Through the Guard’s comical behaviour and King Creon’s contrasting cruelty and intimidation, I feel this scene is vital towards making the play a success with its’ audience. In order to bring out the comical element in the play, I would direct the Guard to enter the stage slowly, peering out from behind one of the columns on-stage – as if very scared and intimidated by Creon, who I think should be sitting on a throne on a raised platform. I think this would be visually entertaining to an audience, as it would create a contrast to the previous mood in the play.
When Creon replies to the Guard, he should be impatient and abrupt and I would direct the Guard to step back so that he is almost hidden behind the column, to show how frightened he is. His nerves should also show when he starts to tell Creon of what happened (‘My Lord, it’s not running that’s made me out of breath… ‘) – instead of being frightened, the Guard should instead ramble and talk at a quick pace to add a sense of humour to the situation. As the director, I would want the audience to find this particularly amusing because there is little light heartedness to contrast with the rest of the play.
It is important to show the frustration that escalates in the relationship between the Guard and Creon throughout this scene, as it could again provide comedy for the audience. As the Guard inappropriately rambles on without telling Creon what news he actually has to deliver, Creon could clench his hands around the arms of his throne, and as he gets more and more exasperated (‘But what is it? ‘), he could, in a final explosion stand up, throw his arms in the air and cry ‘For goodness’ sake say what you have come to say, and then clear off!
Then as the Guard finally reveals that Polynices’ corpse has been buried in an exaggerated way (‘It’s the corpse; someone’s gone and buried it! ‘), Creon could almost collapse into his throne, shocked and astounded. In this part of the scene, I would want the audience to see a different side to King Creon’s character – perhaps that he is actually quite weak and defenceless, and is ashamed that someone has deliberately defied his rules. I would direct the part in which the Guard is telling the story of how he uncovered the body of Polynices, so that it is overly dramatic.
Throughout his long speech (‘There were no signs… ‘), he could be acting out how he came across the corpse by taking centre stage and acting towards the audience to make a ‘performance’ out of the tragedy that has occurred. When he tells Creon that ‘each of us were ready to pick up a red hot iron and swear by all the Gods we’d neither done it nor been in the know about it’, I would direct him to hold his hand against his heart, so that it would look over the top and I would direct Creon to sit, in disbelief, in his throne.
I think this could create quite a comic moment in the scene. The Guard becomes more cheeky and self-assured as he is talking to Creon. I think this could be quite comically interpreted, because as he starts telling Creon about ‘drawing lots to see who would be the unlucky one in telling the King of the news’, he should be facing the audience and looking away from Creon. At this point, Creon could come up so that he is standing directly behind the Guard, and as he turns round at the end of his speech (‘no one likes a man who brings bad news! ) to see Creon standing there, he could stumble backwards to show how frightened he really is of the King. The Gods (who I would place on a platform stage-right, beneath the level of the stage) could also be quite overwhelmed and intimidated by Creon, so that by now there is little humour but instead a sense of tension in both the characters and the audience. Creon should now begin his speech (‘That’s enough!… ‘) by taking centre stage.
I would perhaps have the Guard trying to sneak out behind him, but failing because Creon turns round and shouts ‘You! Guard! This would again bring the element of humour back into the scene. I would direct the next part so that Creon shows how he wants to take control of the situation by using his authority and power. He could do this by stepping closer and closer towards the Guard, who is by now backed up against one of the columns on-stage until Creon finally says ‘I’ll hold you personally responsible! ‘ and the Guard ducks underneath Creon’s arms who then shakes his head and walks out defiantly. I think this would provide some light relief to the audience who I think should be quite overwhelmed by Creon’s intimidation.
The final speech and climax of the scene made by the Guard (‘I can only hope’… ) could be very amusing to the audience as he tries to bravely conquer his fear of the King. He could again be eccentric in his actions and thoughts, and emphasise on some of the words he uses such as ‘won’t’; ‘alive’ and ‘second time’. At the end of the speech, the Guard could hurry off, looking over his shoulder and stumbling; perhaps afraid someone has overheard him. I think a contrast between the Guard and Creon should also be shown in their appearance.
Whereas King Creon should be quite tall and broad in physicality and dressed in regal robes, the Guard should appear and be dressed comically in order to aid humorous interpretation. I would perhaps direct him to have a slight hunch, with messy, unwashed hair and also a dirty face. His costume should be quite dull in appearance – ragged and worn – but I also think he should show his enthusiasm and energy for life by being short and slightly plump, with rosy cheeks and sparkling, mischievous eyes.
I would also like the Guard to have an accent – perhaps Cockney or a country drawl! I think this would make him more loveable to the audience, which is something I would wish to achieve throughout his scenes. A comical element is shown throughout this scene. It is such a light-hearted contrast to the rest of the play, which can be very emotional. The confrontation between the Guard and Creon is certain to make the audience laugh and if I were to direct this confrontation, I would try to emphasise the humour as much as possible.