Character Study: Ismene



Initial Portrayal (Prologue)

  • Sister of Antigone, realises the importance of both the Oikos and following Nomos.
  • Acts as a foil to Antigone
  • Portrayed as the archetypal Greek woman: she follows moral code even if it goes against the family wishes
  • 5th Century Athens would feel pathos and be inclined to like Ismene contrasting Antigones' revolutionary, almost manly portrayal
  • Distraught from the death of her family: she equally wants them to be buried by is morally obliged not to do it: "No joy or pain has come my way"
  • Logical enough to understand the moral Nomos - 'You'd bury him - when a law forbids the city' - Cannot compensate breaking the law even for her own family!
  • Calls her sister out on her own harmartia: she is brave to do so because Antigone is so strong willed! "Why rush to extreme? It's madness, madness."
  • Knows her place in the contemporary society, "We are women, we're not born to contend with men."
  • She loves her sister, she just wants to protect the rest of her Oikos! "Look at the two of us, left so alone."
  • Warning and Careful: "You're off on a hopeless quest."
  • Loving: "you are truly dear to the ones who love you."

Arrest Scene (Development)

Other Notes

  • Continual love for Antigone: she is weeping when she enters the scene in front of a public sphere where other characters conceal their emotions until in a private sphere (e.g Creon at Haemon's death)
  • Lies and says she's gone against Nomos: "If only she consents - I share the guilt, the consequences too." - Is this out of love or out of fear of being alone?
  • She sticks with her sister even when her sister rebukes her:she is loyal to the Oikos! "I'm not ashamed to sail through trouble with you" - almost as Creon described his country earlier in the play.
  • Scared of living alone: "How can I live alone, without her?" - dependent on a secure family unit
  • Aware of further repercussions: she's not stupid! "You're really going to rob your son of Antigone." - knows the importance of marriage in Greek Society. Puts shame upon the lines when she exclaims "Dearest Haemon, your father wrongs you son." which contrasts her loyalty to the head of household.


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