Resources for English II unit on Antigone by Sophocles, translated by David R. Slavitt -- essay topics included!

The play, Antigone, is the third in a trilogy. The first and most important in order to understand Antigone is a play called Oedipus Rex. This video provides an overview of the story:

For quick reference, here is a drawing of Oedipus and Antigone's family tree:

As a quick reference resource, here is a chart of the family tree of Oedipus and Antigone's family.

Summary of key features of the Aristotelian tragedy:

Read the first two sections of this website, summarizing Joseph Campbell's concept of "The Hero's Journey" and Maureen Murdock's concept of "The Heroine's Journey":

Very cool article if you write stories and want to test out your characters using the heroine's journey!

Literary Essay, Antigone by Sophocles, trans. by David R. Slavitt

Instructions: For the final assessment of your work with Antigone by Sophocles, translated by David R. Slavitt, you will select one of the following essay questions and answer it in a thesis-driven, five paragraph analytical essay. Your essay should meet the following criteria:

  • Length: five paragraphs for a total of at least 650 words and no more than 1,150 words;
  • Quotes: Each body paragraph should include at least one direct quotation that is embedded in a flowing sentence and properly cited;
  • Formatting: Use MLA formatting, including in-text parenthetical citations for all quotations, a title, double-spacing, last name and page numbers in the header, and one inch margins; a MLA-formatted Bibliography page.
  • Electronic Submission: Submitted electronically through Google Classroom …
  • AND Hard Copy Submission: Submit in hard copy at the beginning of class on the due date.

Antigone by Sophocles, translated by David R. Slavitt, can correctly be analyzed through a variety of thematic lenses. Each of the following questions focuses on one particular theme. Pick one of the following questions and respond in the format described above.

  • 1) Fate or freewill? Greek storytellers often examine the extent of human power and the point at which humans are controlled by fate (i.e., circumstances beyond their control). Some stories glorify human potential, while others suggest that the course of human life is completely preordained by the gods. In the closing lines of Antigone, Creon says, “All I want is the end I have prayed for,” to which the First Chorister responds, “Prayers? At this point, Fate has taken over” (58). One could argue, however, that fate had taken over much earlier in the play. At what point in the story did fate take control of Creon’s path in Antigone? Justify your answer.
  • 2) What’s worth fighting for? Antigone is filled with characters who decide to fight for causes knowing that the odds are stacked against them. These characters “consider the risk,” as Ismene warns Antigone in the Prologue, and choose to pursue what they believe to be just, regardless of what others may think or do. Compare and contrast two characters in Antigone who took a stand for a cause. Were their causes worth the risk? Why or why not?
  • 3) What’s worth dying for? In the Prologue, Sophocles reminds the audience that Antigone has experienced more than her share of shame and despair in her young life. Most recently, her brother, Polyneices, led an army to fight for sole control of the throne in Thebes, whose army was led by their brother, Eteocles, resulting in the deaths of both brothers. In response to this egregiously traitorous act, Creon, Antigone’s uncle, declares that anyone who attempts to bury Polyneices, the traitor, shall be stoned. Why does Antigone choose this moment to defy the all-male leadership? Did she make the right choice? Why or why not?
  • 4) The Hero’s Journey or the Heroine’s Journey? In class, we have discussed the application of Joseph Campbell’s concept of the Hero’s Journey (from his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces) and Maureen Murdock’s concept of the Heroine’s Journey (from her book by the same name). Which of these two models is more useful for analyzing Antigone? With reference to specific stages of the model you selected and specific examples from the text, explain your answer. (Do not write in the first person.)
  • 5) Can women fight against men? Creon’s repeated jabs at women throughout Antigone remind the audience that, in ancient Greece, women were truly second class citizens. Women could not vote, could not inherit property, and could not appear in court as jurors or litigants. Respectable women stayed out of the agora (the public meeting space) and were expected to spend most of their time at home. Thanks in part to the influence of ancient Greece on modern western culture, modern women frequently continue to be viewed as, and view themselves as, less powerful, less capable, and less worthy of respect than men. As Ismene tells Antigone in the Prologue, “We are mere women and cannot fight against men. The laws of the state have force behind them. We must submit and obey even in so painful a thing as this” (Slavitt 4). Based on Antigone, is Ismene right? Why or why not?

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