By: Sophocles Level: Grades 11-12
Teaching Antigone by Sophocles
Antigone is a book that should be taught to mature audiences. One of Sophocles' three Theban plays, Antigone is a classic Greek tragedy. The questions posed by this classic play involve rights of an individual vs the laws of the government. It is a story of character and morality.
Your class should have many thoughtful discussions about the decisions Antigone makes, the responses her decisions provoke, and exactly who or what is "right" or "wrong." The novel units and other teaching resources below will help you guide the discussions as well as offer excellent activity ideas to help your students appreciate this classic Greek tragedy, Antigone.
If you are looking for help in understanding the play and knowing what passages are important to teach, the DramaWorks guide is very helpful for that as well as having role-playing exercises. The LitPlan has traditional study questions, vocabulary, writing assignments, and tests.
Summary of Antigone by Sophocles
The curse placed on Oedipus lingers and haunts a younger generation. The daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta, Antigone is an unconventional hero who pits her beliefs against the king of Thebes in a bloody test of wills that leaves few unharmed. Emotions fly as she challenges the king for the right to bury her own brother. Determined but doomed, Antigone shows her inner strength throughout the play.
Antigone’s resolve to do the right thing, in spite of the cost, becomes a riveting read. In the conflict between legitimate governmental authority attempting to do what it thinks is best for society and an individual who believes she has a moral responsibility to her dead brother, which one is in the right? This play will get even your most reluctant students involved.
A Brief Biography of Sophocles
Sophocles, the Greek tragic dramatist, was born at Colonus near Athens about 496 B.C. Although hopelessness and misfortune plague the characters in his great plays, Sophocles's own life was a long, prosperous one. He was from a good family, well educated, handsome, wealthy, healthy, and highly respected by his fellow Athenians.
His first dramatic production, in 468, won the prize over Aeschylus's. He wrote two dozen more plays before 450, by which date he had made important changes in the form of tragedy by adding a third speaking actor to the traditional two, by reducing the importance of the chorus, and by improving the stage scenery.
Sophocles wrote over 120 plays; seven complete plays survive (plus half a light satyr play, some fragments, and ninety titles). Aristotle, in his Poetics, praised Sophocles above other tragedians and regarded his masterpiece, Oedupus The King, as a model for Greek tragedy. Sophocles's plays won more victories than the plays of either his older contemporary Aeschylus or the younger Euripides.
The circumstances of his life, as well as his plays, suggest that Sophocles was conservative, and opposed to innovation in religion and politics. At eighty-three he was still active in the Athenian government. He died in 406 B.C. in Athens at the age of ninety.