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Antigone by Sophocles

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our High School ELA Category!

Student Activities for Antigone Include:

Antigone is the last play in a famous Greek trilogy, written by Sophocles. The Oedipus trilogy told the story of Oedipus, a tragic Greek hero, who defeated the sphinx and saved Thebes, but unknowingly killed his father and married his mother. While it was not written last, the Antigone play is the final chapter chronologically in a story filled with human suffering at the hands of fate.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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A Quick Synopsis of Antigone

The Antigone play takes place in the war-torn city of Thebes. After Oedipus has left the city, his sons, Eteocles and Polynices, fought for the throne. Polynices besieged the city with foreign troops. Both died during the fighting, and this leaves Oedipus' brother-in-law, Creon, to rule. While he buried Eteocles with full funeral rights, Creon declared Polynices a traitor, and forbade anyone in Thebes from burying him. This was a powerful statement; the Greeks believed that this meant the unburied soul could not enter the afterlife.

Antigone, the sister of Polynices and Eteocles, decides to defy her uncle and ensure her brother enters the afterlife. All she must do is sprinkle a little dirt on him, and he will be set free. She succeeds, but is discovered, and is brought in front of her uncle. She doesn't deny the allegations when questioned. He sentences Antigone to death. Later he speaks with his son, Haemon, who is Antigone's finance. It becomes clear that even his son disagrees with Creon's choices. The two argue, and when Creon threatens to have Antigone executed in front of them, Haemon storms out. Creon orders that Antigone should be walled up in a cave, and left to die.

The famous seer, Tiresias, arrives and advises Creon to bury Polynices. Even though Creon stated he would do as Tiresias says, he does not, and Tiresias predicts that Creon's actions will bring a plague upon the city. Creon heeds Tiresias's words, fearing the wrath of the gods, and he decides to spare Antigone's life. It is too late. While Creon is giving Polynices a proper burial, Haemon finds Antigone has hanged herself. When Creon arrives at the cave, Haemon tries to kill his father, and when he fails, kills himself. The queen hears her only living son is dead, and she stabs herself, but first she puts a curse on her husband. Creon is left at the end of the play, alive, but filled with sorrow.



Essential Questions for Antigone

  1. Should we rebel against laws that go against our conscience?
  2. How do our values and responsibilities shape our interactions in life?
  3. What does our response to conflict teach us about ourselves?
  4. Are we defined by our actions?

Antigone Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Antigone Plot Diagram: Three-Act Structure


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Students can create and show a storyboard that captures the concept of a Five or Three Act Structure by creating either a three- or six-cell storyboard which contains the major parts of the diagram.


Aristotle’s Three Act Structure

Aristotle believed that every piece of poetry or drama must have a beginning, middle, and end. These divisions were developed by the Roman, Aelius Donatus, and called protasis, epitasis, and catastrophe. The three act structure has seen a revival in recent years, as cinema blockbusters and hit TV shows have adopted it. The beginning (protasis) consists of setup, the middle (epitasis) contains conflicts, thwarted protagonist, or complications, and the end (catastrophe) is where fortunes are reversed and the protagonist meets their fate.


Example Antigone Three Act Structure

Protasis

Antigone's brothers are dead, but her uncle has decided to leave Polyneices unburied. She knows this is not right, and decides to ignore Creon's law to do what is right.


Epitasis

Antigone is able to give her brother funeral rights, but she is caught. She has challenged Creon’s authority, and he sentences her to death. Even his son, her fiance, cannot convince him to change his mind.


Catastrophe

Antigone is walled away in a cave to starve to death. Meanwhile, Teiresias, the prophet, comes to reason with Creon. Teiresias frightens Creon with the wrath of the gods, and Creon agrees to bury Polyneices and free Antigone. They arrive at the cave too late; Antigone has hung herself. Her fiance kills himself, leading his mother, the queen, to do the same. In the end, Creon is left cursed, and in despair.


Antigone Play - Three-Act Structure

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of Antigone.


  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.



Story Outline Storyboard Template

Example

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Antigone Themes, Symbols, and Motifs

Valuable aspects of any literary work are its themes, symbols, and motifs. Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to anatomize without assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts, and master analysis of literary elements. For best practices, see our article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities to teach themes, symbols, and motifs.

In the classroom, students can track the rich symbolism Sophocles uses in the play.


Themes and Symbols to Look For & Discuss

Laws

During this period, laws were very important to the Greeks. There were two sets of laws that had to be obeyed: the law of the gods, and the law of man, or the King. Throughout the story of Antigone, there is a struggle to balance the expectations of the gods and the decree by the Creon. For Antigone, it is clear that no mortal's rule has a hold on her like the rules and laws of the afterlife. Antigone follows the rules of the gods, and buries her brother.


Suicide

A predominant motif is that of suicide. Taking one's own life to bring an end to pain and suffering. In each of the Oedipus plays, numerous characters take their life instead of living with suffering. Rather than ending matters, these suicides are yet another link in a tragic chain, often leading to more suffering and death.


Antigone - Themes, Symbols, and Motifs

Example

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Antigone Characters


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As students read, a storyboard can serves as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important Antigone characters. When reading a play, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

You can click on this map and create a copy on your teacher account. Feel free to use it as is, or to edit it for the level of your class. Printing it as worksheets, for your students to complete while reading, is a fast and easy way to incorporate this character map into your classroom.


Antigone Characters

AntigoneDaughter of Oedipus, sister to Polynices and Eteocles, betrothed to Haemon, niece of Creon. She is the main protagonist, and seeks to do what is morally right by obeying the law.
EteoclesEldest son of Oedipus. After Oedipus leaves Thebes, he instructs his two sons to take turns ruling. However, Eteocles refuses to give up his seat to Polynices, and the two go to war, both dying. Creon sides with Eteocles and gives him a proper burial.
PolynicesThe younger son of Oedipus, he is left unburied by Creon. Antigone risks her life to give him a proper burial.
IsmeneOedipus' other daughter. When Antigone tells Ismene the plan to defy Creon, she tries to convince Antigone not to go against their uncle. When Antigone is sentenced, Ismene tries to claim she helped, though she did not.
CreonBrother-in-law of Oedipus who becomes king after Oediups' sons kill each other.
HaemonCreon's son and Antigone's fiance. He attempts to kill his father when he finds Antigone dead, but kills himself instead.
EurydiceCreon's wife, Haemon's mother. She kills herself out of grief.
OedipusThe former King of Thebes who left the kingdom after he found out that he killed his father and married his mother.
TiresiasA wise blind prophet.

Antigone Characters

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.


  1. Identify the major characters in Antigone and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character from the "Classical Era" or "Greek Mythology" tabs to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in Textables for Attributes, Quote Showing Pride, Quote Showing Belief in Fate or Free Will, and Effect on Plot.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.


Character Map Template Blank

Example

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Tragic Hero/Heroine in Antigone


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Antigone is full of important literary elements for students to explore. One of these elements is the tragic hero, a protagonist who seems to be ill-fated, and destined for doom. In this play, Antigone is one tragic hero as she blindly pursues justice. Creon is another, as his struggle with Antigone leads himself and many others to their ruin and deaths.

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, first articulated the specific attributes or principles of a tragic hero. For the storyboard below, students can use a template to storyboard the qualities that make Antigone, a tragic hero. The finished product outlines each of Aristotle's principles with a detailed explanation of the specific attributes.

Antigone - Tragic Heroine

ATTRIBUTEDESCRIPTIONExample from Antigone
HamartiaHero's Flaw that Causes Downfall Antigone believes she can know the will of the gods, and acts in direct contradiction of Creon’s decree. She wants to be a martyr.
HubrisExcessive Pride Antigone sets herself above the laws of her king, unapologetically defying Creon.
PeripeteiaReversal of Fortune Tiresias convinces Creon to free Antigone.
AnagnorisisMoment of Critical Discovery The audience knows what Antigone does not: Creon is on his way to pardon her.
NemesisFate that Cannot be Avoided Antigone hangs herself before Creon can arrive.
CatharsisAudience's Feeling of Pity or Fear After the Hero's Fall The audience is sad that Antigone died for burying her brother, and for her pride. They recognize the same temptations to righteously defy authority in their own lives.

Antigone Tragic Hero

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


"

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows how Antigone can be considered a tragic hero.


  1. Identify events of the play or characteristics of Antigone that fit into Aristotelian attributes of a tragic hero.
  2. Illustrate examples for Hamartia, Hubris, Peripeteia, Anagnorisis, Nemesis, and Catharsis.
  3. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates Antigone as a tragic hero.
  4. Save and submit the assignment.



Tragic Hero Template Blank

Example

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Antigone Vocabulary Lesson Plan


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Another great way to engage your students is through the creation of storyboards that use vocabulary from Antigone. A Frayer Model can help expand on an important and complex word or phrase that is integral to the work being read.

For example, an essential concept in Antigone is free will. Throughout the play, characters struggle with choices that they make and which inevitably have drastic outcomes. It is important for students to be able to distinguish free will from related, but contrary, ideas, like destiny and fate.

Antigone - Frayer Model of Free Will

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a Frayer Model for one of the vocabulary words from Antigone.


  1. Choose a vocabulary word and type it into the center title box.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary and enter it into the description box under Definition.
  3. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the Definition cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  4. Think of at least three characteristics that help expand the meaning beyond the definition.
  5. Provide written and visual examples of the word.
  6. Provide written and visual non-examples of the word.



Frayer Model Template

Example

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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