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MonkeyNotes-Antigone by Jean Anouilh
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EPISODE Summaries and Notes

EPISODE I

Summary

On the stage there is a gray cloth which hangs as a backdrop. There are three steps in the foreground. The curtains part in the center for the entrance and exit of the actors. A table with two chairs is set on the left of center-stage. To the right of the table is a small stool. All the action takes place here. As the play begins, all the characters are on stage. Antigone is on the top step; the three guards play cards on the steps; the Chorus also stands on the top step where Eurydice is knitting. The nurse sits left of Eurydice, and Ismene stands in front of the arch facing Haemon. Creon sits on a chair with the page beside him on a stool, and the Messenger leans against the downstage archway. The curtain rises and the Chorus moves towards the center to tell the story of Antigone and to introduce the cast.

Episode I begins with the Chorus telling the audience about the willful nature of Antigone, a thin, lonely little creature sitting by herself. The Chorus predicts her revolt against Creon. The Chorus then points out the beautiful Ismene, sister of Antigone, who is talking to Haemon. Though Ismene is the more charming of Oedipus' daughters, Haemon chooses to become engaged to Antigone at a ball. The Chorus predicts that they will not marry.

The gray-haired, powerfully built King Creon is introduced next. As Oedipus's brother-in-law, Creon was a patron of the arts, a lover of music, an idealistic man, and a dutiful worker. Creon's wife, Eurydice, sits knitting throughout the day and is no help to her husband. The Chorus then points to the pale-faced messenger, who has premonitions of catastrophe. The three guards, who play cards while keeping watch over the corpse of Polynices, are introduced as policemen, who are 'eternally innocent,' no matter what crimes are committed, and 'eternally indifferent,' for nothing that happens affects them.


The Chorus now relates the events of the recent past. Oedipus, the late King of Thebes, had two sons, Eteocles and Polynices. Oedipus had decreed that the sons should share the throne and rule in alternate years after his death. Eteocles, at the end of his year's reign, refused to step down for Polynices' turn. A civil war between the brothers took place. Although Polynices engaged six foreign princes and brought them to the seven gates of the city, they were defeated. During the fighting, both Polynices and Eteocles were killed. After the deaths of the brothers, Creon, brother of Oedipus' wife Jocasta, seized the throne and decreed that no one is to bury Polynices, who he calls a traitor to the state. Any person who tries to give Polynices a religious burial will be put to death. On the other hand, Eteocles, with whom Creon sided, is given a state funeral.

As the Chorus finishes its narration of the events of the recent past, it is gray dawn and Antigone steals into the palace with her sandals in her hand.

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