Fascism on stage? Jean Anouilh’s Antigone

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Jean Anouilh’s Antigone has divided audiences since its first performance in 1944. For some, Anouilh’s play presented an occasion for celebrating the Resistance, but the initial production’s sole review in the underground press was deeply hostile, by contrast with many positive reviews in the collaborationist press. The latter support an interpretation in which Creon’s necessary maintenance of order is balanced by the ‘purity’ and ‘grandeur’ of Antigone’s defiance, keywords of a movement that has been labelled ‘aesthetic fascism’. The play’s nihilism, however, encompasses not only Antigone’s apparently gratuitous and pointless death, but also the sordid cynicism of Creon’s brutal regime. The central confrontation in which Creon attempts to save his niece is a contest of strength in which he is the loser, an outcome which demonstrates both the limits of power and the possibility of resistance. Though Antigone comes to doubt her decision at the very last moment, Creon’s own last words pay tribute to her victory. An unequivocally collaborationist reading is as impossible as an unequivocally pro-Resistance one. And if Antigone’s stance can be seen in the context of ‘aesthetic fascism’, there is in the play little comfort for actual fascism as a historical political movement.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationΣυναγωνίζεσθαι
Subtitle of host publicationStudies in Honor of Guido Avezzù
EditorsSilvia Bigliazzi, Francesco Lupi, Gherardo Ugolini
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2019

Publication series

NameSkenè: Texts and Studies
ISSN (Print)2464-9295


  • Anouilh
  • reception of Greek tragedy
  • Greek tragedy
  • Sophocles
  • Antigone

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