CAPN Abstract 1: Rossana Zetti on Brecht’s Antigone

We are delighted to be able to share with you some information about Rossana Zetti’s forthcoming paper at Classics and Poetry Now 2017 on Thursday 2nd November.

In the run up to the workshop we will share similar information about each paper. The reason for this is, first, to let people know what kind of work is going on in the field, and who is doing it. Secondly, we would like to share the primary materials (i.e. the ancient and modern poems under discussion) so that those who are coming to the workshop can easily read up beforehand.

Rossana Zetti is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh and her paper is entitled:

Ideological and Creative Practice in Brecht’s Re-telling of Antigone’s first stasimon

As war torn Europe saw 1947 turn in 1948 the German playwright Bertold Brecht (1898-1956) adapted Sophocles’ Antigone for a stage production. It was first performed in Chur Stadttheater, Switzerland, in 1948. It was Brecht’s first directorial collaboration with Capar Neher, whose design for the production you can see above.

The departures from the Sophoclean original are most remarkable in the choruses, where Brecht’s own poetics and invention emerge. In this paper, Rossana Zetti will focus on the first stasimon of the play, which stands as an independent piece of poetry in its own right.

By focusing on key-terminology in the ancient Greek play as well as equivalent or alternative words chosen by the Brecht, Zetti will shed light on the ideologies and mechanics behind the creative process that has lent to specific poetic or lexical choices.



Here is Sophocles’ Antigone, lines 332-75, translated into English prose by Hugh Lloyd-Jones (LOEB 21). It is followed by Brecht’s version, translated into English by Tom Kuhn and David Constantine (2003/2015) Brecht Plays 8.

CHORUS (Sophocles trans. LLOYD-JONES)

Many things are formidable, and none more formidable than man! He crosses the grey sea beneath the winter wind, passing beneath the surges that surround him; and he wears away the highest of the gods, Earth, immortal and unwearying, as his ploughs go back and forth from year to year, turning the soil with the aid of the breed of horses.

And he captures the tribe of thoughtless birds and the races of wild beasts and the watery brood of the sea, catching them in the woven coils of nets, man the skilful. And he contrives to overcome the beast that roams the mountain, and tames the shaggy-maned horse and the untiring mountain bull, putting a yoke about their necks.

And he has learned speech and wind-swift thought and the temper that rules cities, and how to escape the exposure of the inhospitable hills and the sharp arrows of the rain, all-resourceful; he meets nothing in the future without resource; only from Hades shall he apply no means of flight; and he has contrived escape from desperate maladies.

Skilful beyond hope is the contrivance of his art, and he advances sometimes to evil, at other times to good. When he applies the laws of the earth and the justice the gods have sworn to uphold he is high in the city; outcast from the city is he with whom the ignoble consorts because of his recklessness. May he who does such things never sit by my hearth or share my thoughts!


Monstrous, a lot. But nothing
More monstrous than man
For he, across the night
Of the sea, when into the winter the
Southerlies blow, he puts out
In winged and whirring houses.
And the noble earth of the gods in heaven
The unspoilable tireless earth
He rubs out with the striving plough
From year to year driving
The races of horses to and fro.
And the breed of the lightly made birds
He ensnares and hunts
And the tribe of wild beasts.
And Pontus’ nature that thrives in salt
With ropes slyly slung
This knowing man.
And catches the game with his arts
That sleeps and roams on the mountains.
And over the rough-maned horse he flings
The yoke on its neck, and over the mountain-
Wandering and untamed bull.
And speech and the airy flight
Of thought and statutes to order a state
He has learned and to flee the damp airs
Of ill-blowing hills and
The bolts of rain. All-travelled
Untravelled. He comes to nothing.
Always he knows what to do
Nothing nonplusses him.
In all this he is boundless but
A measure is set.
For when he wants for an enemy
He rises up as his own. Like the bull’s
He bows the neck of his fellowmen but these fellowmen
Rip out his guts. When he steps forth
He treads on his own kind, hard. By himself alone
His belly will never be filled but he builds a wall
Around what he owns and the wall
Must be torn down. The roof
Opened to the rain. Humanity
Weighs with him not a jot. Monstrous thereby
He becomes to himself.

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