Do you prefer Hamlet or Antigone in terms of the lessons taught? What controversial issues make you choose this?
I admire Hamlet's cunning in trying to trick a confession out of his uncle, but I think I would probably be more like Antigone. No "controversial issues" make me choose one over the other. As personalities go, I'm more like Antigone--don't beat around the bush; let them know what's bothering you.
I prefer Antigone purely because of her rebellion against the norms of society. This universal theme is seen throughout all of history, from Sophocles, to the Alabama bus boycotts, to a journalist throwing a shoe at George W. Bush. It is always relevant and important.
It depends on the level of students I am teaching and how competent they are at reading complex texts. When I am teaching tenth graders, like yourself, I prefer Antigone. First, it can serve as an excellent introduction to drama and tragedy in general and to Greek literature as well. Secondly, since I believe plays were written to be seen and not read, I have my students actually act out the play. We see the black and white version of the play, which is in Greek with English subtitles. This gives students ideas for costumes and scenery, etc. Then I have students make masks, as the Greeks wore. They make their masks out of paper and many write their lines on the back of the masks. Then I divide the class into groups and each group is responsible for acting out one scene or act in the play. The themes of the play are fairly easy to grasp and the play also lends itself to comparison with contemporary events especially when a politician puts his personal power above serving the people. ( The current investigation in Illinois comes to mind today)
When I teach eleventh graders, I prefer Hamlet. It's also one of my personal favorites, but it requires more effort on the part of students to understand the many facets of the play. We do read the play out loud and we watch the Kenneth Brannaugh film version, which is a complete version of the play and students can follow along in their texts with the dialogue. Every year we find something new to discuss.
I prefer teaching Antigone--and that may be because I've never taught Hamlet. I think the conflicts in "Antigone" lends themselves to be more relatable. There's issues between family members--siblings, uncles, cousins, fathers and daughters. A lot of those conflicts students can relate to. It's also fun to talk about standing up for what one believes in--and how far is too far. "Antigone" presents a lot of moral dilemmas that I can talk about with my students, which leads to some debate topics and excellent essays. Political power is always a great issue to discuss, as students are just becoming politically aware at this point in their lives. There's also a little romance to talk about concerning Antigone, Haimon and Creon, and some of the student connect it with Romeo and Juliet. In addition, it's a great play to introduce tragedy, tragic hero, hubris and Greek drama.