The Legend

Antigone, the daughter of OEDIPUS, king of Thebes in Greek legend, was also the heroine of one of SOPHOCLES' greatest dramas. According to the legend, when Oedipus blinded himself after his marriage to his mother was revealed to him, Antigone shared her father's exile near Athens. After his death, she returned to Thebes and attempted, with her sister Ismene, to reconcile her quarrelling brothers Eteocles and Polynices. Both brothers were killed, but her uncle Creon, now king, forbade the burial of Polynices because he had betrayed Thebes. When Antigone secretly buried her brother against the edict of her uncle, she was executed. According to another version of the legend, she escaped and married Haemon, the son of Creon.

Sophocles used the plot and characters of this legend in his tragedy Antigone (440 BC). The plot revolves around Antigone's devotion to her brother and her defiance of Creon's edict in order to obey a higher law of devotion. As the play opens, her two brothers, Polynices and Eteocles, have just killed each other as the result of Polynices' rebellion against Eteocles, the successor king of Thebes. Creon, the new king, forbids Polynices' corpse to be buried. Antigone conducts a funeral service despite the ban and is then imprisoned by Creon in a vault, where she hangs herself before Creon undergoes a change of heart. The play has often been interpreted as a justification for civil disobedience and as a vindication of the unwritten laws of conscience

Brechtís Version

In Brechtís version a prologue is set in 1945 Berlin and shows two sisters whose brother has deserted from the German army and is found hanged: should they risk being seen by the SS cutting his body down? In the play itself Kreon (or Creon) becomes a brutal aggressor, who has attacked Argos for the sake of its iron ore. Tiresias, instead of prophesying the future, as he does in the original, becomes a pessimistic analyst of the present; while the chorus of elders, always reserved in its attitude, eventually turns against Kreon too.