Antigone Themes (Jean Anouilh)

Jean Anouilh

Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

Antigone deals primarily with a timeless conflict as pertinent to modern times as the past: the conflict between the individual conscience and the demands of the state. Although the plot is substantially the same as the drama by Sophocles, the older play developed the conflict as between the laws of the gods, defended by Antigone, and the laws of man, as devised by Creon. The ancient clan rules for family burial were presumably ordained by the gods of the underworld. Creon put his faith in the city-state and a supposedly more enlightened and pragmatic view of justice and patriotism.

Both Creon and Antigone, in Sophocles’ play, displayed an almost puritanical self-righteousness, and that trait is not entirely absent in the modern version. Anouilh elaborated the conflict in subtler psychological terms, however, focusing on essential differences in temperament. Antigone is a person dominated by intense feelings. She hardly knows herself why she does things. Although she considers herself a social misfit, her companions, including Ismene, Haemon, and Creon himself, are drawn to her passionate conviction. Creon, on the other hand, is the man of thought, convinced that rationality and order must take precedence over feelings. Although he fancies himself in control of destiny, he too is doomed by his choices. He is possibly as much the victim of illusion in his calculated expediency as Antigone is in her irrational self-sacrifice. Haemon tries vainly...

(The entire section is 419 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Anouilh was not the only French dramatist to revive classical myths during the early twentieth century. Jean Cocteau and...

(The entire section is 369 words.)