Reading questions for “Antigone”

(1) Once again, here is the general question you should be grappling with throughout your reading of the play. If a tragic narrative depicts a kind of inevitable disaster, then what is the source of the “inevitability” in this play? Or another way of coming at this same question is this: Many characters–Angtigone, perhaps Ismene, Creon, and Eurydice–are all finally undone by forces that are much greater than they are. What are these forces? What do they represent? A quick set of issues about this question: there is no “right” answer, but some are better than others; second, it is useful to try to start with specifics. What is the precise nature of the problem that these characters face?

(2) List out the main characters, particularly Antigone, Ismene, and Creon. What characteristics do they have? Use specific examples from the play to illustrate the ones you identify. Oh, and here’s another interesting question: who is the “tragic hero” in this play? Why?

(3) How many times is Polynices buried? What are the differences between the various burials? What is the significance of each?

(4) How does Creon view Antigone’s actions? What are some of his main concerns about them?

(5) What are some of the ways Antigone explains her own actions?

(6) Following up on question (5), focus in particular on Antigone’s last major speech (lines 960-1020, pp. 104-106), a speech that effectively functions as a “dirge” for herself. There she claims that she would not have defied Creon for a husband or a child, but only for her brother. This speech is perhaps the most controversial in the whole play: Goethe detested it and suggested that it was not actually part of the original, that it was “added in”; others have suggested that it is an expression of an illicit and incestuous desire. What do you think Antigone is trying to say in this speech?

(7) Is Antigone’s defiance of Creon’s order correct? Is she an admirable or likable character? And what of Creon? Was he wrong to refuse to honor a traitorous enemy? Why or why not?


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