The Role Of The Chorus
In this lesson, students continue reading, annotating, and discussing Antigone . They’ll reread part of the opening and focus on the role of the Chorus before reading more of the play. Then they’ll select their top choices for their Independent Reading Group Novel.
- Read the lesson and student content.
- Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
- As you continue reading Antigone , determine which students may need support such as Guided Reading. During class reading time, meet with those students to assist them.
- Help students locate copies of the Independent Reading texts if necessary.
Task 1: Antigone Recap
- Before having them resume their reading, ask students to talk over their understanding of the exposition of the play.
- Use the time to eavesdrop on students’ conversations to make sure they “get it” well enough to move on. If not, you may need to fill in some gaps or clarify either in small groups or with the whole class.
Talk with a partner about the play so far.
- What happened?
- Who are the characters? Where is it taking place?
- What conflicts have arisen?
Task 2: The Chorus
- Remind students that the Chorus moved between the audience and the characters on the stage. In the opening, the Chorus and the Leader of the Chorus move alternately left and right.
- SWD: Students will greatly benefit from having sentence frames provided to them.
Work with a partner to reread the Chorus section at the opening of the play (lines 105–155).
- For each alternating section of the Chorus and the Leader, write a brief, one-sentence summary of the information given.
Task 3: The Chorus' Side
- Give students about 3 minutes for their Quick Write and another 3 minutes to share it with a partner.
Complete a Quick Write.
- What side in the conflict between the two brothers does the Chorus seem to take, if any? Cite lines from the play to support your answer.
Share your thinking with a partner.
Task 4: Function of the Chorus
- Lead the class in a discussion about the role of the Chorus in Antigone , at least so far.
- SWD: Be sure that all SWDs feel encouraged and welcomed to share even though they may work at a slower pace or need more “wait” time than other students. As you’re facilitating the discussions, be aware of how much SWDs are sharing. If you consider it necessary, speak to students about the importance of allowing enough time for everybody to participate.
- ELL: Be sure all students are clear about the topic of the discussion before starting. Monitor that students know what is expected of them in this discussion. Encourage them to share. It is important for ELLs to share aloud so that they can hear their own voice and get used to talking in front of large groups.
Speculate about the function of the Chorus in Greek drama and discuss as a class.
- What new information or different perspective does the Chorus add?
- Where does the Chorus make judgments on the action or the characters?
- Can you think of any contemporary plays, movies, or TV shows that have something like a Chorus? What about in modern musical theater where a whole group may sing lyrics that comment on the action or the plot?
Task 5: Antigone
- Consider displaying the questions for students as they work.
- ELL: Since the academic vocabulary in this section is substantial, consider going through (explaining and defining as needed) prior to the discussion and also during the discussion. Encourage students to use the academic vocabulary in their own sentences as a way to apply the academic vocabulary as well as responding to the questions. If students need it, consider providing some sentence frames to help scaffold the activity.
- Possible responses for the questions include:
- ✓ What is Antigone’s initial defense or explanation for giving burial rites to her brother? ( Antigone’s initial defense for giving burial rites to her brother is that she “dared” break Creon’s law because “it was not Zeus that had published me that edict; not such are the laws set among men by the justice who dwells with the gods below,” lines 443–445 .)
- ✓ Explain Antigone’s attitude toward punishment for breaking Creon’s law. ( Antigone’s attitude toward punishment for breaking Creon’s law is “Die I must,—I knew that well [how should I not?]—even without thy edicts.... So for me to meet this doom is trifling grief; but if I had suffered my mother’s son to lie in death an unburied corpse, that would have grieved me; for this, I am not grieved,” lines 452–461. )
- ✓ When the Leader of the Chorus says in lines 464–465, “The maid shows herself passionate child of passionate sire, and knows not how to bend before troubles,” to whom is he referring? ( The Leader is comparing Antigone to her father Oedipus. )
- ✓ What are Creon’s initial responses after hearing Antigone’s explanations? ( Creon’s initial responses after hearing Antigone’s explanations are to say, “Yet I would have thee know that o’er-stubborn spirits are most often humbled,” lines 467–468. And he says she is “already versed in insolence when she transgressed the laws that had been set forth; and, that done, lo, a second insult,—to vaunt of this, and exult in her deed,” lines 473–476. )
- ✓ To what degree are people in Thebes frightened of Creon (e.g., the Chorus, the Guard, Antigone, Ismene)? ( The Guard seems frightened of Creon’s “dread menaces,” and he doesn’t come back without evidence, line 399. Antigone says to Creon in lines 498–499, “All here would own that they thought it well, were not their lips sealed by fear.” )
- ✓ What evidence is there that Creon is suffering from paranoia, that people are out to get him and can’t be trusted? ( Creon seems to believe that Antigone and Ismene conspired against him. In lines 531–533, he says, “I knew not that I was nurturing two pests, to rise against my throne.” Antigone broke his law; she is not trying to wrestle power from him or take his throne. )
- ✓ Why does Ismene now side with her sister? ( Ismene agrees with Antigone’s action of burying their brother after the fact. Earlier in the play, she said she was frightened to disobey Creon’s edict. She tells Antigone in line 550, “And what life is dear to me, bereft of thee?” )
- ✓ Who is Haemon? ( Haemon is Creon’s son, and he is betrothed to Antigone. )
- ✓ What is Creon’s attitude toward women? ( Creon makes several statements that indicate that he believes women to be inferior to men: “Now verily I am no man, she is the man, if this victory shall rest with her, and bring no penalty,” lines 477–478. “Lo, one of these maidens hath newly shown herself foolish, as the other hath been since her life began,” lines 564–566. He says of his son, Haemon, “Nay, there are other fields for him to plough,” line 575. “I like not an evil wife for my son,” line 578. He tells the guards, “Henceforth they must be women, and not range at large; for verily even the bold seek to fly, when they see Death now closing on their life,” lines 586–588. )
Read and annotate Antigone until the Chorus sings again, just before Haemon enters (lines 365–630). Use the following questions to guide your reading. Answer the questions in writing, using evidence in the play to support your answers.
- What is Antigone’s initial defense or explanation for giving burial rites to her brother?
- Explain Antigone’s attitude toward punishment for breaking Creon’s law.
- When the Leader of the Chorus says in lines 464–465, “The maid shows herself passionate child of passionate sire, and knows not how to bend before troubles,” to whom is he referring?
- What are Creon’s initial responses after hearing Antigone’s explanations?
- To what degree are people in Thebes frightened of Creon (e.g., the Chorus, the Guard, Antigone, Ismene)?
- What evidence is there that Creon is suffering from paranoia, that people are out to get him and can’t be trusted?
- Why does Ismene now side with her sister?
- Who is Haemon?
- What is Creon’s attitude toward women?
Then prepare for a whole class discussion.
You Have a Choice
You can choose whether to read and think about the text independently; read, discuss, and respond to the text with a partner; or confer with the teacher.
Task 6: Justification
- Give students about 2 minutes for their Quick Writes.
- Circulate through the room to eavesdrop on students’ answers and to choose students to begin the Whole Group Share.
- Facilitate a discussion on the play so far. Clarify any misunderstandings.
- Begin by asking an open-ended question, such as:
- ✓ What’s happening now? How do you know?
- ✓ What’s important in this scene? How do you know?
- ELL: If necessary, rephrase the questions using words you know students can understand to allow ELLs to fully participate and to have a fair chance to answer the questions.
- Use the following probing questions to find out class understanding:
- ✓ How are Antigone and Creon alike in behavior and attitudes?
- ✓ How do they differ?
- Add to the class Characters in Antigone chart as needed.
Complete a Quick Write.
- What justification is there for Antigone’s cold refusal to allow Ismene to admit guilt?
Share your thinking with a partner.
Then use the Quick Write response and your answers to the other questions as a starting point to discuss what you read today with your classmates.
If time permits, continue reading the play.
Task 7: Independent Reading Group Novel
- Allow students to make first and second choices for the novel they will read for Independent Reading.
Select your top two choices for your Independent Reading Group Novel. Submit your choices to your teacher.
- The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope
- Howards End by E. M. Forster
- Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
- The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- The Stranger by Albert Camus
Your teacher will help you form groups with others who chose the same book.
Task 8: Independent Reading
- Once students have made their choices, form them into groups of 2–4, making sure each group has a strong reader.
Review what you have read in Antigone so far.
You have an ongoing homework assignment for most of this unit.
- Read your chosen novel.
- Write two journal entries a week and submit them to your teacher.
- Publish some of your journal entries so others can read your work.
Your first two journal entries should be submitted to your teacher by the end of the period in Lesson 5.
You should complete reading the novel by Lesson 23, at least 20 school days from now. Use that number and add to it the weekend days between now and then to figure out a reading schedule that works for you and your group.