In Sophocles’ play Antigone, Ismene is Antigone’s sister and Creon’s niece. In contrast to her sister, Ismene is characterized by far less courage and piety. For instance, she opposes Antigone’s plan to bury their brother Polynices against Creon’s explicit orders. She justifies this decision by saying that she is bound by the power that a king has over his subordinates. Moreover, she believes that a woman must submit to a man: “We have to keep this fact in mind: / We are women and do not fight with men.” (Prologue, Scene 1, ll. 61-62).

In this regard, it is also evident that Ismene does not focus on the value of the act itself, as Antigone does, but is afraid of its consequences: “How horrible it will be to die outside the law, / If we violate a dictator’s decree!” (Prologue, Scene 1, ll. 59-60). As such, her loyalty to the family ends at the boundary set by the ruler.

Ismene does not...

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