So I know that no one else read this play, but I wanted to write a blog post anyways.
So I am almost done this weeks book Silencing the Past and I felt that seeing how I was this week, I needed to do something for myself. Since my house is being prepped for an open house, I have dug up some awesome old books (some even from the 1800s) anyhow, one of the books that i found was this compilation of 11 contemporary dramatic plays. Antigone by Jean Anouilh was one of them and since I had an hour bus ride to work, I thought I’d give it a spin.
The play opens with a one person chorus speaking about each of the characters. It almost seems as if the idea of “Antigone” is just a symbolism and how in every age this story is repeated- remodeled- if i may. When he describes Antigone, the Chorus states that “Another thing that she is thinking is this: she is going to die….She would much rather live than die…” which shows that perhaps Antigone isn’t this stoic character that she seems to be in Sophocles’s play (115). He states in this opening monologue that “…your name is Antigone, there is only one part you can play;…” (115)
The interesting thing about this Chorus is that he acts almost like the inner monologue of the other characters. He also puts judgments on these characters, especially Creon.
An interesting part of this play is you get to see what happens between the “prologue” and the re-entrance of Antigone in Sophocles’ play. We see a heart wrenching scene when she and Haemon share an intimate moment, before she gives him up (knowing she must die). Her almost goddess like state in the Greek tragedy is broken down in here early scenes with her Nurse. She admits that she is afraid of what is to come and that “you must keep me warm and safe, the way you used to do when I was little.” (119). In short Antigone is less of a hard ass and is likable in this rendition.
At the same time, Creon is also not so black and white. It is stated that before all this happened, he was content “collecting his manuscripts” (116) but felt like he had to take the power – it was the responsible thing to do. The best section of the play happens during the confrontation scene between Creon and Antigone. Creon states that he in fact likes Antigone and wants her to live for his son, but she is the stubborn one. He offers to allow her to live and kill the guards, but she states that if he does that, she will just go out again and do it again. She goes so far as to call herself “the queen” and spit in his face. This is very different from the distinguished and collected confrontation in the traditional play.
During our seminar, there was a large debate about the character Ismene, and whether she is a strong or weak character. In Jean Aouilh’s script. she begins as the ideal of beauty, and quickly does what people expect of her, but she is much more rational and she appears often in the beginning. As in Sophocles, she re-enters and declares that she wished to die too. Instead of rationalizing with Creon, she states that “if you [Antigone] die, I don’t want to live. I’ll do it alone tonight.” (132) Instead of being arrested, she escapes and it is assumed that she follows her sisters path because the chorus states that everyone, but the sentry, are dead. Although it takes her a little while, she eventually steps outside of what is right and does what is in her heart.
Instead of exiling himself, Creon solemnly exits towards a cabinet meeting, unable to properly mourn. He is the state, he does not get time to be the man.
I just want to share two quotes that I thought were incredible.
1) ” You have never seen inhuman forces at work? You will, tonight.”
The Chorus acts almost like a MC.
2) “Only the guards are left, and none of this matters to them. It’s no skin off their noses. They go on playing cards.”
If you get a chance, read this play. It really changed my perception of the whole myth. The play itself is just beautiful.