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The Precedence of Citation: On Brecht’s The Antigone of Sophocles

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posted on 21.05.2017, 04:40 by Robert Savage
In the beginning was the citation: The Antigone of Sophocles. Adapted for the stage from Hölderlin’s translation. By attributing Antigone to a single author, the title encloses every word that follows within a pair of invisible quotation marks. Even Brecht’s interpolations, those amendments and sections of newly-added dialogue which allow one to speak of “Brecht’s Antigone” as a play in its own right, will have been indirect quotations from the master script, paraphrastic marginalia to an urtext twice removed. The title thus disables in advance the charge of plagiarism (the illicit denial of citation) which had been leveled against him in the past on account of his self-professed laxness in matters of intellectual property. Since its 1948 premiere in the Swiss town of Chur, The Antigone of Sophocles has never found its way into the Brecht canon, even though the case could be made that it is no more derivative, no less authentically Brechtian a production than, say, The Threepenny Opera.


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