Unity of time and place
Sophocles’ play Antigone respects the unity of time, as mentioned in Aristotle’s Poetics: It covers one day.
The same applies to the unity of place. The action takes place in front of the royal palace at a time described as a mythical past. It is mythical because it is not a matter of real, historical events. It is a matter of the past because these events take place far before the time of their poetic transmission or theatrical performance, and therefore do not address a current topic.
The play also shows a unity of action, because it appears closed, which means it has a beginning (Antigone’s burial of Polynices), middle (Creon’s decision to have Antigone walled up alive, as well as his change of mind on Tiresias’ advice), and end (Antigone’s suicide and Creon’s despair).
The plot unfolds in a linear and chronological manner. There are no jumps or flashbacks. The events follow one another logically, as far as possible, based on the personality and behavior of the characters involved. However, there are three exceptions:
On the one hand, there is the peripety (the turning of the plot into its opposite), which is central to the ancient, closed drama. In Act 5, Creon abandons his plan to have Antigone walled up alive for her crime: “I’ll go immediately. Come on, come on, everyone, / Wherever you are, grab a pick and a shovel, / Hurry up! Get over to the place you see. / It’s up to me, now my mind has changed. / I put her away, I must be there to release her.” (Act 5, Scene 14, ll. 1108-1112).
On the other hand, Antigone, who seems so steadfast at the beginning of the play, grieves over the fate that Creon has assigned to her. Instead of sharing a harmonious death together with her relatives, she faces lifelo...