Antigone, by Sophocles

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In the play Antigone, by Sophocles, it is greatly apparent just within the first few exchanges between Ismene and Antigone that there are various social issues surrounding the women in ancient Greece. The play raises many gender and socially related issues especially when looking at the contextual background of the playwright and the representation of the women within the play. When the characters of the first scene begin their analog, it is important to note what they are actually saying about each other and what their knowledge of their own social status is. The audience is first introduced to Antigone who we later learn is the antagonist of the play as she rebels against the protagonist, Creon. Her sister, Ismene, is the second character the audience is introduced to, hears of Antigone's plan to bury their brother's body in the first scene. Ismene’s actions and words give the reader the hint that her sister’s behavior is not usual, "so fiery" and "so desperate" are the words used to describe Antigone's frame of mind. At this very early point in the play the reader discovers that Antigone is determined to carry out her mission to bury her beloved brother. However, she is in no position that gives her the rights as a woman, sister, or even future queen to make her own decisions and rebel. Instead, her decision to bury her brother demonstrates her loyalty to her family, the gods, and to all women. Her motivation for those decisions will end up driving her far more than that of what the laws set by Creon have implemented. She shows no fear over disobeying the king and later says about the punishment of death "I will lie with the one I love and loved by him"(Sophocles, 2). Throughout the play the reader can see the viewpoint of an obedient woman, a rebellious woman, and the social norms required for both of them. In meeting Ismene, the reader is introduced to a wiser and obedient woman in terms of her understanding where she stands socially and realizing the consequences of rebellious actions. Ismene, throughout the play, serves as a tool by helping Antigone to become more resolute in her actions. Ismene has suffered just as much as Antigone, "no joy or pain has come my way" (16) Ismene says. Yet although she concedes that the sisters "were robbed of our two brothers" (17), she still accepts the will of the King "I must obey the ones who stand in power"(18).

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