Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Edmund's first soliloquy: ". . . stand up for bastards!"

Discuss among yourselves, on this posting, your thoughts and feelings about the characterization of Edmund, Gloucester, and Edgar, and the relationships Shakespeare develops between and among these characters in Act I, ii.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Akira Kurosawa's RAN, opening scene
(Victor thanks for retrieving the DVD)
Why is King Lear dividing his kingdom?
How will what he has done affect those close to him?
Write paragraph answers to these questions, using citations from the play
1. Why do Glouster, Kent, and Edmund start the play, and what information is exchanged between Glouster and Kent before King Lear's entrance?
2. How does King Lear address (talk to) each of those gathered before, during, and after he divides his kingdom? (Please notice his use of the imperial pronouns "we," "our," and "us.") Use citations from the play.
3. Why are Cordelia's asides before she addresses her father so important? Why does Shakespeare these asides so early in his play?
4. Why do you think Cordelia, who knows and loves her father, refuses to deliver the speech he expects from her?
5. How and why does Kent address King Lear? What do you think of what he says? What do you think of how King Lear responds to what he says to him?
6. Why do neither Regan nor Goneril speak up for their sister Cordelia? How do they feel about what their father has done to both their sister and to Kent?
7. Why do you think the Duke of Burgandy and the King of France are not present at the beginning of this scene? When Gloucester brings them into the room he introduces them by saying, "Here's France and Burgundy, my noble lord." Why do you think King Lear address them in reverse order? He speaks to Burgundy first. 
8.  How do the Duke of Burgandy and the King Of France respond to King Lear both  disowning Cordelia and withdrawing Cordelia's dowry?
9. What similarities exist in Kent's and the King of France's words regarding Cordelia?
10. What contrasting views of Cordelia are expressed by the two monarchs on stage (King Lear and the King of France), and how is this so sadly ironic?
11. Why do or don't you think Cordelia won the man she wanted? How can you detect this? Explain do or don't you think King Lear is aware of Cordelia's victory or failure.
12. Although this is drama is set in pre-Christian times (for Britain), what words of  importance to Christian dogma are spoken with reference to Cordelia?
13. By disinheriting and disowning his youngest daughter and by forcing Kent into permanent exile,  in effect, what has King Lear done to himself?
14. Why do you think the word "nothing" in repeatedly used in the first scene? Of what importance or ironic significance does this word have?f
15. How does Shakespeare characterize King Lear in this scene, as a king, as a father, and as a man? 

Remember 10% of your final grade is derived from the comments you place on our class blog.  Please do not use this blog to post me questions, it is  a class discussion forum. If you have questions for me, email them to me at

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Remember to finish reading the novel you have chosen to read with a partner, to complete your written entries in one another's lit logs, and to hand in your individual logs by the end of this week or early next week. Okay?
In other words, get them completed and hand them in to me a.s.a.p.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Antigone Essay Test

Bring your annotated Antigone to class today.
Write an essay in which you discuss four
of these thematic concerns in Antigone:

1.  Hubris = pride , especially as this applies to Creon
2.  The Individual  vs. the state, and civil disobedience
3.  The significance of Antigone’s behavior as a woman in her society
4.  The threat  of tyranny to a people
5.  How and why Sophocle’s lessons are of importance to us in this century?
6.  The German philosopher Hegel said that Antigone represents the tragic collision of right against right with both sides equally justified – why do or don’t agree with his analysis of this play?
Antigone with the dead Polynices

Friday, January 14, 2011

Greek Comedy for Extra Credit

Extra Credit Assignment:
Read Aristophanes' play Lysistrata. (I have one copy of the play I can loan out.  It is a very famous play so it is probably in your local library - it may even be in our school library.)  As you read the play think about what makes it so irreverent and funny.  Also think about the implications of what happens in the play. Consider the status women had in Ancient Greek society and reflect on the depth of thought implicit in this very humorous play. What makes us laugh?  Why? Report back to the class, in a short presentation. Email me a.s.a.p. if you intend to do this assignment. This is the funniest extra credit assignment you will get!

H.S. Senior Scholarship for Minority Students

I called them today and found out the deadline has been extended
due to the bad weather.  The new deadline is February 15, 2011.
Emma Bowen Foundation
This scholarship is for HS seniors who plan to attend a four year college, have at least a 3.0GPA and are interested in media, business, computer science, engineering or technology. In addition to being PAID, students also receive a matching funds scholarship. The internship will last throughout their college years.
Please have all interested students visit our website for more information and the application:
Click on the above link to get to their website.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Remaining Antigone Questions from Brooklyn College

King Lear will be our next book. We are awaiting its arrival.

All of you are already to have read and answered the blog posted questions about the Prelude.

Within a day I will edit these numerous questions and single out the ones I want you to answer in writing. Start thinking about these questions and your answers, okay?

Parodos (100-161)

Although the events described in the parodos are presented rather obscurely in poetic language as is characteristic of choral songs, can you summarize in a general way in one or two sentences what the Chorus is describing? The "man who had come from Argos" refers in a collective sense to the Argive army which supported Polyneices in his attack on Thebes. Which side in the war does the Chorus favor and why?

First Episode - Creon, Chorus and Guard

Creon in his first appearance in the play delivers a long speech outlining the philosophy that guides his actions and his edict  What human institution does Creon believe to be most important in life? Why does he think this? Compare his beliefs with those of Antigone. How does Creon contradict Antigone? Note the language of Creon's edict . How does the Chorus's initially react to Creon's decree? What is the dramatic purpose of the character of the Guard? How is he characterized in this scene? What view of Creon does the Guard present to us? What is Creon's reaction to the Guard's news?

First Stasimon

The first stasimon, often referred to as the "Ode to Man", is one of the most famous choral songs in Attic Tragedy. The Chorus begins by singing: "There are many wondrous things and yet nothing is more wondrous than man". The Greek word for "wondrous" is deinos, which is ambiguous in its meaning. It can also mean "terrible" (i.e., "producing fear"). The Chorus obviously intends the meaning "wondrous" when it praises man for his mastery of nature by the development of civilized skills. This praise of man's achievement of civilization is undoubtedly inspired by Sophistic anthropological accounts of man's cultural development as a result of his own efforts. Like the Sophists, the Chorus views human progress in an optimistic way.
Compose a list of man's civilized skills umerated by the Chorus.4 According to the Chorus is there any limitation to man's mastery of nature? Does it view man's cleverness as unambiguously "wondrous" or is there also something "terrible" about it. Explain your answer briefly. To whom is the Chorus referring in the last stanza of the ode when it sings: "whoever due to daring cherishes evil is without a city"? Who appears on-stage immediately after this ode? Connect the appearance of this character with what the chorus sings in the last stanza of the "Ode to Man".
4Note that Creon consistently uses metaphors (images) which link him with these skills and with civilization in general. On the other hand, Antigone and the resistance to Creon's edict is generally represented by images connected with nature. Why do you think that Sophocles organized his imagery in this way? What meaning does this organization of imagery suggest for the Antigone?

Second Episode - Guard, Antigone, Creon, Chorus and Ismene

The second episode presents the face-to-face confrontation of the two antagonists, Antigone and Creon. What is the attitude of the Chorus and the Guard with regard to the capture of Antigone? How does Antigone defend her defiance of the edict? How does Antigone view the relationship between laws made by man and those created by the gods? What is Creon's view of the relationship between man and woman and the relative importance of blood ties vs. the ties of citizenship? How does this contrast with Antigone's view of the same? What is Antigone's attitude with regard to her deed? And with regard to Ismene's attempt to share responsibility for the deed?

Second Stasimon

After the confrontation between Creon and Antigone, the Chorus sings of the misfortune that has come to Antigone and Ismene, who have been condemned to death. The Chorus puts this tragedy in the context of the calamities suffered by the House of Labdacus, the grandfather of Oedipus who killed his father and married his mother and whose sons, Polyneices and Eteocles, killed each other in a dynastic struggle. Who brought these disasters on the House of Labdacus? Why has this family suffered so much and made such disastrous mistakes? (613-625)?

Third Episode - Creon, Haemon and Chorus

How would the Athenian audience have received Creon's statement to his son Haemon: "It is necessary to obey him whom the city puts in charge even in small matters, whether they are just or unjust"? How does the Chorus view this statement? According to Haemon, what is the reaction of the common people to Creon's decree of death for Antigone? What advice does Haemon give to Creon? What is the point that Haemon is attempting to make to Creon by the analogies of the tree and the ship? What criticisms does Haemon make of Creon? What threat does Haemon make? Why does Creon change Antigone's punishment from public stoning to burial alive in a cave? What is the main theme of this brief ode to Love? Since choral odes generally comment upon the action of the previous episode, explain what connection this song has with the preceding scene. Can you find any lesson for Creon in this ode?

Fourth Episode - Antigone, Chorus and Creon

What new side of Antigone's character do we see in the kommos which begins the fourth episode? Antigone compares herself to Niobe (Tantalus's daughter) who because of her grief turned to stone. What does Antigone say that she and Niobe have in common? What difference and similarity between the two does the Chorus see? Antigone's statement in 905-912 has disturbed many critics of this play. For this reason, this passage has been seen by some as an interpolation made soon after Sophocles's death.5 Other critics defend the authenticity of this passage by saying that these words are not as unfeeling as they seem: Antigone, on one hand, is talking about a real brother, who is now dead, and, on the other, a husband she has not yet married and children who do not yet exist. Which interpretation do you agree with? Why?
5This passage was in the text of the Antigone used by Aristotle in the fourth century.

Fourth Stasimon (944-987)

The fourth stasimon presents three mythical examples which comment upon Antigone's situation. What do the first two mythic personages, Danae and Lycurgus (the son of Dryas), have in common with Antigone? The third example, Cleopatra, may have also shared the same characteristic with Antigone, but it is not mentioned. According to C.M. Bowra (Sophoclean Tragedy, Oxford, 1944, 105), these examples may indicate the doubts the Chorus has about Antigone. The Chorus has been alarmed by her defiant behavior, but it also has been impressed by her heroism. Bowra writes: "The three stories seem to suggest different interpretations of what is happening and to hint that any one of them may be right." Examine each example carefully and determine whether it puts Antigone in a favorable or unfavorable light.

Fifth Episode (988-1114) - Teiresias, Creon and Chorus

The fifth episode brings the appearance of the blind prophet Teiresias. What dramatic purpose does the character of Teiresias serve? What omens does Teiresias report ? What do these omens mean? What is Creon's initial reaction to Teiresias's report? How is this reaction characteristic of Creon? Why does Creon finally change his mind about Teiresias? What course of action does the Chorus recommend to Creon? What is Creon's reaction to this recommendation? What has Creon learned about law?

Hyporchema (1115-1151)

Why in the hyporchema does the Chorus choose to pray to Dionysus at this critical moment rather than to any other god? What request does it make of the god?
6An unusual feature of the structure of the Antigone is the substitution of a lively dance-song called a hyporchema for the more stately rhythms of what would have been the fifth stasimon. The optimistic tone of the hyporchema has been occasioned by Creon's change of heart and is meant to emphasize by contrast the horror of Antigone's death and Creon's misfortune in the next scene.

Exodos (1155 to end) - Messenger, Chorus, Eurydice and Creon

Is the prayer of the Chorus in the hyporchema answered positively or negatively in the exodos? Why do you think that Creon goes to bury Polyneices first rather than to Antigone's cave, as he said he was going to do in the previous scene? What does Creon find when he arrives at the cave? What is the result of Creon's confrontation with Haemon? In his kommos Creon gives voice to one of the traditional themes of tragedy. See if you can identify this theme in the Exodus. Why did Eurydice commit suicide? What moral lesson does the Chorus see in the fate of Creon at the close of the play?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

If Schools Are Closed The Play is Off

The play, Nearly Lear, will be performed
only if N.Y.C. Public Schools are open. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

FREE New SAT Prep Website Discussed in today's NY Times

If you are going to take the SAT again, please sign onto, visit, and use this website:
Click on the above link, explore this websute, and see if it is useful to you.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Play About Antigone's Brothers' Conflict

Aeschylus, in whose plays Sophocles performed as a chorus member, wrote a play that chronologically directly precedes the action in Antigone.  It is called Seven Against Thebes.  Since many of you have  expressed a keen interest in Ancient Greek Drama, and several of you have read all three of the Theban Tragedies, I thought this play might be of interest to you as well. Have a great Greek weekend. 
EXTRA CREDIT: After reading Seven Against Thebes, prepare and give a ten minute report to the class about this play's structure, characters and narrative. Also discuss the differences and the similarities Aeschylus'  tragedy has to Antigone. This assignment is very well suited for two students. Please email me a.s.a.p. if you intend to make this presentation.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Structure of ANTIGONE


1. Prologue: Antigone asks for her sister Ismene's help in burying their brother Polyneices. Ismene refusesand Antigone rejects her sister.
 2. Parodos: The chorus enters, rejoicing and thanking the gods that the attack of Polyneices has been defeated and Thebes is safe.
3. First Episode: Creon enters, and reveals his plan to bury Eteocles but leave Polyneices unburied. A sentry enters, and reports that someone has tried to bury Polyneices. Creon is angered, and threatens the sentry.
4. First Stasimon: The chorus dances and sings its Ode to Man ("Many are the wonders, none is more wonderful than what is man.")
5. Second Episode: Antigone is brought before Creon, and confesses that she buried her brother. She and Creon argue, and Creon decrees she will die. Ismene is led in, and claims she helped her sister. Antigone rejects her help.
6. Second Stasimon: The chorus reflects on the destiny of Antigone's house, fate, and the nature of a divine curse.
7. Third Episode: Haemon argues with his father Creon, and leaves. Creon decrees that Antigone be entombed alive in a cave.
8. Third Stasimon: The chorus sings a song about the power of the god Eros.
9. Fourth Episode: Antigone, lamenting her fate to the chorus, is led to the cave.
10. Fourth Stasimon: The chorus compares Antigone's fate and imprisonment to that of three others: Danae, Lycurgus, and Cleopatra.
11. Fifth Episode: Teiresias enters, and tells Creon he has made a grave mistake. Creon realizes his mistake, and rushes to bury Polyneices and release Antigone.
12. Fifth Choral Ode: The chorus invokes Dionysus, the god who protects Thebes.
13. Exodus: A messenger reports the deaths of Antigone and Haemon. Euridyce, Creon's wife, commits suicide. Creon laments his losses.


Ancient Greek masks were painted.
This is supposed to be King Creon.
    (Tell me how you know this is not an Ancient Greek Mask?)

(This is the DVD cover for the "modern" 20th century French playwright's
version of Antigone's story, translated into English.
It might confuse you to see it now, before your A.P. Exam, since you
will be writing about Sophocles' Antigone. So,
I'll show it to you after you take the test in May. Okay?)

Ancient Greek Theaters and Plays

The basic structure of a Greek tragedy is fairly simple. After a prologue spoken by one or more characters, the chorus enters, singing and dancing. Scenes then alternate between spoken sections (dialogue between characters, and between characters and chorus) and sung sections (during which the chorus danced). Here are the basic parts of a Greek Tragedy:
a. Prologue: Spoken by one or two characters before the chorus appears. The prologue usually gives the mythological background necessary for understanding the events of the play.
b. Parodos: This is the song sung by the chorus as it first enters the orchestra and dances.
c. First Episode: This is the first of many "episodes", when the characters and chorus talk.
d. First Stasimon: At the end of each episode, the other characters usually leave the stage and the chorus dances and sings a stasimon, or choral ode. The ode usually reflects on the things said and done in the episodes, and puts it into some kind of larger mythological framework.
For the rest of the play, there is alternation between episodes and stasima, until the final scene, called the...
e. Exodos: At the end of play, the chorus exits singing a processional song which usually offers words of wisdom related to the actions and outcome of the play.

Greek tragedies and comedies were always performed in outdoor theaters. Early Greek theaters were probably little more than open areas in city centers or next to hillsides where the audience, standing or sitting, could watch and listen to the chorus singing about the exploits of a god or hero. From the late 6th century BC to the 4th and 3rd centuries BC there was a gradual evolution towards more elaborate theater structures, but the basic layout of the Greek theater remained the same. The major components of Greek theater are labled on the diagram above.
Orchestra: The orchestra (literally, "dancing space") was normally circular. It was a level space where the chorus would dance, sing, and interact with the actors who were on the stage near the skene. The earliest orchestras were simply made of hard earth, but in the Classical period some orchestras began to be paved with marble and other materials. In the center of the orchestra there was often a thymele, or altar. The orchestra of the theater of Dionysus in Athens was about 60 feet in diameter.
Theatron: The theatron (literally, "viewing-place") is where the spectators sat. The theatron was usually part of hillside overlooking the orchestra, and often wrapped around a large portion of the orchestra (see the diagram above). Spectators in the fifth century BC probably sat on cushions or boards, but by the fourth century the theatron of many Greek theaters had marble seats.
Skene: The skene (literally, "tent") was the building directly behind the stage. During the 5th century, the stage of the theater of Dionysus in Athens was probably raised only two or three steps above the level of the orchestra, and was perhaps 25 feet wide and 10 feet deep. The skene was directly in back of the stage, and was usually decorated as a palace, temple, or other building, depending on the needs of the play. It had at least one set of doors, and actors could make entrances and exits through them. There was also access to the roof of the skene from behind, so that actors playing gods and other characters (such as the Watchman at the beginning of Aeschylus' Agamemnon) could appear on the roof, if needed.
Parodos: The parodoi (literally, "passageways") are the paths by which the chorus and some actors (such as those representing messengers or people returning from abroad) made their entrances and exits. The audience also used them to enter and exit the theater before and after the performance.

 Thank you Ivy for making your presentation to the class. Wow, this is amazing!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sophocle's ANTIGONE

The Classical Origins of Western Culture The Core Studies 1 Study Guide
by Roger Dunkle
Brooklyn College Core Curriculum Series
Copyright © 1986 by Brooklyn College, The City University of New York All rights reserved. Published 1986.

The setting of the Antigone, as in the case of most Greek tragedies, does not require a change of scene. Throughout the play the skene with at least one door represents the facade of the royal palace of Thebes. Even when the poet shifts the audience's attention to events in the plain and the cave in which Antigone was entombed, there is no shift of scene. These events are reported by minor characters (here, a guard and a character specifically called a messenger) rather than enacted before the audience. Interior action is also reported by a messenger to characters on-stage for the benefit of the audience. The suicide of Eurydice, which takes place inside the palace, is reported to Creon (and to the audience) by a second messenger. The messenger speech eliminates the need for scene changes, which, due to the limited resources of the ancient theater, would have been difficult and awkward. Sophocles, like Aeschylus and Euripides, made a virtue of the necessity of this convention of the ancient theater by writing elaborate messenger speeches which provide a vivid word picture of the offstage action.
During the report of this messenger the body of Eurydice probably was displayed on the ekkyklema .
Exercise for Reading Comprehension and Interpretation
Prologue: Antigone and Ismene
The play opens with the prologue consisting of dialogue between Antigone and her sister Ismene. Briefly analyze the characterization of these two women in the prologue. What dramatic purpose does the character of Ismene serve?

1.What is the dramatic purpose of the prologue?
2.What problem does Antigone report to her sister?
3.What does Antigone intend to do?
4.What is Ismene's reaction to this intention?
5.What is Ismene's view of the relationship between men and women?      
6.To whom does Antigone apply this term in the prologue?