Jean Anouilh Biography

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Modern French dramatist, Jean Anouilh, is a great tragic playwright of the twentieth century. His best known work is Antigone, a modern version of Sophocles’ tragedy. Anouilh’s Antigone also provides a commentary on the Nazi occupation of France. In rewriting the myth in modern times, Anouilh revives the issue of free will under the power of the state.

Sophocles’ tragedy is set in Greece, but Anouilh wishes to indicate the timeless, universal nature of this conflict of human law versus divine law. He sets the play on a simple stage that could be anywhere. There is a staircase of three steps forming a semicircle, with two archways at the bottom. Curtains part in the center for entrance and exit. A table and chairs on the left serve as the only furniture. In one long scene, the play moves from early morning in the palace of Thebes to high noon outside the city gates, with the guards keeping watch over the dead body of Polynices.

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The action moves next to Creon’s chamber and to his meeting and argument with Antigone at the left center table, her prison cell. The final part shifts to the Cave of Hades, outside the southeast gate of the city, where Antigone is buried alive. Haemon finds her dead body. After Creon enters, father and son fight, and Haemon stabs himself.

The final stage set presents Creon with his page. They move together through the arch. The guards resume playing cards as if nothing has happened. Antigone The younger daughter of King Oedipus of Thebes, and Jocasta, who is his mother.

Antigone buries her brother, Polynices, against the orders of the current King of Thebes, Creon. She is a tragic but powerful figure, a rebel, and a quiet girl. Her character brings out the conflict between human and divine law. She desires happiness, but refuses compromise. Creon King of Thebes and brother of Jocasta.

He is an art patron and a leader of men. Judged to be strong-willed and fair, he is promoted to the throne after the deaths of his nephews, Polynices and Eteocles, who were the sons of Oedipus. Greatness is thrust upon him, and like a conscientious worker, he does his job. He is too proud to listen to his son or to the public. After the deaths of Antigone, Haemon, and Eurydice, he is left alone. He stoically decides to do his duty.

Ismene The elder daughter of King Oedipus. She is much more beautiful than Antigone and also more obedient and less emotional. She belongs to the world of law and order. She understands Creon’s reason for issuing the edict that no one should bury Polynices, the traitor brother of Antigone and Ismene. Nurse humble, devoted old woman.

She loves Antigone, but is worried about her strange ways. She is also loyal to the princesses

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