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Antigone and ismene

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 other: pliable, absorbing and soft. Antigone would

have been a strong, successful 90's type woman with her liberated and strong

attitude towards her femininity, while Ismene seems to be a more dependent

1950's 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 "Antigone", 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, "No, I have heard

nothing"(344). Ismene reveals her passivity and helplessness in the light of

Creon's decree. Thus, from the start, Ismene is characterized as traditionally

"feminine", 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 Ismene's 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, " Set your own life in order"(346). For Antigone, no law

could stand in the way of her strong consideration of her brother's 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 Creon's 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 Ismene's case, that

leads both sisters to their own destruction.

To my surprise, there is a strange twist in both sister's character

towards the end of the play. Antigone makes a rather contrasting statement,

"Not 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 done"(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. "Let me stand beside you and do honor the dead"(358). Ismene

heroically takes a stand and shares Antigone's crime.

The two sister's 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.



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