The play Antigone tells the story of one of Oedipus’ daughters standing up to the law in order to honor her brother. The story begins after Polyneices and Eteocles have killed each other and King Creon issues an edict forbidding the burial of Polyneices. In the prologue Antigone’s sister Ismene is introduced. Ismene while a minor character serves a great purpose in the play. In the opening lines of the play a dialogue is occurring between Ismene and Antigone. In lines 14-29 Antigone is telling Ismene of her plan to bury Polyneices even though Creon forbids it. Ismene tells her “We are only women; We cannot fight with men…. We must give in to the law”. Ismene’s refusal and fear of breaking the law serves to emphasize Antigone’s stubbornness and hardheadedness.
In scene 2 when Ismene tries to take partial blame for the burial of Polyneices, Antigone refuses her. This shows Antigone’s pride for her actions and her protectiveness and loyalty to her family. Ismene is included to act as a foil to Antigone’s character. Where Ismene not included in the play, the play would not have such a great effect. Ismene represents the average women in this Greek society. Had her character not been introduced the reader would assume that all women in that society were as hardheaded and stubborn as Antigone. If Antigone would have represented the average woman the theme of loyalty to family would be lost.
Through out the prologue Ismene refers back to the fact that they are just women and have no power against the laws or what is done about them. In scene 2 Creon is convinced that it was a man who buried Polyneices and not a woman this serves to verify the gender roles in Greek society. Ismene’s shy, hesitant, and reluctant behavior is typical of a woman of that society since after all they had no rights and were treated as property. In conclusion Ismene while a minor character serves the role of a foil to Antigone by emphasizing Antigone’s hardheaded stubbornness. She is included to show how typical women in Greek society acted and what they believed. If it weren’t for Ismene several themes in the story would not appear.
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