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Analysis of Ismene

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  • May 2005
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Ismene
In "Antigone" by Sophocles Ismene is stuck between being a true sister or a traitor to her family. Choosing to be a true sister would call for her to follow the law of the gods and break the law of man. If she follows the law of the gods she would join her sister, Antigone, in burying their brother, Polyneices. If she follows the law of man she would betray her family and follow the law made banning the burial of Polyneices. The burial of Polyneices has been banned by King Creon because he says that Polyneices was an enemy of the city and does not deserve to go to heaven. King Creon did however give Polyneices' brother a soldier's funeral with military honors because he defended the city against Polyneices.

In the beginning of the story Antigone went to Ismene to warn her about the new decree of King Creon. King Creon had sworn that no one was to bury him or even mourn for him. Antigone then told Ismene of her intentions of going against the new law and giving their brother the burial he deserved. Antigone then gave Ismene the choice to prove herself loyal to her family or betray it. Ismene stated that she could not go against the law of Creon. She felt that they could not go against Creon because they were only women and she was afraid of what their deaths would be like. At this point in the story Ismene was not willing to sacrifice her life for her brothers honor. She still wanted to help, but she was too afraid of what the punishment would be. For example Ismene stated, "I beg the Dead to forgive me, but I am helpless: I must yield to those in authority."

After Ismene refused to help, Antigone became angered and said that she would not want her, even if she asked to go along. When Antigone told her this Ismene went from just being afraid to burying Polyneices to doubting that Antigone would be able to do it. She did not think there was anyway she could get past Creon's guards to bury him. For example she tells Antigone,...