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Personal Freedom and the Role of Women

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The play “Antigone” is a play about the acceptance or rejection of authority, or, rather, about an individual’s relationship to authority. The questions posed by this play are apt for everyone to ask throughout their entire life, and indeed in all circumstances in order to critically examine the way one lives his or her life and how one wants to reconcile the needs of personal freedom with the requirements of living in a community that will almost certainly have a hierarchical structure. The issues posed in “Antigone” are, however, perhaps even more important for peoples who are in the process of constructing a state, and of creating laws and boundaries of personal freedom that will circumscribe them for generations. After the uprisings of the Arab Spring, many countries are now in the process of trying to create national identities and figure out many of the questions posed by this play. Egypt is probably the largest, the farthest along this process, and the possibly the most culturally literate. I would produce “Antigone” in Egypt, if asked to produce it in a place where the population would be interested and the play would be useful.

There are several reasons Egyptians might be receptive to the messaging in “Antigone”. The first is what was mentioned above: the Egyptian people are in a messy but beautiful process of trying to construct a system of government that balances the needs of personal freedom, of a religious population, and of morality, all of which are issues that “Antigone” deals with frequently (Smith). Beyond this, however, the play could also be interesting for a variety of other reasons. Though it is easy to forget when one looks at modern Egypt, the country actually has a substantial Greek heritage, ranging from the founding of the city of Alexandria to the adaption of Greek mathematics and philosophy into Arabic culture in the middle ages (Blackman 33). In fact, many of the Greek texts that exist today only do so because they were preserved via Arabic translation (Backman 44). I believe that by setting the play in Greek Egypt, one could draw the audience in and make them more interested in the context of the play. Finally, Egypt, like many Islamic countries, is currently dealing with decisions about the role of women in its society. I believe the play “Antigone” might have an interesting message in that, especially in women’s strength and ability to defy authority, to take control of their own destinies and be fruitful, productive members of society.

Egypt would be an excellent place to stage “Antigone” for a wide variety of reasons, such as its Greek heritage and current state of flux. But by far the most important is that the Egyptian people are currently making decisions that will affect the way their children relate to authority for generations, and a good viewing of “Antigone” might put the right questions into their minds.

Works Cited
Alex, Smith. NYTimes Online. New York Times, 7 Feb. 2012. Web. 26 Mar. 2012. .
Backman, Clifford R. The Worlds of Medieval Europe. New York: Oxford UP, 2003. Print.

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