By Keri Walsh
In 1936, Simone Weil defined Sophocles’s Antigoneto French manufacturing unit
workers as “the tale of a person who, on their own, with none backing, dares
to be against her personal state, to the legislation of that state, to the top of
its govt, and who's, evidently, quickly positioned to death.” Weil’s insistence on
Antigone as a civilian protester, instead of Hegel’s version of female family
virtue, recurs all through writing of the fascist interval. From Virginia Woolf and
Louis MacNeice within the British Isles, to Marguerite Yourcenar and Jean Anouilh in
France, Antigone got here to include the courageous political resistance of the person.
By 1950, Hegel’s influential studying of the play as proposing rightful yet
irreconcilable claims appeared able to cave in: “as for Creon,” the Oxford
classicist Gilbert Murray advised a BBC radio viewers after the warfare, “it used to be of
course preposterous of Hegel to indicate that that he was once as a lot within the correct as
Antigone and that our sympathies might be calmly divided.” This partisan
reading of Antigonegrew in energy within the post-war interval, inspiring feminist,
pacifist, and post-colonial engagements with the play.
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Additional info for Antigone in Modernism: Classicism, Feminism and Theatres of Protest
By the time of Neville Chamberlain’s tenuous promise of “peace in our time” after his 1936 visit to Hitler, the question was no longer how to forget a tragic past, but how to avert a tragic future. During this period, right-wing artists and propagandists 41 appropriated Greek tragic aesthetics, and it became difficult for left-wing or liberal artists to win tragedy back. The title of Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda film Triumph of the Will (1935) connected Hitler to Nietzsche, contributing to a discrediting of Nietzsche’s tragic thought that persisted until well after the Second World War.
52 contradictions and ambivalences posed by the play. Weil’s article opens with the language of fairy tale, as she brings the reader to a Thebes of once-upon-a-time. “Almost two thousand five hundred years ago in Greece,” she begins, “some very beautiful poems were written” (19). In the dream-like economy of the fairy tale, most of the characters remain unnamed. We have “two brothers,” “their father,” and an “uncle” who “becomes king” (20). 25 In the midst of her story, Weil pauses occasionally for pedagogical purposes, orienting the reader carefully through the article with pertinent information on Greek tragedy and Greek culture, such as the importance of burial in Greek religion.
Antigone, which ran for a hundred performances, attained its goal of transforming the ancient Sophoclean text into a modernist media event. It was a chic Chanel classicism for 1922. But though Cocteau’s production gloried in its anti-moral stance, his published version of the script re-introduces some of the themes and tensions that characterize the Sophoclean original. In fact, Cocteau surprisingly frames his published manuscript within the context of debates over nationality and ethnicity, pluralism and racism, in French cultural life.