The Burial at Thebes, Seamus Heaney's adaptation of Antigone, was first performed at the centenary celebrations of Dublin's Abbey Theatre in 2004. While reviewers read the play exclusively in the context of the post-911 “war on terror,” this essay relocates Heaney's play within the contemporary Irish context, in particular the end of the Northern Irish Troubles. In Heaney's hands, Antigone acts as a metaphor for one of the defining issues of the period: the problem of the past. Heaney is acutely interested in the way in which female voices have remained silenced and sidelined within mainstream debates about the legacy of the Troubles. Drawing on the work of Judith Butler and Bonnie Honig, this essay reads Heaney's play within a series of critical debates about representations of female victimhood, the role of women in transitional justice, and the ongoing importance of tragedy within the Irish literary imagination.

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