Reading questions on Honig’s “Antigone’s Laments, Creon’s Grief”
(1) Focus for a moment on Honig’s epigraph. What does the epigraph mean? In what sense is it true?
(2) What is Honig’s thesis? More specifically, what does she think “Antigone” is about?
(3) One way to get at this reading is to focus on how Honig interprets some of the main characters: what does the character Antigone represent? What does Creon represent?
(4) One of Honig’s more fascinating claims is that the play is not really about burying Polynices, but is instead about the question of how one should grieve in general (p. 7). Why does she emphasize this point?
(5) Honig also offers a critique of “dissident” politics (p. 8). What is her critique? You should think of this in two ways: first, you need to be able to explain why dissident politics does not adequately comprehend what is at stake in the play, and second, you need to think about what is possibly wrong with the idea of dissidence in general. Honig’s critique, I must add, moves on both levels.
(6) How does Honig defend her idea that Creon actually represents democracy? Pay attention, first, to pp. 9-10, but also look to the other evidence she points out throughout the article.
(7) The first body section of Honig’s article contains a brief overview of traditional burial practices and some of the efforts to reform them. Try not to get too bogged down in details (though you might want to look up “goos” and “threnos”; Honig defines them, but google is also your friend here). What are some of the main features of the traditional burial rituals? What are some of the reforms that were being instituted during the time Sophocles was writing?
(8) In her second body section (starting on p. 13), Honig begins to make her case that the play is really about the clash between democratic and “Homeric” (or more specifically, aristocratic) burial practices. What is some of the evidence she presents?
(9) What is Honig’s interpretation of the Antigone’s use of the phrase “son of my mother” to describe Polynices (p. 15)?
(10) What is Honig’s interpretation of Antigone’s famous speech, wherein she declares that she would not have defied Creon’s orders for a son or a husband, because they would be, unlike her brother, replaceable (see pp. 16ff)
(11) Honig points out that Antigone’s reasoning about the irreplaceablity of her brother also cites another story from Herodotus, the story of Intaphrenes’ wife (see pp. 18-19). What is this story and how is it similar and different from Creon and Antigone’s interactions? What conclusion does Honig draw from her comparison of the two stories (p. 19, last two paragraphs, primarily)?
(12) What are some of the critiques of democracy embedded in the play, according to Honig?
(13) What are some of the democratic critiques of aristocracy that are embedded in the play, according to Honig?
(14) How does Honig interpret Eurydice’s death (pp. 22-24)?
(15) What is Honig’s conclusion about the play’s perspective on the rival positions it explores? Pay attention in particular to pp. 25ff.
(16) If the play is about mourning, then how does Creon mourn? Is his mourning more “democratic” or “aristocratic”?