At the end of this lesson, students will be able to
Antigone is just one of seven plays that have survived from the many plays Sophocles wrote
during his lifetime.
Ancient cultures provide some of our deepest connections to the humanities, drawing life
from that distant time when the study of history, philosophy, arts, literature, and language
itself began. Through the study of literature, students can return to those times, re-enter
that age of discovery, and learn from their study the timeless nature of the human condition
and the profound effects of the human drama on people of any era.
Begin by having students read and discuss Antigone by Sophocles. If desired, introduce biographical information for Sophocles and note that students will investigate aspects of Greek drama during the course of the lesson.
1. the interlocking conflicts between men and women
2. age and youth
3. society and the individual,
4. human justice and divine law
5. the obligations we owe to the living and the dead.
Have students debate Antigone's choice, whether it betrays a tragic pride and inflexibility or
demonstrates an heroic dedication to virtue. Conclude this discussion by having students
comment on the relevance of this ancient play to contemporary life. When in recent history
have individuals been forced to choose between the law and human rights? (In this
connection, students might look into 20th-century versions of the play by Jean Anouilh and
Bertolt Brecht.) When in their own lives have they faced a choice like Antigone's, a choice
between obedience to authority and remaining true to one's conscience?
Have students imagine themselves time-traveling reporters sent back to the time of
Sophocles to report on the opening of his new play,An tigone. Working in small groups, they
can use the "Historical Overview" and the online "Encyclopedia" at the Perseus Project
website, as well as resources in the school and public library, to learn about aspects of
Athenian life in the 5th century B.C. Teachers might assign each group a specific topic in this
research\u2014family life, politics, the arts, religion, etc.\u2014but have all groups explore the design
and practices of the Athenian theater, as preparation for their report and presentation on
Follow up this research with a class discussion in which students share their findings and
begin to gain some imaginative command over the facts they have accumulated. Have
students explore the Greek Stage Interactive (requires Flash) to test their knowledge of the
components of the Greek Stage.
Next, have students consider the structure of the work and its similarities and differences to
plays of today. Begin by introducing the following vocabulary, some of which may be
unfamiliar to the students:
Alternatively, students can use some of the resources listed above (in Background) or on the LaunchPad, as well as traditional dictionaries and encyclopedic resources, to research these terms in conjunction with the group work listed below. On the EDSITEment LaunchPad, the terms and Group Activities are grouped together.
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.
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