Family drama? Check. Heartbreaking tragedy? Check. Defiance in the face of injustice? Check, check, check. Indeed, Antigone falls right in line with all the plays in Sophocles' trilogy—powerful, strange, and rife with educational value.

Antigone explores numerous complex ideas involving morality, religion, and politics; however, the heart of this play is the concept of civil disobedience. You may want to provide a background lesson on ancient Greek burial rites and religion so that students can better understand Antigone's dilemma and ultimate betrayal. Antigone buries her brother, even though this action is forbidden by law, and she dies standing up for what is right. For this reason, she can be compared to significant fictional characters like The Book Thief's Liesel Meminger or even real-life historical individuals, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malala Yousafzai. Connecting Antigone's circumstances to those of familiar figures will help students relate to and glean inspiration from the play.

Antigone is one of three Theban plays by Sophocles, the others being Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus. While these plays were not written in chronological order, they can be taught together in a more in-depth unit on Greek tragedy.

Learn more about Antigone below!

Summary of Antigone

Key Facts

  • Length: 80 Pages
  • Publication Date: 442/441 BC
  • Recommended Grade Band: 9-10

The play opens in Thebes after Antigone's two brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, have died fighting for opposing sides. Antigone's uncle, King Creon, allows Eteocles a proper burial. However, he decrees that Polynices, whom he considers to be a traitor, will not be given burial rights and that anyone who buries him will be killed. Antigone, unlike her sister Ismene in whom she confides, believes that burial traditions are the unwritten laws of the gods. She violates Creon's decree by giving Polynices proper funeral rites. She is caught in the act and punished for violating the king's law. To avoid her fate of being entombed alive, Antigone hangs herself.

Content Warning: Antigone contains incidents of violence and suicide.

What Your Students Will Love About Antigone

  • Antigone's bravery
  • Discussing the philosophical ideas presented

Potential Student Struggles With Antigone

  • Difficult language and confusing syntax
  • Keeping track of all the characters

Learning Objectives for Antigone

  • Identify civil disobedience as the central theme of the play and elaborate on its moral complexities.
  • Define the role of the Chorus, and cite examples of Choral odes that demonstrate some of the play's themes.
  • Discuss how gender plays a role in the struggle between Antigone and Creon.
  • Identify and discuss the traits of a tragic hero in ancient Greek drama, and determine whether those traits apply to Creon and/or Antigone.
  • Track Creon's character development.
  • Discuss the role of fate as it applies to Antigone and Creon and their respective families.
  • Compare Antigone to famous literary characters and historical figures with similar stories.

Key Literary Elements & Techniques:

  • Apostrophe
  • Dialogue
  • Foreshadowing
  • Imagery
  • Personification
  • Proverb
  • Sarcasm
  • Symbolism
  • Theme

Themes and Motifs:

Responsibility — Antigone faces conflict between her duty to the state and responsibility to her brother.

Related Works:

Civil Disobedience — This tragedy deals with civil unrest and the protagonist a war with society.

Related Works:

Fate — As in many Greek tragedies, the characters in Antigone feel influenced by the will of the gods and by destiny.

Related Works:

Other Resources for Antigone

  • There have been several film adaptations of Antigone, the most notable being the 1961 movie Antigoni, directed by Yorgos Javellas and starring Irene Papas. The film is in Greek, but it is available with English subtitles. Learn more!
  • Another film adaptation, directed by Bruno Cappola and starring Lisa Stuart, debuted in 2011. Many regard Antigone (2011) as visually modern, unlike the 1961 film that more closely resembles the text. Watch the trailer!
  • Information about Ancient Greek religious burials
  • Biography of Sophocles
  • 7-minute animated play summary
Resource Format
Antigone Paperback Student Edition
Antigone Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Antigone AP Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Antigone Activity Pack Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Antigone Response Journal Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Antigone Multiple Critical Perspectives Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
Antigone Complete Teacher's Kit Reproducible 30-Book Set