Once upon a Greek stage

Summary

Oedipus and Jocasta had been the king and the Queen of Thebes respectively. There were four children in the royal family; Antigone, Ismene her sister and two brothers Polynices and Eteocles; who were twins. When King Oedipus and Jocasta died, the twin sons were both eligible to succeed their father and both of them wanted to rule Thebes. Later they came up with what seemed like a reasonable solution. Eteocles was to rule for one year and Polynices for the next. Whichever one was having his year off was to leave Thebes. But it didn’t work. It was full of loopholes. When Eteocles year of ruling was over, he decided he didn’t want to give up the throne. Polynices wasn’t about to let him away with that. So he gathered an army and attacked Thebes. Somehow in the scuffle, he and Eteocles got into a hand to hand fight right at the edge of the city and killed each other. Women didn’t rule in those days. So, their uncle Creon came into the picture. Although, Creon didn’t really want the throne, he became the king of Thebes. But King Creon and his nieces; Antigone and Ismene certainly didn’t live happily ever after. Creon, the new ruler of Thebes, has declared that Eteocles will be honored and Polynices disgraced. The rebel brother's body will not be sanctified by holy rites, and will lay unburied to become the food of carrion animals. Antigone and Ismene the sisters of the dead brothers are now the last children of the illfated Oedipus. Antigone wants to bury Polynices' body, in defiance of Creon's decree. Ismene refuses to help her, fearing the death penalty, but she is unable to dissuade Antigone from going to do the deed by herself. Creon enters, along with the Chorus. He seeks their support in the days to come, and in particular wants them to back his decree regarding the disposal of Polynices' body. A Sentry enters, fearfully reporting that the body has been buried. A furious Creon orders the Sentry to find the culprit or face death himself. The Sentry leaves, but after a short absence he returns, bringing Antigone with him. Creon questions her, and she does not deny what she has done. She argues unflinchingly with Creon about the morality of the decree and the morality of her actions. Creon grows angrier, and, thinking Ismene must have helped her, summons the girl. Ismene tries to confess falsely to the crime, wishing to die alongside her sister, but Antigone will have none of it. Antigone was condemned to death by starvation by the king. Ismene pleaded for Antigone’s release but everything went in vain. Haemon, Creon's son and Antigone's fiancé, enters to pledge allegiance to his father. He initially seems willing to obey Creon, but when Haemon gently tries to persuade his father to spare Antigone, the discussion deteriorates and the two men are soon bitterly insulting each other. Haemon leaves, vowing never to see Creon again. Teiresias, the blind prophet, enters. He warns Creon that the gods side with Antigone. He Warned Creon about the anger of Gods. He told King Creon that the denial of burial to Polynices had angered the Gods and Gods would take revenge and punish Creon and his generations. Creon accuses Teiresias of being corrupt. Teiresias adds that all will despise the King and the sacrificial offerings of Thebes will not be accepted by the gods. Finally persuaded by Teiresias, King Creon decides to bury Polynices and rescue Antigone. After the burial of Polynices, reaching the cave, Haemon and Creon find Antigone dead, hanged by a noose made from her dress. Enraged by his father’s act for causing the tragedy, Haemon tries to kill King Creon but then turns the sword on himself and dies at Antigone’s feet. Hearing all these, Haemon’s mother, Eurydice too commits suicide by consuming poison. In the end of the play, the stage is full of dead bodies and the play turns to be one of the greatest tragedies of all times. Characters Antigone
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Antigone is both the daughter and the sister of Oedipus (since he married his own mother). Now that Oedipus and his brothers are dead, Antigone and Ismene are the last of the family. After her father went into exile, Antigone and her sister were raised in the house of Creon. Her brothers Polynices and Eteocles were casualties in a brutal war for power, each brother dying by the other's hand. Creon has declared that Eteocles will be honored with burial since he was a defender of Thebes, while Polynices' body is left to the vultures and dogs. It is this decree that drives Antigone to defy the state, since she believes her brother Polynices deserves the same treatment as Eteocles. She was condemned to death by starvation but hanged herself by a noose made from her dress. Some critics see Antigone as too self-righteous, even alienating, but others claim her as a seminal feminist, determined to do what is right even in defiance of patriarchal law. Indeed, Antigone captured the public imagination immediately after the first performance of the play more than 2,500 years ago, as her deeds expanded the possibilities of human action, reconceived the role of women in society, and delineated a new type of character, one who sets her individual conscience and belief in divine principle above and against the power and authority of the state. Ismene Antigone's last surviving sibling, Ismene is the foil for her stronger sister. In comparison to Antigone she has almost no agency, primarily because she is utterly terrified of disobeying men in power. She does not believe that women should ever violate the laws of men, since they are stronger and deserve subservience. Ismene does not help to bury Polynices, but tries to claim responsibility for the burial later so that she can die with Antigone. Antigone refuses her help and Ismene is spared. Ismene thinks that law is above all and breaking law is insanity. She is afraid of law–breaking and advices Antigone to keep away from it.This reflects both her great love for her family and her place as a symbol of the status quo who is rewarded for remembering her place. Creon The ruler of Thebes in the wake of war, Creon cherishes order and loyalty above all else. He cannot bear to be defied any more than he can bear to watch the laws of the state defied. He has Polynices' body defiled while Eteocles is honored because he feels that he cannot give equal to share to both brothers when one was a traitor and the other was loyal. He believed in the rule of law irrespective of the position of the subject. For him a broken law is a broken law brokers must be punished and in his pride he condemns Antigone, defies the gods, and brings ruin on himself. Haemon Haemon is the son of Creon and Eurydice and is engaged to be married to Antigone. In a dramatic dialogue with his father, Haemon defends the moral basis of Antigone's actions while warning his father that the people of Thebes sympathize with her determination to bury Polynices. He and his father part in anger, as he simply asks his father to do what's right for Thebes, and his father stubbornly follows the path of least resistance. Haemon's devotion to Antigone is clear; at her death, he is so distraught that he tries to kill his father and then kills himself. Teiresias Teiresias, or Tiresias, is a blind prophet who warns Creon that the gods do not approve of his treatment of Polynices' body or the punishment of Antigone. He makes offerings to the Gods and can tell the future from the things that appear in the smoke. In smoke he noticed an explosion and saw birds tearing their flesh from each others body. It refers to the fact denial of burial to Polynices will be avenged. Creon insults Teiresias, believing that he's simply blackmailing him, but the prophet responds with a prophecy foretelling the death of one of Creon's children and a warning that all will despise the king if he does not relent. Creon realizes that Teiresias has never been wrong and that he must do his bidding. The prophet’s is an important part in the play: through Teiresias, the will of the gods is made known, and his very existence implies that there is a definite will of the gods that is far above the domain of man's law. Messenger A Sentry a soldier placed outside the palace in order to watch or guard it. He also brings messages to the king and guards the dead body of Polynices. The Messenger even reports the death of Antigone and Haemon to Eurydice. The Messenger reports Eurydice's suicide to Creon. Creon, already broken by Haemon's death, is forced to confront the suicide of his wife as well. Eurydice Eurydice is Creon's wife and Haemon's mother. Broken by her son's suicide, she kills herself, calling curses down on Creon for having caused the tragedy.
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Flutist: Gives flute introduction to the characters on the stage.

Chorus: In classical Greek drama, chorus was a group of actors who described and commented upon the main action of a play with songs, dances and recitations. They interpreted the action at various points in the play. They are the backbone of the play. Chorus is informant. They comment about characters, incidents about, past, present and future. Audience: Female character makes response and presents reactions. Antigone and Ismene contrast in opinion When faced with injustice, Antigone and Ismene react quite differently - the former aggressively, progressively, and the latter more conservatively. Ismene is not so much afraid of injustice as she is frightened of her own demise - and she cannot bear to incur the wrath of men for fear of being condemned to the same fate as the rest of her family. After watching her brothers die, she believes that the best course of action is to lie low and obey. In the case of Ismene, it seems inaction is tied to fear-at least until she willingly offers to die next to Antigone, at which point we realize that she is not so much inactive as she is unsure of her place as a woman. Thus, while Ismene is a figure characterized principally by doubt, Antigone is one who plunges ahead purely on self-belief and her firm convictions about right and wrong. Ultimately, then, because of these fundamental differences in philosophy, they cannot die together, though Ismene wants to. Antigone forbids it. Conflict: Individual versus State; Conscience versus Law; Moral or Divine Law versus Human Law These three conflicts are very closely related, but this crude set of pairings helps to untangle some of the central issues of the play. Antigone and her values line up with the first entity in each pair, while Creon and his values line up with the second. Antigone continues to be a subversive and powerful play, and the inspiration for generations of rebels and dissidents. The conflict between the individual and the power of the state was as pressing for Greek audiences as it is to modern ones. Antigone is a threat to the status quo; she invokes divine law as defense of her actions, but implicit in her position is faith in the discerning power of her individual conscience. She sacrifices her life out of devotion to principles higher than human law. Creon makes a mistake in sentencing her-and his mistake is condemned, in turn, by the gods-but his position is an understandable one. In the wake of war, and with his reign so new, Creon has to establish his authority as supreme. On the other hand, Creon's need to defeat Antigone seems at times to be extremely personal. At stake is not only the order of the state, but his pride and sense of himself as a king and, more fundamentally, a man. 1. What is the role of the chorus in the play “Once Upon A Greek Stage”? A. In classical plays, chorus a group of actors who described and commented upon the main action of a play with songs, dancers and recitations. Then interpreted the action at various points in the play. In the play “Once Upon A Greek Stage”, chorus is informant. The chorus comments about characters, incidents, about past, present and future. 2. What is the role of the Audience in the play, “Once upon a Greek Stage”? A. Audience is a female character who makes responses and presents reactions. Audience is sounding board and audience is reaction. 3. What is the theme of the play “Once Upon A Greek Stage”? A. The play “Once Upon A Greek Stage”, deals with the universal themes of loyalty, patriotism and reverence for the law of the country. 4. What was the contrast in the opinions of King Creon and Princess Antigone regarding law? A. According to King Creon, laws set by the state must be obeyed by all irrespective of their position. For Princess Antigone, family affections and obligations were more important and law could be broken on grounds of humanity and justice. 5. What was the decision taken by Eteocles and Polynices regarding the succession to the throne?
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A. They decided that Eteocles would rule for one year and Polynices for the next. Whoever was
having his year off was to live Thebes, their kingdom. 6. What lead to the death of Eteocles and Polynices? A. When Eteocles’ year of ruling was over, he decided that he wouldn’t give up the throne to Polynices as per their agreement. Polynices wasn’t ready to let him away with the throne. Polynices gathered an army and attacked Thebes. Some how in the scuffle, Polynices and Eteocles got into a hand-to-hand fight right at the edge of the city and killed each other. 7. What decision did King Creon take after the death of the twin brothers, Eteocles and Polynices? A. King Creon decided that Eteocles should have a state funeral (burial) with all the get up and pizzazz and that Polynices, as he had attacked the city, should be left unburied. 8. What according to the chorus were the details of King Creon’s decree? A. In his decree, King Creon ordered that Polynices was to be left unburied in the battle field because he had attacked the city. He also gave a warning to the people that anyone who tried to burry Polynices was to be put to death. 9. What did Antigone comment about the order from King Creon? A. Princess Antigone told Ismene an order from the king that disregards decency and honour is an order to be ignored. 10. What did Ismene say about Antigone’s decision to bury Polynices? A. Ismene considered the decision of Antigone as insanity (madness) and Ismene tried to prevent Antigone violating the order of King Creon, their uncle. 11. How did Creon become the king? A. In ancient days, women didn’t rule the land. After the death of Oedipus- the king and the twin brothers Eteocles and Polynices, the chance had fallen on Creon, their uncle and thus he became the king of Thebes. 12. What reasons did Antigone give Ismene for burying Polynices? A. According to Antigone, through the burial of Polynices, Creon would realize what an evil thing he had done. Moreover she was not ready to see her brothers body left for the vultures and stray dogs. 13. What was the report given by Sentry who was guarding Polynices dead body in the battle field? A. The sentry reported that Polynices had been buried. Someone had sprinkled dirt on the dead body of Polynices to keep the smell down.

14. What order did King Creon give to the Sentry after his report of Polynices’ burial?
A. The king had told the sentry to get back to his post of duty and find out who had defied the king’s order and buried the dead body of Polynices. 15. What was the justification given by Antigone to King Creon for burying her brother Polynices? A. Princess Antigone told King Creon that she couldn’t bear to have her brother’s soul wander eternally and find no rest. Moreover, King Creon hadn’t given a decent burial to Prince Polynices. So she gave a burial to her brother. 16. What was King Creon’s opinion about broken law and law breakers? A. According to King Creon a broken law is a broken law and law breakers must be punished. Princess Antigone won’t be any exception even though she is King Creon’s niece. 17. What was the punishment given by King Creon to Princess Antigone for burying her brother Polynices? A. King Creon ordered to put Antigone into a cave outside the gates of Thebes. She would undergo death by starvation. He also ordered his soldiers to seal the entrance of the cave so that the cave would be the tomb of Antigone. 18. What did chorus comment about Antigone’s decision to bury Polynices? A. According to the chorus, Antigone was a brave girl.
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19. What was the opinion of the audience about Antigone’s decision? A. Audience considered her decision as insanity. Audience was not able to find any reasonable reason in getting killed herself to bury someone who was already dead for audience that was not bravery but foolishness or madness.

20. What was the reaction of Prince Haemon to the punishment given to his lady love, Princess Antigone? A. Prince Haemon, Antigone’s fiancé, was extremely upset over the whole thing. He also justified Antigone’s actions and considered that a right decision. He also warned his father about the ruin of the royal family and the anger of Gods.

21. What did Tiresias see on that morning while he made offerings at the ‘alter of God’? A. That Morning, at his alter, while he made a burnt offering, smoke exploded in the air and his boy
told him in the midst that he saw birds tearing flesh from each other’s bodies. 22. What was the meaning of that vision? A. According to Tiresias, it represented God rejecting the prayers. The state was sick and King Creon’s decision not to bury Polynices had caused it. 23. What was the warning given to King Creon by Tiresias the blind prophet? A. Tiresias, the blind prophet, warned King Creon that he had angered the Gods. According to Tiresias, the denial of burial to Polynices would by avenged. It would come back to haunt Creon and his family for generations.

24. What was a special about the messenger in “Once Upon A Greek Stage”? A. The messenger in “Once Upon A Greek Stage” wore laurel leaves on his head. Messengers always
wore laurel leaves. 25. What was the change in the decision of King Creon after the warnings given by Tiresias, the blind prophet? A. After the warning, King Creon decided to bury Polynices with full honours due to the dead. He also decided to go to the cave where Antigone was imprisoned and free her. 26. What happened to Antigone in the end and how did Haemon react to that? A. When King Creon and others reached the cave to free Antigone, they found Antigone dead hanged by a noose made from her dress. When Haemon saw her, he was so distraught (sad the upset) that drew his sword, turned on himself and died at Antigone’s feet. 27. What happened to Eurydice, Creon’s wife? A. Eurydice, Creon’s wife and the mother of Haemon, took poison and committed suicide, hearing about the sad end of Haemon and Antigone. 28. What, according to the Chorus, was the opinion of Philosopher Aristotle about drama? A. Aristotle, a great philosopher said that drama is a fine way of teaching a universal truth.

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