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Antigone

Jean Anouilh

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The Guards

The Guards

The three Guardsmen are interpolations into the Antigone legend, doubles for the rank-and-file fascist collaborators or collabos of Anouilh's day. The card-playing trio, made all the more mindless and indistinguishable in being grouped in three, emerges from a long stage tradition of the dull-witted police officer. As the Chorus notes, they smell of garlic and beer, concern themselves with the mundane, and are in general not bad people. Serving as a spokesman of sorts, the First Guard gives voice to their thoughts: they follow orders, and they cover for themselves when things go wrong. They are eternally indifferent, innocent, and ready to serve whatever powers that be. In other words, they have no particular loyalty to Creon. As the Chorus indicates, they would arrest him if need be. This indifference makes them brutal and dangerous. Some critics have taken Anouilh's guards, which stand in contrast to the royal heroes of tragedy, as the clearest manifestation of his "aristocratic pessimism."

Importantly, the Guards also figure as inappropriate spectators: men left entirely untouched by the tragedy that unfolds before them. The Chorus makes this especially clear in the prologue and epilogue, where the trio appears idly playing cards. As the Chorus notes, the tragedy is "no skin of their backs." In this respect, the indifferent trio recalls the guardsmen from Anouilh's other tragedies, such as the guard whose chatter about the harvest close his Medea.

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