Chorus Speeches

These are the speeches that the Chorus deliver. You could use them to remind yourself of the how the story unfolds or to rehearse your own version of the play and perhaps present it to other classes. A downloadable version of each Chorus text can be accessed by clicking on each of the titles below.

The Chorus speak for the first time and Creon reminds them of his law. The Chorus speak for a second time telling of the dust storm and the burial. The soldier speaks as a witness to what has happened. The third speech of the Chorus identifies Antigone as the law breaker and they want to know why she would do this, Antigone replies. The fourth intervention of the chorus urges Creon to think carefully. What his response is unwritten, you could create your own ending.

 

Chorus text 1

On the plain, Polynices lies unburied.

The crows circle, the stench offends the Gods.

Alone of all who fell, Polynices lies unburied.

Creon! Tell us! How can this be so?

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Chorus text 2

On the plain, things are not as Creon wishes.

A dust storm blows and as it clears,

The guards of Polynices corpse return.

Soldier what has happened here?

Who has broken Creon’s law?

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Chorus text 3

It is Antigone, sister of the fallen man.

She must have heard what Creon said.

The penalty is death for those who disobey.

Antigone! You know the law why break it?

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Chorus text 4

Creon! We now have heard both sides and

Though you are king. Who is in the right?

She is caught between nature and your law.

Think hard my Lord before you decide.

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A Family Tree – Gods & Goddesses

ZEUS

Zeus

The Ancient Greeks had lots of Gods and Goddesses they believed they were immortal and lived on Mount Olympus.  They had a very real involvement in the lives of people and offerings and sacrifices needed to be made at key festivals and temples to keep them happy. However the Gods and Goddesses sometimes behaved badly just like the people they were governing, playing tricks, stealing from them, having love affairs.

The Father of the Gods was Zeus; quite literally, he was married to Hera but had affairs with just about everybody. His daughter Athena was the goddess of wisdom; she gave her name to the city of Athens and burst fully formed from Zeus’s head.

This website, similar in style to Horrible Histories, might help you track some of the relationships between them:

 

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Greek Theatre

Introduction to Greek theatre

It is widely believed that classical Greek theatre evolved from seasonal celebrations and religious rites in honour of the god Dionysus (wine) to ensure a plentiful harvest. The festivities would incorporate the singing of religious chants and dancing on an open flat piece of ground (The orchestra) with an altar at its centre on which offerings would be placed.

Over time the rituals evolved with the addition of a second celebrant into the more formal tragedies and comedies. These were still staged as part of the great festivals attended by most of the population of the city and audiences could be as big as 15 -20,000 people. The festivals were paid for by the wealthy citizens of the city and would take place over days. Three tragic plays would be staged in a day and would be part of the same story; Antigone is the final part of the Oedipus trilogy. The festivals were very competitive with prize money for the playwrights of the best plays and status for the funders of these plays.

Plays were staged outdoors in hillside amphitheatres that provided naturally occurring raked seating and would begin at day break. Audiences would arrive before dawn and remain until dusk. Food and drink would be brought and consumed throughout the day as the people sat on the hillsides watching the dramas unfold with the dramatic landscapes beyond. Masks were used to communicate facial expression over the great distance and allowed actors to play more than one character, including gods and women (there were no female actors). The chorus would be dressed uniformly with generic masks to represent a unified body of people. There is some speculation as to whether the megaphone shape of the mouth pieces helped amplify the voice even though the bowl shaped theatres had exceptionally good acoustics. This can still be experienced in the surviving theatres like the one at EPIDAURUS in modern Turkey.

The theatres developed elaborate machinery for stage and sound effects, including Cranes for lowering “gods”, triangular pillars (PERIAKTOI) that rotated to effect scene changes and wheeled platforms to reveal tableaux. Initially the action would all take place in one location in real time but as the civilization evolved over a thousand years ideas and devices changed. Plato condemned theatre because he believed it aroused uncontrolled feelings while his student Aristotle argued that the tragedies allowed us to release powerful emotions and that this was beneficial to society. How do these points of view relate to modern debates on the quality of Television or film?

This is a good short introductory documentary on Greek theatre aimed at adults but has some good images and information.

This animated video takes you on a tour of a Greek theatre.

 

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What have the Greeks done for us?

Greeks developed: engineering, mathematics, medicine, philosophy, sport, and theatre, legal systems of trial and of course democracy. Much of what the Greeks created was developed or destroyed by the Romans and then lost until the renaissance. We owe much of our civilizations principles to these ancient peoples.

Democracy

Ancient Greece was not a single nation as it is today but a collection of independent city states governing themselves and warring, trading or making treaties in their best interests or to defend their honour as it suited them.

The Athenians invented a system of DEMOCRACY (DEMOS = people KRATOS = power) that was developed over nearly two hundred years. It differed from OLIGARCHY (rule by a few often self chosen aristocrats) and MONARCHY (rule by one usually a hereditary King). It was a more direct system than ours as all citizens could speak at the assemblies and cast secret votes on all issues rather than elect representatives. However women were not allowed to participate in this process nor were slaves and in order to be citizen a man had to have been born in the city and own property.

Debates were heard and the citizens would respond by placing a stone token in a jar, hollow centres meant agreement, solid centres meant disagreement the tokens for and against were counted and a decision taken based on the majority. A similar system was in place for conducting criminal prosecutions. If the token was hollow the accused was guilty.

Citizens were elected to public office like magistrates for short period’s time or may have been chosen by lot similar to our system of jury service. People could be banished from the City if enough people wrote their names on a shard of pottery called an OSTRAKA and placed it in the jar. They would be ostracised.

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Theatre

Much of our modern theatre terms and principles come from the ancient Greeks, the word tragedy is derived from TRAGOS- the goat skin worn by dancers and ODE- meaning song. ORCHESTRA is the open flat place in which the CHORUS work in front of the SKENE (scenery) a raised platform with a painted cloth or permanently built background where the PROTAGONIST and ANTAGONIST perform. Our word SATIRE is from the mythical half goat half man SATYR dancer dressed in goat skins that would appear in the comedies often rude and topical making reference to the powerful people of the day.

Activity

There are many other modern English words that have ancient Greek origins like telescope; thermometer lots of them are scientific. Ask the class if they can think of any other English words with Greek origins that could be added to the list below. A pdf version of the below table can be downloaded here.

English words with Greek origins

These web pages from BBC Bitesize give a good introduction to Greek Culture, War and Politics with animations, games, audio clips and a short video from Dick and Dom about Archimedes.

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Festivals

Plays were performed as part of festivals, at particular times of year. For instance when grapes were harvested (autumn) and when the new wine vintage was opened for the first time (Spring) the Greeks would honour DIONYSOS, the god of wine. Wine and Olive Oil were very important to the Greeks they were used in their daily lives and their religious ceremonies as well as trading them with other countries.

Sporting games were held to celebrate specific great events and some festivals relate to particular places Mount Olympus was believed to be the home of the gods and was the site of the Olympic Games.

  • What festivals do we celebrate?
  • When in the year do they happen?
  • What do we do to celebrate our festivals?

Why do we have lights at Divali, get new clothes for Eid, open doors and windows at Chinese New Year or decorate a tree at Christmas?

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