In the two Antigone plays that we read, Anouilh’s 1940’s modern version and Sophocles’ version, there are many contrasts. Everything from the setting to the message is different, however the relationship between characters is the most striking difference; relationships with Antigone in particular. In Sophocles’ version, the character relations are rather underdeveloped, which is an extreme contrast from the relationships shown in Anouilh’s version of Antigone. The relationships that are the most different between the two plays are Antigone’s relationship with Creon and with Haemon.
Antigone’s relationship with Creon in the Sophocles’ version differs greatly from the Anouilh version. The most obvious difference is that in the Anouilh version Creon doesn’t want Antigone to die and tries every way he can to keep her alive. He exhausts just about every argument possible, starting and frequently returning to the similarities between her and her father. He tells her how idiotic her father was and that she would be wise to not make the same mistakes even though she carries the same characteristics that lead Oedipus to his death. Then he switches tactics and half orders her to not be put to death because she has to marry Haemon, and when that doesn’t work, he pulls a pity plea of how much he would like to bury Polynices but simply can’t because of his duties as a king and what it would cost him if he bent to Antigone’s will.
None of these arguments work, even when Creon, in a last desperate attempt to sway her, reveals to her how horrible her precious brothers actually are. Really in this version, Creon does care about Antigone; he has nothing to gain from keeping Antigone alive besides that she would marry Haemon, and her sister Ismene is still around to marry him if Antigone is put to death. In contrast, the Sophocles version doesn’t present such a caring- if you could call it that in Anouilh’s- relationship. In this relationship all Creon wants to do is see Antigone put to death. He is unswayed by any argument that his son Haemon throws out there. In this version things are simple. Antigone went against Creon’s edict and buried her brother, so therefore she must be put to death, no ifs ands or buts about it. There is no room for argument or feeling, and no real relationship development.
While the relationship between Antigone and Creon in the Sophocles version is very underdeveloped when compared with the Anouilh version, the relationship between Antigone and Haemon is even more so. In the Sophocles story, there is no indication of the great everlasting love between the two that would drive Haemon to kill himself over finding Antigone dead. There is almost no feelings of anger or sadness at her sentence to death until Haemon suddenly flies into a rage at the very end upon seeing Antigone dead and shoves a sword through his body. To Haemon’s credit, he does show a little bit of rebellion when arguing with his father about the outcome of Antigone. He comes through with a little bit of strength after all of the “oh father, you are so wise” junk, and tells him that maybe he should bend just a little for her for his own benefit.
And when Creon doesn’t listen to his advice, he implies with his last words to his father “… And you will never see my face again…” (Sophocles, scene 3, line 133) that he may in fact take his own life. But that’s as far as it goes, and it seems to be more out of anger at his father than of his love for Antigone. In Anouilh’s version of the story, Haemon and Antigone have a much more developed relationship. It’s plainly clear that Haemon loves Antigone and wants to be with her, even if she doesn’t fully understand why he chose her over Ismene. The fact that he did chose her over Ismene shows more than anything else that he does indeed love her. Anouilh’s added scene with Haemon and Antigone develops the relationship so much more and gives one a more believable basis for Haemon killing himself over Antigone. The scene is an intimate look at a couple in love, instead of in the Sophocles version a relationship that seems to be arranged for convenience at best.
The changes in scenes which enhance and develop the relationships of Antigone with Creon and Haemon greatly improve the Anouilh version. Without the added scenes and implications in the scenes, the Sophocles version is rather dry and doesn’t inspire much catharsis. However, in the Anouilh version, the reader is actually made to feel for the characters through their trials and tribulations, and therefore to be angry at Creon for killing her, disbelieving of Antigone for her stubborn pride, and sad for all involved when everyone except for Creon end up dead. So although both versions are supposed to be the same story, the relationship developments are so contrasting that they are different stories altogether.
Courtney from Study Moose
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