Antigone And Ismene
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 otherpliable, absorbing and soft. Antigone would have
been a strong, successful 90ıs type woman with her liberated and strong
attitude towards her femininity, while Ismene seems to be a more dependent 1950ıs
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 Creonıs 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 Ismeneıs 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
brotherıs 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 Creonıs 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 Ismeneıs case, that leads both
sisters to their own destruction. To my surprise, there is a strange twist in
both sisterıs 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 Antigoneıs crime. The two sisterıs
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