This paper aims to review and analyze three modern adaptations of the famous classical play Antigone. Written by Sophocles, this exemplary piece of Greek drama inspired many literature creators to come up with their own interpretations of the dramatic events.
The first interpretation of the classical narrative is The Burial at Thebes by Seamus Heaney created in 2004. It is a translation and adaptation that received a modern vision to be performed as a play and opera. Like in the classical piece, Antigone finds out that her brothers are killed at war, and wants to bury Polyneices who is deemed a traitor, while Eteocles wins the battle. Creon does not want Antigone to pay tribute to Polyneices, but the girl does not listen and makes a “ritual burial” by scattering dust on the corpse of her brother. Creon decides to take a revenge for a disrespect of his will and buries Antigone in cave, yet she manages to hang herself. After that, Haemon and Eurydice, Creon’s son and wife, also kill themselves. Summarizing the narrative, it is possible to note that its plot is similar to the original version, apart from the inclusion of several minor characters that were not presented in Antigone by Sophocles. This adaptation reimagines setting a little bit as well since it relates to Irish culture. It is apparent that Heaney wanted to interlink the classical narrative with the modern Irish culture because he changed the style of communication, having embedded such phrases as “Somebody’s after attending to it” (Corcoran n.p.). Also, reshaping the vision of the civil war as depicted by Sophocles, he involved the idiomatic expressions that are related to the power politics such as “traitors and subversives” or “patriotic duty” (Corcoran n.p.), thus reimagining the antique conflict and envisioning it in the modern perspective.
When it comes to the second adaptation of the tragedy, it refers to the Another Antigone by A.R. Gurney who recreated the whole story in 1987, making a present-day dramatic piece set in the university. The drama takes place in the university in Boston. The main conflict occurs between Judy Miller and Henry Harper, a student and a professor. Before her graduation, Judy has to submit a term paper, and she decides to place Antigone in the “nuclear arms race” (Flynn n.p.), but she has an issue with the professor since she did not choose the pre-approved topic, preferring to submit a paper on her own topic. Harper insists that Judy has to change it, yet she refuses to do that, demanding an “A.” After the Dean becomes involved, Henry puts a “B” to the paper. Apart from that, the Dean notes that there are some allegations of anti-Semitism of Harper because Judy is Jewish. This adaptation reimagines the original tragedy as it involves the depiction of the conflict between two sides. Like Creon threatens Antigone, Henry threatens Judy, noting that she will have problems if she pursues her opinion. Both Antigone and Judy do not listen to the intimidations and implement their plans. Both Creon and Henry lose their happiness as Creon’s family dies, while Henry has to leave the university, being in a self-imposed exile, like Creon.
Lastly, Antigone by Wajdi Mouawad that was staged in 2014 is one of the most passionate and ardent interpretations of the classical play. It is a performance that is based in the tragic events depicted by Sophocles in his original piece, yet they are linked to the dramatic occurrences experienced by Syrian people, and the play is performed by Syrian refugees in Lebanon. In this case, Antigone “is speaking Arabic” (Hoy San Diego n.p.). The play can be summarized as a representation of a struggle of a woman who wants to find her brothers “who have gone missing in the Theban conflict” (Hoy San Diego n.p.). Yet, this story intermingles with many more personal narratives, for example, like the tragedy or a mother who loses two children or a story of a wife who is forced to wear “niqab” (Hoy San Diego n.p.). These creative decisions in adapting the original play are made for the sake of linking Sophocles’ play to the refugees that might be not familiar with the original story. Mona, a major character who relates her story to Antigone’s life, notes that like her classical prototype, she is ready to rebel (Fordham n.p.). In this case, the adaptation reimagines the conflict depicted by Sophocles, reflecting on the transition of the civil war to the contemporary setting.
- Corcoran, N. (2004). The State We’re In. The Guardian, May 1, 2004. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/may/01/poetry.seamusheaney. Accessed November 13, 2018.
- Flynn, R. (2017). “Another Antigone.” A Full-Length Play by A.R. Gurney. ThoughtCo, November 26, 2017. Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/another-antigone-overview-4048045. Accessed November 13, 2018
- Fordham, A. (2014). Syrian Women Displaced By War Make Tragedy Of ‘Antigone’ Their Own. National Public Radio, December 13, 2014. Available at: https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2014/12/12/370343232/syrian-women-displaced-by-war-make-tragedy-of-antigone-their-own. Accessed November 13, 2018.
- Hoy San Diego. (2017). Syria’s modern-day Antigone laments her tragic fate in Arabic. December 17, 2014. Available at: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/hoy-san-diego/sdhoy-syrias-modern-day-antigone-laments-her-tragic-2014dec17-story.html. Accessed November 13, 2018.