Monday, September 17, 2012

Usage: Brecht's Antigone

1942. Bertold Brecht published his Antigonelegende. He subtitled it "a tragedy in a modern setting."
Brecht "showed Creon overtly as Hitler, along with his aggressive son Megareus, who continues to fight and finally brings defeat on Thebes, an allusion to modern Germany. He succeeds in his Verfremdungseffekt (alientation effect), distancing us from all the characters, including Antigone. This alienation is a technique for distancing the audience members so that they can make an objective assessment of the action they are seeing and come up with a moral judgment. Brecht wants to enlist minds over emotions, but he does not always succeed. Brecht objected to what he saw as Antigone's pacifism. He thought she did a disservice to the memory of the German partisans who fought against the Nazis." M. McDonald,  The Living Art of Greek Tragedy (Bloomington, 2003), 81.
Brecht introduced enough changes to the play that it was no longer simply Sophocles' play; rather, it became Brecht's own commentary on his contemporary situation. Whether or not Sophocles was speaking thus in his own day is less pertinent in the context of 1942 Germany.

This is a paper topic with lots of potential.

If I were able to research this more deeply, I would start with the premise of McDonald's observation on Brecht's motives. I would dig into contemporary reactions. Much scholarship has been done on Brecht, even in English. So, I wouldn't have a hard time finding secondary sources to guide my research into Brecht's usage of Antigone. And I'm reasonably confident that I could find interesting stuff without blowing my time-budget.

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