Antigone Literary & Critical Analysis

Instructor: Rachel Noorda
In this lesson we'll examine the Greek play ''Antigone'' through literary and critical analysis. We'll do this by considering certain things such as the genre and cultural context.

Literary and Critical Analysis

Literary and critical analysis is a close-up look at a text. It involves examining different elements of the text including genre and cultural context. This lesson uses literary and critical analysis to get a close-up look at the Greek tragedy Antigone.

Genre in Antigone

First, what is the genre of Antigone? Genre is the type of text, or the form that the text takes. Some examples of genre include plays, short stories, and novels. Antigone is a Greek play written by Sophocles around 441 BC. Because it is not only a play, but a Greek tragedy, the elements of the Greek tragedy genre can help you to understand Antigone better.

Imagine yourself in the audience of a Greek tragedy in ancient Greece. You would see a cast of actors, all wearing masks. You would also notice that in addition to the main characters, in this case Antigone and Creon, there would also be a group of actors called the chorus. The purpose of the chorus is to comment on the events of the play through song and chant. The chorus in Antigone is supposed to be a group of Thebian elders. You may notice that the chorus speaks in strophes and antistrophes, the first and second parts of a poem. Almost like a narrator, the chorus helps the audience to understand certain themes, motives, and important plot points.

Cultural Context for Antigone


Next, what is the cultural context for Antigone? The cultural context for Antigone explains why Antigone's loyalty was a valued quality; why bad things happened to Antigone, her siblings, and her father; and why Antigone's burial of her brother was so important to her.

Loyalty and Obedience

In ancient Greece, loyalty to one's family and obedience to the gods were extremely valued characteristics. The character Antigone possessed both of these qualities, which she exhibited by loyally standing by her brother and obediently following the gods by ignoring Creon's decree and burying her brother's body. Burial was sacred to the ancient Greeks and defiling a grave or not properly burying a body was the highest disrespect and would not allow the dead person safe passage into the afterlife.

Family Curse

Another cultural context for Antigone is the concept of the curse that befalls Antigone's family. The reason why bad things happen to Antigone and her family stem from a curse that was placed upon her grandfather, Laius. Laius kidnapped the son of two people who had been kind enough to take care of him and for that sin, Apollo cursed him, telling Laius that his son would kill him. Eventually Antigone's father, Oedipus, did slay Laius (although he did not know at the time that Laius was his father). Her grandfather was killed by his own son, her father ended up blind and exiled, and Antigone hangs herself, all a continuation of the curse.

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