The Antigone of Sophocles by Brecht: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Rachel Noorda
This lesson introduces and summarizes 'The Antigone of Sophocles' by Bertolt Brecht and compares Brecht's play to the original 'Antigone' by Sophocles.

Sophocles and Brecht

Bertolt Brecht

Antigone is a Greek tragedy written around 451 BC by Sophocles . The play was adapted by German playwright Bertolt Brecht and renamed The Antigone of Sophocles. Brecht's The Antigone of Sophocles was performed in 1948 in Switzerland. Sophocles's Antigone was written in Greek. For Brecht's The Antigone of Sophocles, Brecht did not translate the play from Greek into German but used a German translation of the play by Friedrich Holderlin, and added his own pieces to it.

While the core story and characters are the same, there are also differences between the two plays. These differences include setting, political and economic contexts, and the character of Creon.

Summary of Antigone

Antigone begins with sisters Ismene and Antigone talking about their brothers. Their brothers, Polyneices and Eteocles, have just been killed in battle, but Polyneices was not buried properly. He was seen as a traitor and so the king, Antigone's uncle Creon, refused to bury him. Burial was extremely important to the ancient Greeks because they thought that if a person was not buried, they could not move on in the afterlife.

Antigone ignores her uncle's command to leave Polyneices unburied, and she buries her brother herself. The majority of the play is a conversation between Creon and Antigone as she defends her position.

In the end, Creon sentences Antigone to prison and in prison, she kills herself.

Summary of The Antigone of Sophocles

The Antigone of Sophocles by Brecht is very close to the original plot and dialogue of Sophocles' Antigone. Some of the main differences include the setting, political and economic contexts, and the character of Creon.

Brecht's version adds a prologue that sets the conversation between Ismene and Antigone in Germany in 1945, just as World War II is ending. The interesting thing about this addition to the play is that Brecht relates an ancient Greek story to the problems, wars, and issues that he faced in his own lifetime. Because of this prologue that introduces the setting as post World War II, the political and economic contexts for the play are slightly different.

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