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Teaching Guide

Teaching Antigone

It's Greek to us.

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Telling your students how to pronounce Antigone is the easy part. She's not the anti-gone,like the anti-Christ or antipasto. The hard part is getting students relate to a text that's about 2,500 years old. This isn't just before smartphones and e-books—this is before phones and books themselves.

But students love drama, curses, and tragedy, and Antigone has that in spades.

In this guide you will find

  • modern connections to relate dusty old Antigone from the BCE to social justice issues of the CE.
  • reading quizzes making sure students have all the complicated family dynamics in order.
  • assignments that make funerals fun! Kind of.

There you have it. Antigone doesn't have to be anti-fun.

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Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: We don't mean to be insensitive about all the death and destruction that occurs in Antigone, but seeing as how the first three letters of funeral are (however inappropriately) F-U-N, let's have a little.

Your students will analyze the traits of the major characters in Antigone by writing obituaries and eulogies. They'll also design tombstones and write epitaphs. F-U-N indeed. 

Length of Lesson: 2 class periods with a few days in between for students to complete an assignment. 

Materials Needed:

  • Internet access to various examples of obituaries, tombstones, epitaphs (there are several possible links provided in Step 1, below), or printouts of these documents and images

Step 1: Show your students a few images of tombstones (here's Mel Blanc's, here's Thomas Jefferson's, and here's Jackie Robinson's) as well as an example of a real obituary. If you're inclined to use an obituary for a literary figure (which we strongly recommend, seeing as how this is a literature-based activity), here are a few you could choose from:

For some more examples of tombstone epitaphs, you can refer students to this website.

Step 2: Divide students into small groups and have them analyze these items (tombstones, obituaries, epitaphs) and try to decide what they tell us about the character of the deceased in each case. Some questions to consider include:

  1. What can you learn about a person by reading his/her obituary?
  2. How can an epitaph help to illuminate a person's character?
  3. Can the shape of a tombstone tell us anything about the person on whose grave it sits?
  4. What, if anything, do each of these things tell us about the people who have survived the deceased?

Step 3: Have each group briefly share its findings.

Step 4: Give students the next part of their assignment. Each student must now choose one of the characters who dies in Antigone. (Ideally, each group will have all three characters represented, meaning that at least one student will focus on Antigone, another on Eurydice, and another on Haemon.) For the character they have chosen, each student will write an obituary and design a tombstone. 

Here are some things you can instruct your students to keep in mind: 

  • The obituary you write should reflect your character's major traits. It should also reflect how the people who survived this character may feel about him or her (since, you know, they'd be the ones writing the obituary). 
  • The design of the tombstone should also represent the character in some way, and should feature a quote from the play as an epitaph (preferably something spoken by your chosen character). 
  • The quote used for the epitaph should sum up the character. 

Step 5: When students have finished their tombstones and obituaries, have them get back into their small groups and briefly share their work. 

Step 6: Now, working together, the students in each small group should write a eulogy in the voice of Creon in which he laments the deaths of Antigone, Haemon, and Eurydice. Students should be prepared to hand in these eulogies at the end of the period. 

Step 7: [Optional] Give students a chance to edit and revise their eulogies and then have one member of the group read it aloud for the class. 

(California English Language Arts Standards Met: 9th & 10th grade Literary Response & Analysis: 3.3, 3.4, 3.7, 3.11; Writing: 2.2. 11th and 12th grade Literary Response & Analysis: 3.2, 3.3, 3.4; Writing: 2.2.)

Instructions for Your Students

We don't mean to be insensitive about all the death and destruction that occurs in Antigone, but seeing as how the first three letters of funeral are (however inappropriately) F-U-N, let's have a little.

You're going to analyze the traits of the major characters in Antigone by writing obituaries and eulogies, designing tombstones, and choosing appropriate epitaphs. F-U-N indeed. 

Step 1: In class, you'll take a look at a few tombstones, obituaries, and epitaphs. Then you'll divide into small groups and talk about what you can learn about a person (ahem, a deceased person) by analyzing these particular personal affects. As you chat in your group, you may consider the following questions:

  1. What can you learn about a person by reading his/her obituary?
  2. How can an epitaph help to illuminate a person's character?
  3. Can the shape of a tombstone tell us anything about the person on whose grave it sits?
  4. What, if anything, do each of these things tell us about the people who have survived the deceased?

You may want to take notes as you talk. Why? See Step 2, below.

Step 2: After these discussions, each group will (briefly) report its findings. Gee. Notes would come in handy right now, wouldn't they?

Step 3: Now comes the assignment. For homework, each person in your group should pick one of the characters that dies in the play—Antigone, Haemon, or Eurydice. (If there are more than 3 people in your group, some of you will need to choose the same character, but you should still work individually.) 

For the character you choose, you will now write an obituary and design a tombstone. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The obituary you write should reflect your character's major traits. It should also reflect how the people who survived this character may feel about him or her (since, you know, they'd be the ones writing the obituary). 
  • The design of the tombstone should also represent the character in some way, and should feature a quote from the play as an epitaph (preferably something spoken by your chosen character). 
  • The quote used for the epitaph should sum up the character. 

Step 4: In class with your group, share your obituary and tombstone. Once everyone in your group has discussed their individual characters, collaborate on the final step of the F-U-N-eral project. Together with your group, write a eulogy in the voice of Creon. Imagine what he might say at the triple funeral that must happen right after the play ends. As you write, you must think about Creon’s perspective on each of the deceased and how he would choose to memorialize them.

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Common Core Standards  

The following standards are covered in this course:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING ANTIGONE?

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Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Photos    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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