Sophocles’ Antigone has been challenging performers and audiences for thousands of years. In collaboration with the Kosmos Society, Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies is piloting an innovative program that invites young people to engage with the ancient drama through performance and through meaningful dialogue with fellow students from around the globe.
Participating schools perform and film a small excerpt of approximately 150 lines from Antigone, and then meet afterwards to share their impressions and feelings about the impact of their performances on their overall engagement with the text. Schools that have completed the project so far have devoted three to five hours in total, to meet, practice, and film the final performance.
Antigone Project: Phase One
The project started in 2014, when Kosmos Society (then called Hour 25) Community members worked together to create an updated English translation of Sophocle’s Antigone. The members of the community engaged deeply with the text and with each other to bring together this revised translation, which tracks about 70 ancient Greek terms in transliteration. These key terms comprise an accessible core vocabulary that help readers understand complex concepts about ancient Greek civilization, even through translation. Once the text was prepared, the community wanted to use it to reach out to students around the world. It was then that the idea of performances emerged.
In the first phase of the Antigone Project, two groups of high school students, one in Greece and the other in the United States, performed a selection of Sophocles’ Antigone, then met via Google+ Hangout to discuss their experiences of learning and staging this ancient tragedy. The selected passage (lines 441–581) focused on the highly charged moment when Creon first confronts his niece, Antigone, and accuses her of burying her brother, Polyneices, against his decree.
Performance by Greek Students
Performance by US Students
Antigone Project: Phase Two
Our goal for 2016–2018 is to create a compilation of the performances filmed by individual schools that would together present the entire tragedy. Participating schools may also record the “Ode to Man” (lines 334–383).
The performances filmed so far are available in this playlist:
Resources for Antigone Teams
The following text of Antigone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License and can be shared widely.
[ AntigonePerformanceText | “Ode to Man 334–384” ] (PDF files)
Translated by Richard Jebb, revised by Pierre Habel, further revised by Gregory Nagy. Now, newly revised by members of Kosmos Society (Hour 25).
For ancient Greeks engaging with such a living mytho-poetic system, Antigone would need no introduction. First-time modern readers, however, may at find it helpful to know just the basic facts about Sophocles’ use of this myth before beginning. In this tragedy, Antigone is the daughter of Oedipus the former king of Thebes who brought about his own destruction by unknowingly killing his father and marrying his mother Jocasta. After Oedipus’ self-blinding, exile, and death, his two sons (and Antigone’s two brothers), Eteocles and Polynices, end up quarreling for control over Thebes. War ensues when Polynices and six other heroes attack the seven gates of the city (the mythical “Seven Against Thebes”). In a final military confrontation, the brothers kill each other. Antigone’s uncle Creon takes control of the city and decrees that Eteocles should be given the funeral of a hero, while Polynices must be left unmourned and unburied. Anyone who defies this edict faces death. This is where the tragedy begins.
To learn more about the project and to register your school as a participating members of the project, please contact the Antigone Project Coordinators, Jessica, Janet, and Sarah (email@example.com).