Antigone\'s Women
Antigone by Sophocles is one of the most distinguished pieces of theatrical work
that reflects upon Greek mythology and culture. Antigone has several themes and
circumstantial settings that can be indirectly referred or related to in modern
society. Sophocles uses various and strategically placed characters to present
his play as well as his themes. The play mainly revolves around Antigone who
acts alongside her elder sister, Ismene. Both are daughters of Oedipus and

Jocasta who are in the context of the play deceased. This essay will analyze
these two characters alongside one other female minor character, Eurydice who
contributes significantly to the development and success of the play. From the
start of the play, the audience is given a vague idea of both Antigone’s and

Ismene’s characters. Both sisters have suffered the anguish of having lost
their brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices. It is at the beginning of the play that
we see Antigone’s braveness. She notifies Ismene of her intentions to bury

Polyneices despite the fact that such an act is punishable by death, for Creon
considers Polyneices to be a traitor and that by not having his body buried,

Polyneices suffers a posthumous punishment. She makes this declaration while
being fully aware of the penalties involved and this brings to light several
other things about her character. The audience is able to see that she is
confident in her actions and will justify anything that she does. Meanwhile

Ismene can be viewed as being afraid and uneager to agree to an action. She
confronts her sister’s statements by saying, " But think of the danger!

Think what Creon will do ! " (34, Prologue).This statement by Ismene create a
vague feeling in the audience that Ismene is a pessimist. This view is further
reinforced when she says, " And do what he has forbidden ! We are women / We
cannot fight with men, Antigone ! " (46-47, Prologue). Hence Ismene is seen
seeking a way out by giving excuses that are in a sense linked to negative
stereotypes and this makes a reflection of her pessimistic nature. Antigone’s
actions at the beginning of the play reflect her impulsivness and rash manner in
handling situations. Rather than try to confront Creon regarding the burial of
her brother she goes ahead to bury him. Her impulsive manner is also seen when
she doubts Ismene’s promise that she will not divulge any information to
anybody else regarding Antigone’s plans to bury her brother. She does this
despite the reasonable consideration that Ismene is her only sister and family
member left. Her actions at this point also reflect on her indifference in
carrying out actions that reflect on others. She does not seem to care about the
fact that burying her brother may have unfavorable consequences on Ismene who
would lose her sister and at the same time be in a dilemma. Ismene would have to
risk telling the authorities and get her sister prosecuted so as to be a true
patriot and to save her own life or keep mum and be prosecuted for aiding and
abetting an offense alongside her sister whom she will eventually loose,
regardless of what she decides to do . This scenario presents a strong argument
that Ismene is considerate and rational as she eventually decides to keep

Antigone’s plans secret and continues to do so even when Antigone attacks her.

She responds by saying, " But a loyal friend indeed to those who love." (85,

Prologue). This demonstrates Ismene’s passive and unvengeful nature. Antigone
bears responsibility well and can therefore be seen to be responsible. When
brought before Creon, she admits her actions in burying Polyneices without much
ado, she audaciously confesses, " I do. I deny nothing " (52, ODE I, Scene

II). She goes ahead and justifies her action, and calmly makes it clear that she
is not afraid of the punishment due to be imposed on her.. In contrast Ismene
bears a sense of responsibility just like her sister. When brought before Creon,
she admits her role in Antigone’s ‘crime’ without hesitation, she says,

" Yes, if she will let me say so. I am guilty. " This and the ensuing
exchange that follows between the sisters also brings to light other aspects of
the sisters personalities. One of the aspects that is brought out by this
exchange is that of loyalty. Both Ismene and Antigone are loyal to each other
even in a situation where it is at the expense of death. Ismene is ready to die
alongside her sister. At the same time Antigone cares too deeply for Ismene