The Oedipus Plays Antigone Revision Notes
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Table of Contents
Greek theatre was very different from what we call theatre today. It was, first of all, part of a religious festival. To attend a performance of one of these plays was an act of worship, not entertainment or intellectual pastime. But it is difficult for us to even begin to understand this aspect of the Greek theatre, because the religion in question was very different from modern religions. The god celebrated by the performances of these plays was Dionysus, a deity who lived in the wild and was known for his subversive revelry. The worship of Dionysus was associated with an ecstasy that bordered on madness. Dionysus, whose cult was that of drunkenness and sexuality, little resembles modern images of God.
A second way in which Greek theatre was different from modern theatre is in its cultural centrality: every citizen attended these plays. Greek plays were put on at annual festivals (at the beginning of spring, the season of Dionysus), often for as many as 15,000 spectators at once. They dazzled viewers with their special effects, singing, and dancing, as well as with their beautiful language. At the end of each year’s festivals, judges would vote to decide which playwright’s play was the best.
Antigone was probably the first of the three Theban plays that Sophocles wrote, although the events dramatized in it happen last. Antigone is one of the first heroines in literature, a woman who fights against a male power structure, exhibiting greater bravery than any of the men who scorn her. Antigone is not only a feminist play but a radical one as well, making rebellion against authority appear splendid and noble. I...