Ismene the Ignored

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I found Ismene to be the most relatable of the characters. She initially doesn’t support Antigone, valuing the laws dictated by Kreon over the duty, which Antigone feels, to her family and to the gods. However, she later changes her mind and begs Antigone to let her help. As discussed in the lecture, Antigone and Kreon are both right and both wrong. Because there is no right answer between them, it is difficult for Ismene to decide what to do. This is how I would feel in such a situation – wanting to support my sister but afraid to be so bold.

At the same time, I feel like she is the least noble, apart from the ChorusĀ (although perhaps this is part of what makes her so reliable). Antigone is firm in what she believes in, and honouring her dead brother’s spirit is a selfless act to say the least. Kreon, at least at first, is dedicated to the State. Even later when his pride gets the best of him, he is still doing what he believes to be best for the state (he simply thinks he is the only one who understands what is best for the state). And, of course, Haimon is just an all around nice guy, stuck between a persistent wife and an absolutist father.

Just as a final thought, I was confused by the fact that the epikleros law only applied to Antigone. As Antigone’s sister, doesn’t Ismene have just as much right to inherit as she did? I would imagine we could simply march Ismene down the aisle instead, so to speak, and, emotional entanglements aside, all would be well. Perhaps I missed something in my reading, but it seems that everyone forgets Ismene and Antigone are sisters. Antigone keeps talking about how she is “the last daughter of the house of [Thebe’s] kings” (Sophocles 57). Granted, this could be an extreme form of the silent treatment but it seems to me that in such a case she would still mention her sister, if only to disparage her.