Rhythm and Structure: Brecht's Antigone in Performance

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Brecht’s adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone in 1948 was openly a political gesture that aspired to the complete rationalization of Greek Tragedy. From the beginning, Brecht made it his task to wrench ancient tragic poetry out of its “ideological haze”, and proceeded to dismantle and eliminate what he named the “element of fate”, the crucial substance of tragic myth itself. However, his encounter with Hölderlin's unorthodox translation of Antigone, the main source for his appropriation and rewriting of the play, led him to engage in a radical experiment in theatrical practice. From the isolated first performance of Antigone, a model was created – the Antigonemodell – that demanded a direct confrontation with the many obstacles brought about by the foreign structure of Greek tragedy as a whole. In turn, such difficulties brought to light the problem of rhythm in its relation to Brecht’s own ideas of how to perform ancient poetry in a modern setting, as exemplified by the originally alienating figure of the tragic chorus. More importantly, such obstacles put into question his ideas of performance in general, as well as the way they can still resonate in our own understanding of what performance is or might be in a broader sense.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-240
Number of pages18
Journalperformance philosophy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Brecht
  • Hölderlin
  • Greek Tragedy


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