Themes, Motifs, & Symbols within Antigone (Jean Anouilh)

Theme: Nature of Tragedy In a meta-theatrical commentary, The Chorus comments on how tragedy is a machine in perfect order. The function of the machine progressing orderly as time progresses. The tragic plot is a tension of a spring, a haphazard event setting it on an inexorable (inevitable) march.Anouilh comments on the nature of tragedy, and the paradoxical suspense of the genre: “What was beautiful and is still beautiful about the time of the Greeks is knowing the end in advance. That is “real” suspense…” In tragedy, everything has already happened, the characters are merely playing their part in carrying out the inevitable events and completing the tragedy. Tragedy is flawless in this sense, as all is inevitable. Nothing will change no matter what intervention is attempted.
Theme: Sister’s Rivalry The characters of Ismene and Antigone appear as rivals and foils. Ismene is reasonable, timid, obedient, full-figured, and beautiful.Antigone is recalcitrant (goes against authority, defies hegemony), impulsive, and moody. There is also rivalry in terms of physical aspects, such as femininity. Ismene is a beautiful girl, a woman that men want. Antigone is beautiful in her own way, but not so much aesthetically. Antigone hates the femininity that Ismene possesses.
Motif: The Chorus see notes on The Chorus in other Antigone quizlet set
Motif: Tragic Beauty Antigone’s insistence on burying her brother causes her (a tragic heroine) to have her downfall. It makes her a monstrous irrational being. During her conversation with Creon, Anouilh expresses Antigone’s tragic beauty through her resemblance of her father, Oedipus. Oedipus’ moment of beauty came when he realized that there was no hope for him. Antigone becomes beautiful when she realizes and accepts this, when she commits suicide.
Symbol: Grey World Like many of Anouilh’s heroines, Antigone wanders in this gray “nowhere,” a world beyond the “post card” universe of the waking
Symbol: Creon’s Attack Creon who is the figure for state power is enraged by Antigone’s defiance of the rules. Creon squeezes her out of his frustration to the point where her arm is numb. This reflects how Antigone has passed the realm of any state power having influence on her reaction.
Symbol: Eurydice’s Knitting As the Chorus remarks, Queen Eurydice’s function in the tragedy is to knit in her room until she dies. She is Creon’s final lesson, her death leaving him utterly alone. In the report of her suicide, Eurydice will stop her knitting and the stab herself with her needle. The end of her knitting is the end of her life, evoking the familiar Greek myth of the life-thread spun, measured, and cut by the Fates.

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