John Gargano I Outward beauty and a life that appeared concrete, foiled by inward beauty and a life that had convictions obtained complete. These two parallels of two persons and of two natures are taken up by Sophocles in one of his greatest works and plays Antigone. In the play, the characters Antigone and Ismene represent different attributes and moralities of man. While one follows the law of man, the other follows that of a higher power, a power that transcends time, a power of the super natural and sublime. The two characters engage and foil one another giving the audience a greater understanding of the natures of the two characters.
As the play moves forward, the sisters attack, parry and repost in this bout on life, bringing to light the powers of man and those not of man. The powers of the eternal and those of just and unjust laws. In the end it is up to the audience to decide who won the bout, whether it was the ideas of justice of earth or that of the justice of the eternal.
In the beginning of the work the audience learns that the brothers of Antigone and
Ismene, “Polyneices and Eteocles”, were both killed in a battle. The battle in which Polyneices betrayed his home country and attacked it while Eteocles defended his homeland is the root cause of the problems that occur in Antigone. The drama that ensues spawns from this event.
After the Battle Creon the ruler of Thebes, declares that the body of Polyneices shall not be buried while the body of Eteocles shall be. Further Creon declares, that whoever tries to bury
John Gargano II the body of Polyneices or whoever mourns him shall be put to death. The sacred rite of burial not taking place was the biggest disgrace in ancient times for now the man could not go to the afterlife. To not be buried was worse than any pains of death. This decree of Creon is the fundamental source of conflict that is awakened between Ismene and Antigone which plays out in the play.
Ismene, is the perfect child. She is fare and beautiful, she is loved and honored. She does what is right because it is what she is told, she does what is right because she fears the repercussions of not obeying. For Ismene goodness does not seem to come from the sake of being good but for the sake of the consequences that would occur if she was not good and obedient. She is only interested in herself and gaining benefits from her actions. For Ismene it all comes from the head not the heart. Ismene portrays the third good of Plato in which “We do not welcome them for their own sake, but we do welcome. We do welcome because of what comes from it”. Ismene is the weak soul who only acts for the sake of the consequences that will precede her actions. As seen develop as the plays goes on, Ismene lacks conviction and a moral compass she falters and wavers in her decisions not knowing exactly who she is or what she even stands for. Ismene represents man and his façade of morality. He thinks he knows what is just, just because he believes in the laws of man. He believes that these laws are definitive and unwavering that there is no powers that stand above them.
John Gargano III
Ismene does not regard the law of the gods in the same way that man does not believe in Gods supreme divine law.
In many great works, the writer utilizes foils to help develop the characters and further expound upon the message the play or story is trying to communicate. In Antigone, Sophocles uses Antigone to foil Ismene and vice-versa. Antigone unlike Ismene is more homely in looks.
She is very headstrong and believes in a higher law than that of man. She has conviction and is willing to stand up for what she believes to be true or just. She is like an unwavering rock in the ocean, not budging under the constant crashing waves of scrutiny. Unlike Ismene, Antigone, follows her heart and soul not her head. For