The first performance of the play Antigone was in Athens around 440 BCE. It is possible that Phaenarete, the mother of Socrates, was in the audience. By then she was certainly practicing medicine and perhaps had been doing so for a decade or more. Given the nature of her practice she would have had any number of connections that might have led to an invitation to attend (including from Sophocles himself, who was roughly the same age as she was and who is known to have been married and to have had children).
The much debated issue over whether Athenian women were even allowed to attend theatrical performances should not turn attention away from the fact that even if Phaenarete did not actually view the performance of Antigone she surely would have had a ‘view’ about it. The basic elements of what today seems merely the myth on which it is based but which, for her, was effectively history (and thus concerned with what a woman actually said and did) would have been known to her quite apart from the play itself. Phaenarete’s interest particularly in Antigone would have derived from its relationship of burial to the womb–literally and symbolically–and how that could readily be associated with her medical practice. Continue reading “The First Performance of Antigone: Phaenarete’s View by Stuart Dean”