Classics Sophocles’ Antigone
P. J. Finglass
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0292


Dating perhaps to the 440s BCE, Antigone is one of Sophocles’ best-known plays. The story of a young woman who defies the masculine authority of her uncle Creon by burying her brother Polynices has long captivated audiences and readers. Although it deals with the story of the house of Oedipus, it does not make up a connected trilogy with Sophocles’ two other surviving plays on that topic, Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus; it is very probably the earliest of these three plays. The play is notable not only for its portrayal of the clash between Antigone and Creon, but for the contrasting pair of sisters Antigone and Ismene, for the earthy humor provided by the Guard or Watchman, and for the beauty and thought of the choral songs, one of which, the so-called “Ode to Man,” has often been excerpted in collections of Greek poetry. The reception of Antigone is more extensive than that of any other Sophoclean play, perhaps of any other Greek tragedy; countless modern adaptations and responses to the drama testify to its continuing resonance down the centuries and in our own times.

Editions and Commentaries

The scholarly edition most cited, Lloyd-Jones and Wilson 1992, is often textually adventurous, printing many conjectures on the text which other scholars generally reject, and needs to be used with caution; its text is reprinted almost exactly, with a translation, in Lloyd-Jones 1998. Still more caution is needed with the other modern critical edition, Dawe 1996. Dain 1955 is less useful as an edition than as a translation. The most helpful commentary is Griffith 1999, which gives guidance with the Greek and the overall interpretation of the drama; Jebb 1900 is still worth consulting; Brown 1987 is particularly aimed at students; Kamerbeek 1978 is of limited use; Müller 1967 is vitiated by willfulness in matters of text and interpretation.

  • Brown, A. 1987. Sophocles: Antigone. Warminster, UK: Aris and Phillips.

    Text of the play (sometimes adventurous) with translation, brief introduction, and commentary.

  • Dain, A. 1955. Sophocle. Tome I. Les Trachiniennes – Antigone. Texte établi par Alphonse Dain et traduit par Paul Mazon. Paris: Société d’édition “Les Belles Lettres.”

    Text now out of date, but translation still most valuable.

  • Dawe, R. D. 1996. Sophoclis Antigone. Stuttgart and Leipzig: Teubner.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-663-12368-2

    A true critical edition, but idiosyncratic in its textual choices.

  • Griffith, M. 1999. Sophocles: Antigone. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Excellent modern edition with sound text, stimulating commentary, and extremely helpful introduction.

  • Jebb, R. C. 1900. Sophocles: The plays and fragments. Part III. The Antigone. 3d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Out of date in many respects, but a classic, and the most recent large commentary on the play. Offers a translation too. Reprinted as Sophocles. Plays: Antigone. Edited by P. E. Easterling. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2004. Introduction by R. Blondell.

  • Kamerbeek, J. C. 1978. The Plays of Sophocles: Commentaries. Vol. 3, The Antigone. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

    Commentary only; highly conservative in textual matters and unexciting in its interpretation.

  • Lloyd-Jones, H. 1998. Sophocles: Antigone. The Women of Trachis. Philoctetes. Oedipus at Colonus. Loeb Classical Library 21. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard Univ. Press.

    Corrected revision of 1994 impression. Text almost the same as that of Lloyd-Jones and Wilson 1992; accompanied by a facing translation.

  • Lloyd-Jones, H., and N. G. Wilson. 1992. Sophoclis Fabulae. Oxford: Clarendon.

    Corrected revision of 1990 impression. A standard point of reference, but often too keen to change the transmitted text; surprisingly inaccurate apparatus criticus.

  • Müller, G. 1967. Sophokles: Antigone. Heidelberg, Germany: Winter.

    German introduction and commentary; excessively keen on textual conjectures and extreme in its interpretation (Antigone, according to this book, is completely right, Creon completely wrong).

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