Doth Tapped

I've actually been pretty excited to teach Antigone, in spite of the challenge it poses. Though the play lacks action and modern day language, it has such strong messages about morality, choices, family, honor, and sacrifice that I was eager to get the students thinking. The reason I'm a teacher is to hopefully have some kind of positive influence on making the next generation have good people. The reason I'm an English teacher specifically is to use literature as a way of addressing moral topics without having to look too preachy.

Unfortunately, this play's entire success relies on convincing the students that they can relate. I am unable to do this, however, because of the incestuous occurrences. It's pivotal for the students to know the origins of Antigone so they can follow the story, which means revealing that she is Oedipus's daughter, a birth from his marriage to his mother. Anytime I ask the kids to put themselves in Antigone's place, they spout off that her mom is her grandma and that it's gross. Just when I thought we might be getting past the incest thing, we read the scene that reveals Antigone is engaged to her cousin, Haimon. It's difficult to convey to closed-minded teens that while marrying your mom was icky, marrying your cousin was quite romantic at the time. Now they want nothing to do with Antigone, and the events that ensue are not considered nearly as tragic as they should because "she nasty."

Even the comprehension suffers at the hands of incest. When asking a student about her prediction for how they play will end, she makes reference to Creon and Antigone ending the fight and getting married. "But Creon's her uncle and she's engaged to his son!" I say. "Yeah, but they like incest," she states matter-of-factly. I suppose that's true: if it's going to be incestuous, it might as well be as incestuous as possible. "Okay, what evidence do you have to back up this prediction?" I ask. "Well they had sex." "Antigone's a virgin!" I say exasperated. "It says so in the story!" "I'll give you a billion extra credit points if you can show me where in the play it says that." Opening to a random page, she pretends to quote Creon in her best Sophocles's language, "I doth tapped that once or twice."

Sometimes, you've just got to laugh.

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