Dramaturgical Analysis – Antigone
DRAMATURGICAL ANALYSIS: ANTIGONE A REMAKE BY JEAN ANOUILH Jean Anouilh Jean Anouilh’s Antigone was remade with the similar political undertones seen in the original version. There are two sources for the play Antigone; the antiquity 5th century story from the Greek play, one part of Sophocles‘ trilogy about Oedipus, and the second source comes from the more modern political scene during the Nazi invasion of France. Anouilh mixes both of these sources into a timeless tragedy of universal significance, then he further examines the divergence between individual will and divine ill. Anouilh’s version was premiered during 1944 in Nazi-controlled Paris and although a huge success, it provoked great controversy. (Tan) Throughout his career, Anouilh’s plays were inspired by his critical political assessment. One of the most notable examples is his attack on Charles de Gaulle in Antigone, which was written in response to an act of resistance during the Nazi occupation of France. “In August 1942, a young man named Paul Collette fired at and wounded a group of directors during a meeting of the collaborationist Legion des volontaires francais.
Collette did not belong to a Resistance network or organized 1 political group, but acted entirely alone and in full knowledge of his certain death. For Anouilh, Collette’s solitary act—at once heroic, gratuitous, and futile—captured the essence of tragedy and demanded an immediate revival of Antigone. ” (Tan) When Antigone was to be released the Nazis, fully aware of Anouilh’s intentions, censored the play. Antigone was successfully released two years later and was seen as the “mouthpiece” of Anouilh’s political aggression. (Pronko) Anouilh’s plays often mixed reality with illusion and were presented as mprovisations. Antigone opens with a plain set showing no historical or geographical inference. As the curtain rises all of the characters are onstage, chatting, knitting, playing cards. The reason for this simplistic setting is that the play is taking place in two-fold. The characters are playing characters who are about to perform the play Antigone. Anouilh had no qualms about using Greek myth to explore the alarming political and ethical dilemmas of his time. His tragic play Antigone, for the most part, follows the storyline found in Sophocles’ classic play.
Anouilh however, somewhat changes the Chorus, which functions as the link between the past life of Oedipus (Antigone’s father) and the present predicament of Creon (the King from Sophocles’s play). The Chorus operates as the narrator by introducing the cast, commenting on various traits of the characters, and invokes emotion from the audience when appropriate. One such emotional point is in the middle of a debate between Creon and Antigone, the Chorus gives a summary of what tragedy is and calls it worthless; then finally, the Chorus tries to influence Creon to be merciful to Antigone.
The Chorus also comments on the pointless deaths of Haemon and Eurydice, on the shame of political maneuverings, and on the emptiness of life. (Sauder) 2 Anouilh’s play is also seen as a political message where he showed antipathy for the French people in collaboration with the Germans. Being that the setting is the rise of Nazi power towards the end of World War II, Antigone’s ultimate sacrifice for justice is a powerful theme. Many versions of Antigone were staged throughout Europe beginning in 1941 and lasting until the end of World War II. It was a passionate time for people hroughout Europe and when this play was seen it promoted that passion. Antigone was seen as the struggle between the individual and the tyrannical state, and was a symbolic statement regarding the French resistance movement. Antigone’s decision to revolt against Creon’s law compares directly with the French rebels fighting against Charles De Gaulle, whom Anouilh detested and believed was a tyrant. Antigone is not only in political turmoil, she is also in a state of religious and familial turmoil. Economically and socially this was a difficult era for women. The men had been called into war leaving the ndustrial workforce deficient. Women’s roles, which had traditionally been as the caretaker of the home and caregiver to the family, were being redefined and their political voices were becoming vociferous. It is only fitting that Anouilh would write Antigone to be a woman in rebellion. This era was a time of rebellion, a time of struggle for independence which is further explored in the critic’s reviews. “Joseph Wood Krutch, noted drama critic, assessed a 1946 Broadway production of Anouilh’s Antigone, and examined the parallels between the story and the German ccupation of Paris, France during the play’s initial run” (Galens and Spampinato 27). Krutch then moved into describing the parallel of the play by saying “Though acted in modern costume, the scene was left in ancient Greece, and little essential change was made in either the action or even the motives. ” (Krutch) In his review he states that this 3 play generally did not receive good reviews from other critics. “It must be abundantly clear that it was extremely difficult, if not impossible to approach Antigone in 1944 completely without political prejudice, and to judge it purely and simply as a work of rt. ” (Howarth) Krutch found the actors to be likeable as their characters, however he showed a greater fondness for the actor who played the dictatorial king. Krutch also liked the way this play was presented on stage as opposed to the Sophocle’s version. He wondered if “some such presentation of the bodies might not have added the final scene which the play as it now stands does need. ” (Krutch) He further stated that he enjoyed the debate between Antigone and Creon, he said he found it “both absorbing and moving. ” This debate is what the entire play revolves around; the conflict of the ndividual will and the divine will. Basically, the Nazi occupation and French revolution are being debated for most of Anouilh’s play. In another point of view there is much the same sentiment as found in Krutch’s review. “The dialogue between Creon and Antigone is much more forceful in Anouilh’s than in Sophocles’ play. The verbal combat and the powerful debate between these two characters is thrilling to see on stage. ” (Sauder) The political tone of this play was much more defiant than that of Sophocles, therefore it must be presented as such on stage. Apparently Anouilh did this very well. Antigone is an outstanding example of Anouilh’s unerring technical skill. As in many of his other plays, there is the characteristic blend of humour and pathos (of pink and black, to use Anouilh’s own terms); there is a re-examination of such recurrent themes as childhood and happiness” (Radford 24). Anouilh wrote and cast Antigone as a young, skinny woman who was not afraid of rebellion. She represented the French 4 resistance, unafraid of the consequences of her actions. ”Antigone stands for the idealism of youth, which cannot survive in a corrupt world. ” (Galens and Spampinato) Survival in world in which the Nazis have taken over France was unacceptable according to Anouilh. The resulting conflicts between characters on the stage, then, represented actual political issues. The aim of such dramatization was to help people identify more closely with the issues involved. The effectiveness of personification in doing this was widely noticed as the characters of Creon and Antigone heatedly debated on the stage. The strong will Antigone carries contains the key element to the resistance at hand: the thinness of her physique, a childlike face, yet she rebels alone.
The costumes of the play represented a more modern time in order that the transformation from the original Antigone to this play could be felt as more personal to the audience for which it was intended. Pitted against her are the king’s law and Antigone’s duty to obey that law, yet Antigone, torn in an ethical dilemma, ultimately decides to demonstrate civil disobedience. The main conflict in the play comes from the relationships which develop between these elements. This is consistent with the current political thinking throughout the world still today.
Take for instance the war in Iraq; if this play were to be adapted to that political situation, the character of Antigone would be representative of the people of Iraq. Iraqi’s are in a civil upheaval from their former dictatorship and the remnants of that regime. King Creon could be seen as the former dictator Saddam Hussein, however the main difference would be that Creon eventually felt regret for his decision to kill Antigone. 5 In Anouilh’s adaptation of Antigone, it must be remembered that the audience is to see the characters as modern day people (identifiable with the audience) who are truggling with their own political, social and economic issues. The play of Antigone is merely the backdrop, so-to-speak, of what is really being presented – however they are brilliantly brought together in order to project the political message. 6 References Primary Sources: Krutch, Joseph Wood. Review of Antigone in the Nation, Vol. 162, no. 9, March 2, 1946, p. 269. Pronko, Leonard Cabell. Review of “The Characters: Psychology and Symbols. ” “The World of Jean Anouilh,” University of California Press 1961. 165-191 Radford, Colin. “Antigone (Anouilh). International Dictionary of Theatre. Ed. Secondary Sources: Galens, David and Spampinato, Lynn, eds. “Antigone, Jean Anouilh 1944. ” Drama for Students. Vol. 9. (2002): 1-27 Howerth, W. D. Essay “Antigone in 1944. ” Anouilh: Antigone, 47-52. London: Edward Arnold, 1983. Tan, Michael. SparkNote on Antigone . 15 Mar 2006. ;www. sparknotes. com/drama/antigone;. Sauder, Diane. “PinkMonkey. com MonkeyNotes for Antigone by Jean Anouilh. ” PinkMonkey. com. 1997. 1 August 2004 ;www. pinkmonkey. com/booknotes/monkeynotes/pmAntigoneAnouilh01. asp;. 7