Literary Devices in Antigone

Literary Devices in Antigone
Coming up next: Irony in Antigone

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Literary Devices
  • 0:43 Plot & Foreshadowing
  • 2:27 Allusion
  • 2:57 Symbolism
  • 3:44 Theme
  • 4:52 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up


Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

Literary devices enrich our reading experiences by creating depth and meaning in a story. In this lesson, we will explore the use of literary devices in the play 'Antigone' by Sophocles.

Literary Devices

It's one thing to read a story; it's another to analyze it. To successfully analyze a text, we often need to pay close attention to literary devices. These tools not only shape the language and context of a literary work but also help us examine the deeper meanings of stories and develop ideas about authors' intentions. While Sophocles uses various literary devices in Antigone, five devices are especially helpful in analyzing his play:

  • Plot
  • Foreshadowing
  • Allusion
  • Symbolism
  • Theme

Let's take a look at these devices to decide how each helps us access meaning in Antigone.

Plot and Foreshadowing

Plot is the sequence of events in a story. Antigone's tragic story begins with the deaths of her brothers Polyneices and Eteocles. The two men have fought for control of the city of Thebes, but both have lost their lives in battle. Polyneices is considered a traitor by the new king Creon, who happens to be Antigone's uncle. He declares no one is allowed to bury Polyneices's body because of his actions against Thebes.

Antigone believes she should bury her brother because of Greek tradition and goes against the order. Creon sentences Antigone to imprisonment but has a change of heart after speaking with a prophet. Unfortunately, it's too late. The play ends with Antigone taking her own life. Upon finding Antigone's body, her fiancé--Creon's son Haemon--also commits suicide. The domino effect continues when Haemon's mother and Creon's wife takes her life after hearing the news of her son's death.

Foreshadowing occurs when the author provides hints or clues as to what may occur later in a story. In the play Antigone, the reader finds these clues often come from oracles. Playing important roles in Greek antiquity, oracles figured prominently in Antigone's family. An oracle, for example, predicted a dire fate for Antigone's father Oedipus. Although Oedipus tried to avoid his fate, he could not; Oedipus killed his father and married his mother, just as foretold. His actions became a curse that foreshadowed Antigone's tragic end.

The tale of Oedipus started with a reading from a famous oracle. This reading became his curse that spread to his entire family. Depicted are Oedipus and Antigone who are both tormented by the curse.

Another example of foreshadowing of future events occurs at the beginning of the play: Creon gives a speech about how he will always put Thebes before his family. At this time, the audience knows that Antigone plans on burying her brother. This speech foreshadows Creon's future conflict with Antigone.


An allusion is a reference to a work of literature, film, or history within a story. In Antigone, references to several figures and mythological stories appear throughout the play. For example, the play's characters reference Zeus, the father of the Heavens, and Hades, the god of the dead. Antigone also references Niobe, the former Queen of Thebes. Niobe's story mirrors that of Antigone's punishment and the similar lack of justice Antigone feels regarding her imprisonment.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account