by the guards after having just made her second attempt to bury the body.There is no doubt that her justification for burying the body is the same in both texts.

In Sophocles’ she explains “There is no shame in honoring my brother” (pg 140), while in Anouilh’s she says “People who aren’t buried wander forever in search of rest” (pg 30). The justification she gives to Creon in both cases is essentially the same: She wants to go by her religious or cultural beliefs and but Polynices to rest by burying him. Another significant similarity is that in both plays,

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her initial determination and strong-headedness is the same.She has a snappy retort to everything Creon can throw at her. “Was not his enemy..

. your brother? ” (pg 140) says Creon in Sophocles’ play. Antigone fires back with “both were brothers, both of the same parents. ” (pg 140). Looking at the script for the old Greek version, it actually looks like Antigone is standing there and snapping back at anyone who would be so daring as to speak to her. Although she is not so rude to Creon in Anouilh’s Antigone, she is just as obstinate.

For instance: Creon: “Did you tell anyone what you were going to do” Antigone: “No. “Did you meet anyone along the way? ” “No. ” “Are you sure? ” “Yes” (pg 31). This just continues and continues, with Antigone’s attitude varying little between the plays. Underneath the surface similarities are some striking differences.

As mentioned previously, while Antigone is both rude and strong-headed in Sophocles’ play, Anouilh’s depicts a more firm but polite Antigone. While the Greek tragedy feels like a script, the characters all saying the lines they were told to say, the contemporary one appears to have more depth to the characters.Antigone is not just an idea, but a person. If you were to build a computer and program it with Antigone’s beliefs, it would respond to questions somewhat like Sohocles’ Antigone. If she actually existed, she would likely be more dynamic, and thus more like the recent version of Antigone.

This difference particularly sticks out

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when looking at the stage directions. When the old Antigone continues to pump out the one-liners, something strange happens to the new Antigone. The stage direction for her speech at the bottom of page thirty-one is “(silently)” (pg 31).This changes everything as far as tone of the play is concerned.

With a single line she has turned from a cold hard idea to a human being with emotions. This is further illustrated as Creon further grills her over burying Polynices. “(stopping, answering him quietly, without bravado)” (pg 43). What this illustrates is that with more time, there is much more that can be read into these characters than Sophocles’.

Although there is no doubt much depth in the ancient Antigone, it is in the plot and the ideas. Not the characters themselves.Both plays, old and new, have their merits. Comparing them is simple, as they are basically the same play. The differences are the more interesting element.

Sophocles wrote the first Antigone with an idea in mind. He turned that idea into the plot and concepts behind the play. Each character in his version represents and embodies only one idea that is born and dies with them. The new Antigone, on the other hand, is not just the carrying through of one idea, but a cast of characters exploring the space Jean Anouilh has put them in.This goes to show how one idea can be read so many different ways. Each version of the play would appeal to different people, which means that whether you prefer a cautionary tale, or a world fraught with peril, Antigone can accomplish something.

This is the change and transformation between the respective plays. With time, the show moves from a world of stark and frightening black and white to a world of troubling shades of grey. Although different, grey is still composed of black and white.

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