Launchpad: Live From Antiquity

Live from Antiquity!

Section:  1 | 2 | 3

1) Read and discuss Antigone by Sophocles. Note about this edition: the arrows at the top-right corner of the text allow you to progress page by page through the work. The red mark on a blue bar along the top of the work shows how far you have progressed through the text.

2) Imagine that you are a time-traveling reporter sent back to the time of Sophocles to report on the opening of his new play, Antigone. Using the resources listed below, as well as resources in the school and public library, learn about aspects of Athenian life in the 5th century BCE. Your teacher might assign a specific topic in this research—family life, politics, the arts, religion, etc.—but everyone will explore the design and practices of the Athenian theater. Finally, test your knowledge using the Greek Stage Interactive, which is linked below.

  1. Where were Greek tragedies staged?
  2. What did the stage look like? Define the following terms: Theatron, Orchestra, Parados, Skene
  3. What kinds of props and scenery were used?
  4. When during the year were plays performed? When during the day?
  5. Who performed in them? What costumes did they wear?
  6. Who came to the plays? How did they behave? What were they looking for—entertainment? Knowledge? Enlightenment?
  7. What kinds of issues were addressed in plays?
  8. What was the playwright's role in the performance?

3) Working in a group, define the following Greek terms that are still used today in literature and theatre by using some of the following resources or others in your library. Then find an example of each in the play Antigone by clicking on Sophocles' Antigone, translated by Sir Richard Jebb.

To complete this task efficiently, you might divide the list of terms by the number of group members, assign terms, and work independently online to find your results. Then discuss with your group how the example reflects the definition and how it affects the play and the characters. Be ready to discuss your findings with the class and keep a detailed record of your findings in case your teacher asks for it.

Antigone, at the Perseus Project

Group 1
Compare the setting of the play to those of modern plays and how its limitations affect staging. Consider what happens in the key episodes and the motivations and actions of characters when in the public setting with the Chorus always present, hearing and seeing all. Speculate how dialogue and intensity would change with a private setting versus the public setting.

  • Anagnorisis
  • Catharsis
  • Deus ex Machina
  • Peripeteia
  • Stichomythia

Group 2
Note the important functions of the chorus and cite examples of these functions. Discuss any modern plays that incorporate a chorus (e.g. The Stage Manager in Our Town and the typical chorus in musicals) and any similarities and differences with the ancient play.

  • The Greek Chorus and its various functions (with an example of each)
  • Ode
  • Greek Theater, its structure and layout
  • Episode

Group 3

Discuss the importance of the audience's prior knowledge of the events of the plot and its impact on the audience's experience and appreciation of the performance. Follow with definitions of dramatic irony and foreshadowing and a discussion of their importance. Cite instances and their effect on the audience and the play.

  • Dramatic Irony (2 examples)
  • Pathos (2 examples)
  • Tragedy, its characteristics, and an example of each

Group 4
Discuss the concept of the tragic hero, comparing Creon with Antigone in terms of attributes and epiphany or lack of epiphany.

  • Tragedy
  • Tragic hero, his/her characteristics, and an example of each
  • Hamartia
  • Hubris