The Contrasting Characters of Ismene and Antigone in Education

In the play Antigone by Sophocles, the contrasting characters of Ismene and Antigone are evident. Ismene represents the archetype of the obedient and passive woman, while Antigone embodies the archetype of the rebellious and bold woman. The two sisters have different views on their duties towards their family and the state, which eventually leads to their demise. In this article, we will explore the contrasting characters of Ismene and Antigone and their significance in the context of education.


Ismene and Antigone Tragedy

In the Greek tragedy Antigone, the character of Ismene serves as a stark contrast to the archetype of Antigone. Both sisters are strong-willed individuals who defy the laws of their society, but they do so for different reasons and in different ways. While Antigone is headstrong and rebellious, Ismene is more passive and submissive, choosing to follow the rules rather than challenge them. In this article, we will explore the differences between these two characters and their contributions to the storyline of the play.

Ismene’s Character

Ismene Antigone Play

Ismene is the younger sister of Antigone and the daughter of Oedipus, the cursed king of Thebes. Unlike her sister, Ismene is portrayed as a responsible and obedient young woman who adheres to the laws of her society. She believes that their brother, Polyneices, is not worthy of burial because he was a traitor to their city, and that they should obey the ruling of their uncle, King Creon. Ismene’s beliefs stem from her desire to avoid conflict and maintain peace within the city.

Throughout the play, Ismene is consistently portrayed as a fragile and submissive character who is unwilling to challenge authority. She believes that women should not involve themselves in politics or legal matters, and therefore, does not support Antigone’s plan to bury Polyneices. Even when Antigone tries to persuade her to join the cause, Ismene insists that they should not break the law and that they might be punished for their actions. She is torn between her loyalty to her sister and her duty to obey the law.

Antigone’s Archetype

Antigone Play Character

Antigone, on the other hand, is a stark contrast to her sister’s passive nature. She is depicted as a headstrong and impulsive character who refuses to follow the law if it goes against her morals. Antigone believes that it is not just to leave her brother’s body to rot in the open, and that she should defy the king’s order to bury him properly. She is not afraid of challenging authority, even if that means putting her life at risk.

Antigone’s archetype represents a brave and righteous individual who fights for their beliefs, no matter what the consequences are. Her actions emphasize the importance of individualism and the value of family ties. She is willing to die for her brother, and her actions ignite a fire within the city, which leads to a series of tragic events.


Antigone And Ismene

The character of Ismene serves as a foil to Antigone’s archetype in the Greek tragedy Antigone. Through her character, the playwright emphasizes the differences between obedience and rebellion, passive and active, and the importance of following the law versus following one’s conscience. While Ismene represents the fear of change, Antigone represents the courage to challenge it. Both sisters play an important role in the story, and their contrasting personalities make the play all the more tragic and thought-provoking.

Background on Antigone and Ismene

Antigone and Ismene

Ancient Greek mythology is brimming with strong and fascinating characters who are revered centuries after their time. One such duo is Antigone and Ismene, two sisters who are central to the Greek tragedy, Antigone. Both sisters are the daughters of King Oedipus and Jocasta of Thebes, and their story revolves around their differing personalities and beliefs.

Antigone, the younger sister, is known for her fierce determination and rebellious spirit. She is a risk-taker and is not afraid to stand up for her beliefs, even in the face of adversity. She refuses to abide by the unjust laws of her uncle, Creon, and insists on burying her brother, Polynices, who is deemed a traitor by the state. Her actions lead to tragic consequences.

Ismene, on the other hand, is characterized as more submissive and compliant. She is depicted as the epitome of femininity and is seen as weaker than her sister. Ismene is concerned with the safety of her family and is apprehensive about taking risks. She pleads with Antigone to reconsider her decision to bury their brother and is portrayed as being trapped in a patriarchal society that does not allow her to pursue her own desires.

There are several ways in which the character of Ismene contrasts with Antigone’s archetype. Firstly, Ismene is the embodiment of the traditional Greek female. She is portrayed as obedient, passive, and more concerned with her appearance and reputation than with upsetting societal norms. Antigone, on the other hand, is seen as a nonconformist who challenges the status quo and rebels against authority.

Additionally, Antigone is motivated by a strong sense of duty and is willing to risk everything to honor her brother’s memory. Ismene, on the other hand, is motivated by fear and is afraid to take any action that might lead to punishment or retribution.

It is important to note, however, that Ismene is not portrayed as weak or cowardly. Rather, she represents a different type of strength – one that is derived from self-preservation and a desire to keep her family safe. In this way, Ismene’s character serves as a foil to Antigone’s, highlighting the different ways in which women can be strong in a patriarchal society.

In conclusion, the characters of Antigone and Ismene are central to the play bearing the former’s name. While Antigone is known for her rebellious and strong-willed personality, Ismene’s character provides an interesting contrast, showing a different type of strength that is just as admirable. Their story serves as a reminder that there is no one correct way to be a strong woman and that each person must find their own path towards self-fulfillment and empowerment.

Comparison of Personality Traits

Antigone and Ismene in Greek Mythology

In the Greek tragedy, Antigone and Ismene are sisters who have very contrasting personalities. Antigone is depicted as a strong-willed character who is willing to go to any extent to honor her brother, Polyneices, and defy the tyrannical rule of King Creon. Her strength and bravery are in stark contrast to Ismene, who is more submissive and meek.

Antigone’s courage can be seen in her willingness to disobey the king’s edict and bury her brother, despite knowing the consequences – death. She believes that following the laws of the Gods is more important than the laws of men, and that Polyneices deserves a proper burial. In contrast, Ismene is portrayed as a fearful and obedient character who is afraid to challenge the authority. She does not want to defy the king’s directive and risks punishment, preferring to stay within the confines of the law rather than violate it.

Antigone can be described as rebellious, while Ismene is conformist. Antigone fights against the injustice of the ruler and is not afraid to stand up against him. She is quick to defend her beliefs and challenge the status quo, while Ismene seeks to maintain the status quo. Her timid nature makes her less likely to take risks or engage in any form of rebellion.

Another difference in their personalities is that Antigone is impulsive, while Ismene is cautious. Antigone acts on her emotions without weighing the consequences of her actions, while Ismene is more composed and rational. This is evident in the play when Antigone asks Ismene to help her bury their brother. Ismene is hesitant and asks Antigone to be reasonable, highlighting her reserved and thoughtful nature.

Lastly, Antigone is depicted as a principled character, while Ismene is characterised as pragmatic. Antigone holds onto her beliefs and principles even in the face of death, and believes that the Gods’ laws are superior to human laws. In contrast, Ismene tries to persuade Antigone to think rationally and consider the consequences of her actions. She is more focused on surviving and maintaining her own safety, which can be seen as a pragmatic approach.

In conclusion, the two sisters have vastly different personalities. Antigone is a strong and brave character who is quick to act on her beliefs and challenging the authority. On the other hand, Ismene is more reserved and cautious, adhering strictly to the laws of the land. Their personalities play an important role in the play, and their differences highlight the complexities of the human nature.

Analysis of Their Actions

Antigone and Ismene contrast

Antigone and Ismene are two siblings whose actions and beliefs contrast each other in Sophocles’ play Antigone. Antigone’s strong devotion to her family and her unwavering belief in divine law, contrast sharply with Ismene’s deep-seated loyalty to the laws of the state and her fear of punishment.

Antigone’s first act of opposition to the state came when she decided to give her brother Polynices a proper burial, despite the king’s edict against it. Her act of civil disobedience is a testament to her loyalty to her family and her belief in the divine law. Antigone believes that every human is entitled to a proper burial and that her duty, as a sister, is to do what the gods require, even if it means going against the law of the state.

In contrast, Ismene chooses to align with the laws of the state and fear of the consequences that will follow if she violates them. Ismene is cautious and aware of the risks associated with going against the king; she is more concerned about protecting herself, rather than challenging the state’s laws. She tells Antigone that they are helpless against the power of the king and that they must respect his authority.

Antigone’s determination to bury her brother is a reflection of her strong character and her willingness to stand up against injustice, even if it goes against the laws of the state. Her actions are a combination of courage, devotion, and conviction. On the other hand, Ismene’s reluctance to assist her sister, in the beginning, is a manifestation of her weakness and lack of conviction.

Antigone’s steadfastness shows that she is willing to pay the ultimate price for her convictions. Her decision to bury Polynices against the wishes of the state was life-threatening and risky. She knew that she might be sentenced to death; however, her love for her brother was more important than her safety, and so she proceeded irrespective of the consequences.

Ismene’s adherence to the laws of society is a representation of her fear of punishment and her desire to conform to social norms. She does not want to anger the king or break the law for fear of retribution. This is demonstrated during the trial scene where she pleads with Antigone to retract her statement and save herself. The fact that she asked Antigone to abandon her beliefs and accept the king’s law suggests that she lacks conviction in her beliefs, which contrasts with Antigone’s unwavering determination.

In conclusion, Antigone and Ismene’s actions demonstrate their contrasting personalities, beliefs, and characters. Antigone’s loyalty to family and commitment to higher laws is in contrast to Ismene’s loyalty to the laws of the state and fear of punishment. Antigone’s actions demonstrate her conviction, determination and willingness to fight injustice, while Ismene’s actions indicate weakness, fear, and a preference for conformity over civil disobedience.

Their Relationships with Others

Antigone and Ismene's Relationships with Others

Antigone and Ismene are two sisters, the daughters of Oedipus, who have contrasting characters. Antigone, the protagonist, is a strong-willed and courageous woman who stands up for her beliefs, while her sister Ismene is portrayed as timid and obedient.

Antigone’s relationships with others are primarily based on her personal convictions and loyalty. She believes in standing up for what is right and is fiercely loyal to her family and her people. She is willing to put herself on the line to do what she thinks is right, even if it means going against the laws of the state, the king or her own sister. Antigone’s personal convictions and loyalty are reflected in her relationships with her brother Polyneices, her fiancé Haemon, and her sister Ismene.

Antigone’s relationship with her brother Polyneices is shaped by her loyalty to him, even after he betrayed their city and led an invasion against it. Antigone is determined to give him an honorable burial, despite the decree from their uncle Creon, who becomes the new king after their father’s death, that anyone who buries him will be punished by death. Antigone’s willingness to defy Creon’s order is a reflection of her loyalty to her brother.

Antigone’s relationship with her fiancé Haemon is also based on her personal convictions. Haemon is the son of Creon, and he tries to reason with his father about the injustice of punishing Antigone for burying her brother. Antigone admires Haemon’s reasoning and his willingness to stand up to his father, and they share a deep love for each other. However, when Haemon tries to save Antigone from her death sentence, she chooses to die for her beliefs rather than be saved by him.

Antigone’s relationship with her sister Ismene is complex and fraught with tension. Ismene is more concerned with familial and societal expectations and does not share her sister’s rebellious spirit. When Antigone asks for her help in burying their brother, Ismene initially refuses, citing the law and her duty to obey Creon. However, she later changes her mind and asks to share in her sister’s punishment, showing that she does care for her sister.

In contrast, Ismene’s relationships with others are primarily based on familial and societal expectations. She is portrayed as timid and obedient, often taking the side of authority over rebellion. Her relationship with her sister Antigone is defined by the tension between her loyalty to her family and her duty to obey the law. Ismene is torn between her love for her sister and her fear of the consequences of going against the law and her uncle Creon’s decree.

Ismene’s relationship with her uncle Creon is one of submission and obedience. She is aware of the consequences of disobeying him, and therefore tries to dissuade Antigone from burying their brother. Ismene’s relationship with her fiancé, the prince of Thebes, is one of duty and obedience to her family’s wishes. She is willing to marry him, even though she is not in love with him, because it is expected of her.

Overall, Antigone and Ismene have contrasting characters and relationships with others. Antigone’s relationships are based on her personal convictions and loyalty, while Ismene’s relationships are based on familial and societal expectations. These differences add to the dramatic tension in the play and highlight the themes of rebellion and obedience, duty and love.



“Antigone,” written by ancient Greek playwright Sophocles, is a play that explores themes of loyalty, duty, and conflicting beliefs between individuals and society. Through the contrasting characters of Antigone and her sister Ismene, Sophocles portrays these themes in a compelling way.

Antigone’s Archetype

Antigone's Archetype

Antigone can be classified as a tragic hero in that she embodies characteristics of bravery, loyalty, and a willingness to sacrifice herself for what she believes to be right. Antigone is determined to bury her brother Polynices, despite the law forbidding it. She believes that it is her duty to ensure that he receives a proper burial and to honor the family bond. Antigone’s actions serve to challenge the society’s laws and cultural norms regarding the burial of traitors, highlighting the conflict between individual beliefs and societal expectations.

Ismene’s Contrast


Ismene, on the other hand, represents the archetype of the obedient and dutiful daughter who is afraid to challenge authority and societal conventions. Unlike her sister, Ismene believes that the law must be followed and that it would be foolish to disobey it. When Antigone tries to convince her to help bury Polynices, Ismene refuses out of fear, highlighting the conflict between individual beliefs and societal expectations.

Themes in Contrast

Themes in Contrast

By contrasting the personalities and actions of Antigone and Ismene, Sophocles highlights the themes of loyalty, duty, and the conflict between individual beliefs and societal expectations. Antigone’s character represents the individual’s duty to their family and higher moral beliefs, while Ismene’s character represents society’s expectations and the importance of following laws and social conventions.

Implications to the Play

Implications to the Play

The contrasting characters of Antigone and Ismene serve as a reflection of the societal beliefs of ancient Greece, where duty to the state was highly valued. The conflict between individual beliefs and societal expectations that is highlighted in the play is timeless and still relevant today. Antigone’s defiance towards authority and societal norms has made her an iconic figure in literature and an inspiration to those who value individual freedom and justice.


Antigone and Ismene

Antigone and Ismene are both important characters in the play, and their differing personalities and actions serve to highlight the themes of loyalty, duty, and the conflict between individual and societal beliefs. Through the characters of Antigone and Ismene, Sophocles portrays the importance of individual freedom and the courage to stand up for what one believes in, even in the face of societal pressure.

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