Antigone vs Ismene



³Antigone & Ismene²


The personalities of the two sisters; Antigone and Ismene, are as different from

one another as tempered steel is from a ball of cotton. One is hard and resistant; the

other: pliable, absorbing and soft. Antigone would have been a strong, successful

90¹s type woman with her liberated and strong attitude towards her femininity, while

Ismene seems to be a more dependent 1950¹s style woman. Antigone acts as a free

spirit, a defiant individual, while Ismene is content to recognize her own limitations and

her inferiority of being a woman.

In the Greek tragedy ³Antigone², by Sophocles; Antigone learns that King

Creon has refused to give a proper burial for the slain Polyneices, brother of Ismene

and Antigone. Infuriated by this injustice, Antigone shares the tragic news with

Ismene. From her first response, ³No, I have heard nothing²(344). Ismene reveals her

passivity and helplessness in the light of Creon¹s decree. Thus, from the start, Ismene

is characterized as traditionally ³feminine², a helpless woman that pays no mind to

political affairs. Doubting the wisdom of her sisters plan to break the law and bury

Polyneices, Ismene argues:

We who are women should not contend with men;
we who are weak are ruled by the stronger, so that
we must obey....(346)

Once again Ismene¹s words clearly state her weak, feminine character and

helplessness within her own dimensions. Antigone, not happy with her sisters

response chides her sister for not participating in her crime and for her passivity,




saying, ³ Set your own life in order²(346). For Antigone, no law could stand in the way

of her strong consideration of her brother¹s spirit, not even the punishment of an early

death. Ismene is more practical ; knowing the task is impossible, she feels the

situation to be hopeless.

It is a wonder, which of the two sisters are really guilty of these chronic charges.

Of coarse, Antigone acted so quickly, and failed to take the advice of the moderate

sister, Ismene. Instead, going against Creon¹s words, Antigone rashly goes ahead

and breaks the law. Antigone is a fool, she must learn that such defiance, even when

justified, is not conductive to longevity. Although Antigone is foolish, she is also

courageous and motivated by her morals. Proper burial of the dead was, according to

the Greeks, prerequisite for the souls entrance into a permanent home. Therefore,

perhaps Ismene is also foolish for her quick refusal to help Antigone perform the duty

of Polyneices proper burial. Ismene definitely seems hasty in her acceptance of

personal weakness. Perhaps in some way, both sisters are guilty of the same tragic

sins. Perhaps it is this rashness, more subdued in Ismene¹s case, that leads both

sisters to their own destruction.

To my surprise, there is a strange twist in both sister¹s character towards the end

of the play. Antigone makes a rather contrasting statement, ³Not for my children, had I

been a mother, Not for a husband, for his moldering body, Would i have set myself

against the city As I have done²(368) These words defy rational explanation. To

judge from her attitude towards authority and law, Antigone would probably take on


any task to preserve family dignity and human justice. In Ismene\'s final words, she

abandons her practical attitudes with a sudden rush of devotion towards the sister she

abandoned in time of need. ³Let me stand beside you and do honor the dead²(358).

Ismene heroically takes a stand and shares Antigone¹s crime.

The two sister¹s were crushed by the vindictive Creon, yet they were winners in

spirit, in their determination , they died together, as one. Nobility shall live in their

hearts forever.

Category: English