Antigone: A Tragedy of Civil Disobedience or Anarchy?

A Word Quest for Sophomore English


by Linda Smith

Introduction | Task |LInks| Process | Evaluation | Conclusion



For a picture tour of modern Athens



The time: 442 B.C. The place: Athens, Greece. You've returned to the Theater of Dionysos to retrieve your satchel containing articles and advertisements for tomorrow's Athens Daily. You had it with you yesterday when you sat alone and pondered the tragic events of Sophocles' Antigone, which was played out here just two days ago.

As you get lost in your thoughts about the play, you feel transported. You see before you this theater; however, it's in ruins. Through the prism of time, you are seeing more than 2,000 years into the future. You observe a solitary and strangely dressed individual sitting where you are sitting, apparently absorbed in sorting through the contents of badly decomposed satchel. Gentle fingers gingerly handle wispy fragments of what appears to be documents. Your satchel? Your articles and personal effects? Why is this person seem so mesmerized with the words?

You observe this stranger through the tunnel of faraway time -- more than 2,000 years ago when ancient Greece struggled to define the individual's rights and responsibilities in society, a period that spawned Sophocles' tragedy Antigone.

As an Athenian, you will introduce Antigone, a woman who stubbornly defies civil law because she thinks the law is morally wrong (civil disobedience), and Creon, the lawgiver who struggles to maintain the rule of law, without which lawlessness and anarchy result. (Find out about democracy in Ancient Greece.)

By the end of the project, you will have explored the dilemmas faced by the major characters in Sophocles' play and have linked this learning to similar dilemmas in the modern world. Who acted more courageously? Antigone in her defiance or Creon in his steadfast belief in law?


The Task

  • Research using the Internet
  • Organize and present PowerPoint slide show of Greek culture, history, theater, and law (research results).
  • Evaluate significant aspects of culture and select those that represent the culture.
  • Write a persuasive essay
  • Collaborate with small group

The Process


Pre reading Activity Your paper has been collecting information about the Greek culture to feature in an upcoming section of the paper. This information was in the lost satchel along with articles relating the the tragedy Antigone.

  1. Get into your group based upon the role you selected (all historians will work together, all theater critics together, etc.).
  2. After collecting information, your group will prepare a PowerPoint Slide Show and present to the class. (See assessment rubric).

Reading Activity: During the reading of Antigone, keep a diary on your assigned character (either Antigone or Creon). Jot down quotes and incidents that reveal your character's feeling about the law. Follow your character as he or she makes decisions that result in tragedy. Ask yourself whether the character is a hero? Write this through the eyes of the character.


Post Reading Activity: You are now going to assemble the items that you had in your satchel when you lost it.

  1. Individually, rewrite a the character's diary.
  2. Divide into groups of four.

  3. Read your character's diary aloud to your group. Decide on the best one and place it into your group's satchel (envelope).

  4. Divide the following tasks among the group:
    1. Write a newspaper article explaining what happened in Antigone.
    2. Write obituaries for characters who died.
    3. Write a play review of Sophocles'Antigone as it would have been performed in Athens 442 B.C.
    4. Create an advertisement that might appear in a newspaper over 2,000 years ago.
  5. Put this work in your group's satchel.

  6. Now decide what other items or information might have been in the lost satchel (personal or professional items) items that later generations could use to understand Greece around 400 B.C. You are limited to only eight items (these can include art, coins, dress, history, politics, etc. Be creative and think).
  7. Now, the big question: Go back to the beginning of this WebQuest and decide who the person is that found your satchel 2,000 years later? In other words, who from modern history could have related to the themes of civil disobedience and rule of law.
    1. Think about modern day instances of civil disobedience.
    2. Who are some people who have defied laws that they considered immoral?
    3. Select someone from modern history who can identify with the words in the letter.
    4. Have there been Creons in modern history?


  8. When everyone is finished, present your "satchel" to the class along with a short discussion about the modern "Antigone" or "Creon.(See assessment rubric).

Individual Assignment. Write a five paragraph essay on the theme of civil disobedience vs. the rule of law. Use details from the play for support but be sure to connect to the present. You may find the essays linked below helpful.



Evaluation . . . . . . . .

  • You will be evaluated for individual work as well as for group work for assigned tasks. See the assessment rubric.


You will have read the tragedy Antigone through the eyes of her time. You should be familiar with vocabulary concerning the development of the Greek theater. You should also have insight into the universal nature of man as preserved in the writings of great authors. Do you have more insight into this question: For what principle would you be willing to be break the law and suffer serious consequences?


Last updated June 25, 1999

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