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Comparing the Brothers Antigone and Ismene in Antigone

Satisfactory Essays
The personalities of the two sisters, Antigone and Ismene, are as different from one another as night and day. Antigone acts as a free spirit, a defiant individual, while Ismene is content to recognize her limitations as a woman in a male dominated society.

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, Antigone shares the tragic news with Ismene. From her first response, "No I, haven’t heard a word"(13). 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: “Remember we are women, not born to contend with men .” (75) 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, “Don’t fear for me. Set your own life in order"(97). 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 course, 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 soul’s 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.
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