What A Piece of Work is Man: Reading Sophocles’ “Antigone” Online

Sophocles, Antigone 559-60

“My soul died long ago
so I could give  help to the dead.”

ἡ δ᾽ ἐμὴ ψυχὴ πάλαι τέθνηκεν,
ὥστε τοῖς θανοῦσιν ὠφελεῖν.

Sophocles, Antigone 332-341

“There are many wonders and none
is more awe-inspiring than humanity.
This thing that crosses the sea
as it whorls under a stormy wind
finding a path on enveloping waves.
It wears down imperishable Earth, too,
the oldest of the gods, a tireless deity,
as the plows trace lives from year to year
drawn by the race of horses….”

?Ο. Πολλὰ τὰ δεινὰ κοὐδὲν ἀν-
θρώπου δεινότερον πέλει·
τοῦτο καὶ πολιοῦ πέραν
πόντου χειμερίῳ νότῳ
χωρεῖ, περιβρυχίοισιν
περῶν ὑπ’ οἴδμασιν, θεῶν
τε τὰν ὑπερτάταν, Γᾶν
ἄφθιτον, ἀκαμάταν, ἀποτρύεται,
ἰλλομένων ἀρότρων ἔτος εἰς ἔτος,
ἱππείῳ γένει πολεύων.

RGTO.Antigone.poster

The Center for Hellenic Studies , the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ with discussion and interpretation during our time of isolation and social distancing. As Paul O’Mahony, whose idea this whole thing was said in an earlier blog post, Since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.

Each week we select scenes from a play, actors and experts from around the world, and put them all together for 90 minutes or so to see what will happen. This process is therapeutic for us; and it helps us think about how tragedy may have had similar functions in the ancient world as well.

Sophocles, Antigone 737

“The state which belongs to one man is no state at all.”

πόλις γὰρ οὐκ ἔσθ᾽ ἥτις ἀνδρός ἐσθ᾽ ἑνός.

This week we turn to Sophocles’ Antigone, arguably one of the most famous plays from antiquity. Alongside Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannos and Euripides’ Bacchae, Antigone is one of the most re-interpreted and translated plays in the last generation. Its reputation is well-deserved both for some of the most memorable and moving poetic passages to the seemingly harsh simplicity of its plot which forces the title character to choose between obeying the laws of the gods or obeying the laws of the state. This choice to bury her brother against the decree of her uncle Creon seals Antigone’s fate to die, a martyr of sorts in service to the gods

Nevertheless, this simple plot belies the complexity and strangeness of the play as a whole. From the initial bitter debate between the sisters about Antigone’s decision to Creon’s bluster and the surprising death of Haemon, Sophocles’ play is not just about competing systems of loyalty: it is also about how we cast ourselves as ‘players’ in the world between competing systems of identity and affiliation. Antigone is set in Thebes and the myth-verse of that terrible Oedipal family. Her story is about civil war and the story it writes on the bodies of combatants and non-combatants; her story is about how the fight lives on after wars are over; and her story is about how words and the stories we tell can make peace impossible.

But this play is also not only about Antigone: her sister Ismene plays an important role as does her cousin Haemon who has a tragic interest in her love. Even more confusing is what we should think of the ruler Creon, the man who awarded Jocasta (unknowingly) to her own son, oversaw the war between their sons, and is now positioning himself as the only one who can keep Thebes from falling apart.

Sophocles, Antigone 1056

“The race of tyrants loves shameful profit.”

τὸ δ᾽ ἐκ τυράννων αἰσχροκέρδειαν φιλεῖ.

Scenes (Using Paul Woodruff’s translation)

1-99: Antigone and Ismene
332-581: Chorus, Antigone, Creon, Ismene
631-780: Creon, Haemon, Chorus
781-943: Chorus, Antigone, Creon
1193-1243: Messenger
1261-1353: Creon, Messenger, Chorus

Sophocles, Antigone 141-145

“The seven leaders appointed to their seven gates
dedicated their bronze arms
to Zeus who turns the battle
except for only those two born
of a singer mother and father
who faced each other’s spears
each with a share of victory and death.”

ἑπτὰ λοχαγοὶ γὰρ ἐφ᾽ ἑπτὰ πύλαις
ταχθέντες ἴσοι πρὸς ἴσους ἔλιπον
Ζηνὶ τροπαίῳ πάγχαλκα τέλη,
πλὴν τοῖν στυγεροῖν, ὣ πατρὸς ἑνὸς
μητρός τε μιᾶς φύντε καθ᾽ αὑτοῖν
δικρατεῖς λόγχας στήσαντ᾽ ἔχετον
κοινοῦ θανάτου μέρος ἄμφω.

Performers

Antigone – Tabatha Gayle
Ismene – Evvy Miller
Creon – Tim Delap
Chorus – Sara Valentine, Austin Lee, and Gryphon Magnus
Haemon – Carlos Bellato
Messenger – Paul O’Mahony

Sophocles, Antigone 495-496

“I hate it when someone is caught in the midst of their evil deeds and tries to gloss over them.”

μισῶ γε μέντοι χὤταν ἐν κακοῖσί τις / ἁλοὺς ἔπειτα τοῦτο καλλύνειν θέλῃ.

Sophocles, Antigone 506-507

“But tyranny is a happy state in many ways, and the tyrant has the power to act and speak as they wish.”

ἀλλ᾽ ἡ τυραννὶς πολλά τ᾽ ἄλλ᾽ εὐδαιμονεῖ/  κἄξεστιν αὐτῇ δρᾶν λέγειν θ᾽ ἃ βούλεται.

Special Guests, Paul Woodruff and James Collins

Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Associate Director: Liz Fisher
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Dramaturg: Emma Pauly
Executive Producer: Lanah Koelle (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Poster Artist: John Koelle
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)

Sophocles, Antigone 72–77

“It is noble for me to do this and then die.
I will lie with him because I belong to him, with him,
Once I have completed my sacred crimes. There’s more time
When I must please those below than those here,
Since I will lie there forever. You? Go head,
Dishonor what the gods honor if it seems right.”

… καλόν μοι τοῦτο ποιούσῃ θανεῖν.
φίλη μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ κείσομαι, φίλου μέτα,
ὅσια πανουργήσασ᾿· ἐπεὶ πλείων χρόνος
ὃν δεῖ μ᾿ ἀρέσκειν τοῖς κάτω τῶν ἐνθάδε·
ἐκεῖ γὰρ αἰεὶ κείσομαι. σὺ δ᾿ εἰ δοκεῖ
τὰ τῶν θεῶν ἔντιμ᾿ ἀτιμάσασ᾿ ἔχε.

Upcoming Readings (Go here for the project page)

Sophocles, Electra, August 12

Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris, August 19th

Euripides, Hippolytus, August 23

Sophocles, Antigone 280–288

“Stop speaking before you fill me with rage!
And you’re revealed as a fool as well as an old man.

You speak of unendurable things, claiming that the gods
Have some plan for this corpse.
Did they do it to honor him so greatly for his fine work,
Concealing him, the man who came here
To burn their temples and their statutes,
To ruin their land and their laws?
Do you see the gods honoring evil people?”

παῦσαι, πρὶν ὀργῆς καί με μεστῶσαι λέγων,
μὴ ᾿φευρεθῇς ἄνους τε καὶ γέρων ἅμα.
λέγεις γὰρ οὐκ ἀνεκτὰ δαίμονας λέγων
πρόνοιαν ἴσχειν τοῦδε τοῦ νεκροῦ πέρι.
πότερον ὑπερτιμῶντες ὡς εὐεργέτην
ἔκρυπτον αὐτόν, ὅστις ἀμφικίονας
ναοὺς πυρώσων ἦλθε κἀναθήματα
καὶ γῆν ἐκείνων καὶ νόμους διασκεδῶν;
ἢ τοὺς κακοὺς τιμῶντας εἰσορᾷς θεούς;

Videos of Earlier Sessions (Go here for the project page)
Euripides’ Helen, March 25th
Sophocles’ Philoktetes, April 1st
Euripides’ Herakles, April 8th
Euripides’ Bacchae, April 15th
Euripides’ Iphigenia , April 22nd
Sophocles, Trachinian Women, April 29th
Euripides, Orestes May 6th
Aeschylus, Persians, May 13th
Euripides, Trojan Women May 20th
Sophocles’ Ajax, May 27th
Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannos, June 10th

Euripides, Ion,  June 17th

Euripides, Hecuba June 24th

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound June 30th

Euripides, Andromache 

Aristophanes, Clouds July 15th

Euripides, Alcestis July 22nd

Sophocles, Antigone 175–190 (Creon speaking)

“It is impossible to really learn a man’s
mind, thought and opinion before he’s been initiated
into the offices and laws of the state.
Indeed—whoever attempts to direct the country
but does not make use of the best advice
as he keeps his tongue frozen out of fear
Seems to me to be the worst kind of person now and long ago.

Anyone who thinks his friend is more important than the country,
I say that they live nowhere.
May Zeus who always sees everything witness this:
I could never be silent when I saw ruin
Overtaking my citizens instead of safety.

And I could never make my country’s enemy a friend
For myself, because I know this crucial thing:
The state is the ship which saves us
And we may make friends only if it remains afloat.”

ἀμήχανον δὲ παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἐκμαθεῖν
ψυχήν τε καὶ φρόνημα καὶ γνώμην, πρὶν ἂν
ἀρχαῖς τε καὶ νόμοισιν ἐντριβὴς φανῇ.
ἐμοὶ γὰρ ὅστις πᾶσαν εὐθύνων πόλιν
μὴ τῶν ἀρίστων ἅπτεται βουλευμάτων,
ἀλλ᾿ ἐκ φόβου του γλῶσσαν ἐγκλῄσας ἔχει,
κάκιστος εἶναι νῦν τε καὶ πάλαι δοκεῖ·

καὶ μείζον᾿ ὅστις ἀντὶ τῆς αὑτοῦ πάτρας
φίλον νομίζει, τοῦτον οὐδαμοῦ λέγω.
ἐγὼ γάρ, ἴστω Ζεὺς ὁ πάνθ᾿ ὁρῶν ἀεί,
οὔτ᾿ ἂν σιωπήσαιμι τὴν ἄτην ὁρῶν
στείχουσαν ἀστοῖς ἀντὶ τῆς σωτηρίας,
οὔτ᾿ ἂν φίλον ποτ᾿ ἄνδρα δυσμενῆ χθονὸς
θείμην ἐμαυτῷ, τοῦτο γιγνώσκων ὅτι
ἥδ᾿ ἐστὶν ἡ σῴζουσα καὶ ταύτης ἔπι
πλέοντες ὀρθῆς τοὺς φίλους ποιούμεθα.

Sophocles, Antigone 1165-1167

“But when people lose their pleasures, I do not consider this life – rather, it is just a corpse with a soul.”

τὰς γὰρ ἡδονὰς ὅταν προδῶσιν ἄνδρες,
οὐ τίθημ᾽ ἐγὼ ζῆν τοῦτον,
ἀλλ᾽ ἔμψυχον ἡγοῦμαι νεκρόν.

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