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Comparing Sophocles' Antigone and Jean Anouilh's Antigone Essay

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Both Sophocles and Jean Anouilh use the simple story-line of a girl defying her uncle and king in the face of death to reflect upon the events and attitudes of their days. Sophocles' Antigone models the classical pattern of tragedy by incorporating key elements such as a tragic hero with a fatal flaw and the Man-God-Society triangle. Creon is the tragic hero who disturbs the natural harmony of Thebes by denying Polyneices a funeral. Antigone is the catalyst who forces him to reckon with the consequences of his pride and arrogance. In the twentieth century, Jean Anouilh takes Sophocles' drama, strips it down to its core, and weaves an entirely different version of the story. Anouilh redefines "tragedy" by removing the conventional tragic hero, the Man-God-Society triangle and the black-and-white distinctions within the story. He creates a heroine with human faults and emotions, whom society can both embrace and emulate, in order to criticize the Vichy collaboration with Nazi Germany during WWII.

Sophocles, following the Greek standard of tragedy, casts Creon as the tragic hero plagued by his own pride, inflexibility and power. Creon believes his authority to be twofold, both as the king and as the head of his family. He claims that the throne is the source of all power, saying ?whoever is chosen to govern should be obeyed ? must be obeyed, in all things, great and small, just and unjust? (Sophocles 217), and he demands the utmost allegiance from his son, bidding him to ?subordinate everything else?to [his] father?s will? (Sophocles 216). Creon is filled with hubris, and he rejects any solution that might compromise his image. For instance, when the guards escort Antigone to the palace, he demands of the Choragos, ?Who is the man...


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... as a framework to convey his points. Furthermore, Anouilh changes an extremely well known play. When this happens, humanity tends to see only the differences between the works. And the differences (such as the changes in Antigone?s and Creon?s characters, the gray area between right and wrong, and politics and duty as motivating forces) convey his real political message: criticism of the Vichy regime.




Works Cited

Anouilh, Jean.?Antigone.? Trans. Lewis Galantière. Jean Anouilh: Five Plays. New York: Hill and Wang, 1986. 1-53.

CNN World News. "French Catholics Apologize for World War II Silence on Jews." Web. 21 May 2015


Jean Anouilh Quotations. Web. 21 May 2015


Sophocles. Antigone Dover Thrift Editions New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1993


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