Modern French dramatist, Jean Anouilh, is a great tragic
playwright of the twentieth century. His best known work is
Antigone, a modern version of Sophocles’ tragedy. Anouilh’s
Antigone also provides a commentary on the Nazi occupation of
France. In rewriting the myth in modern times, Anouilh revives the
issue of free will under the power of the state.
Sophocles’ tragedy is set in Greece, but Anouilh wishes to indicate
the timeless, universal nature of this conflict of human law versus
divine law. He sets the play on a simple stage that could be
anywhere. There is a staircase of three steps forming a semicircle,
with two archways at the bottom. Curtains part in the center for
entrance and exit. A table and chairs on the left serve as the only
In one long scene, the play moves from early morning in the palace
of Thebes to high noon outside the city gates, with the guards
keeping watch over the dead body of Polynices. The action moves
next to Creon’s chamber and to his meeting and argument with
Antigone at the left center table, her prison cell. The final part
shifts to the Cave of Hades, outside the southeast gate of the city,
where Antigone is buried alive. Haemon finds her dead body. After
Creon enters, father and son fight, and Haemon stabs himself. The
final stage set presents Creon with his page. They move together
through the arch. The guards resume playing cards as if nothing
has happened.
The younger daughter of King Oedipus of Thebes, and Jocasta,
who is his mother. Antigone buries her brother, Polynices, against
the orders of the current King of Thebes, Creon. She is a tragic but
powerful figure, a rebel, and a quiet girl. Her character brings out
the conflict between human and divine law. She desires happiness,
but refuses compromise.
King of Thebes and brother of Jocasta. He is an art patron and a
leader of men. Judged to be strong-willed and fair, he is promoted
to the throne after the deaths of his nephews, Polynices and
Eteocles, who were the sons of Oedipus. Greatness is thrust upon
him, and like a conscientious worker, he does his job. He is too
proud to listen to his son or to the public. After the deaths of
Antigone, Haemon, and Eurydice, he is left alone. He stoically
decides to do his duty.
The elder daughter of King Oedipus. She is much more beautiful
than Antigone and also more obedient and less emotional. She
belongs to the world of law and order. She understands Creon’s
reason for issuing the edict that no one should bury Polynices, the
traitor brother of Antigone and Ismene.
humble, devoted old woman. She loves Antigone, but is worried
about her strange ways. She is also loyal to the princesses