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What is the foil (difference) between Antigone and Ismene?How are they different?  I...

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nigelkim95 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 31, 2010 at 6:47 AM via web

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What is the foil (difference) between Antigone and Ismene?

How are they different?  I know that Antigone is for the God's rule, and Ismene is for the state's rules. What else are there?

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 31, 2010 at 7:43 AM (Answer #1)

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Antigone is certainly much bolder and more independent than her sister is. In the play's Prologue after Ismene tells Antigone that her plan to bury their brother's body is impossible, Antigone promises,

"If you say this, you will be hateful to me, / and the dead will hate you always–justly" (93-94).

The title character is not afraid to alienate her family and friends--even her own sister--in order to do what she believes is her moral obligation.

While many audience members might agree with Antigone that Ismene is a coward, Sophocles suggests in the Prologue that perhaps she is simply not as hot-blooded as is Antigone. While Ismene also loves her father and brothers, she realizes that infighting has brought only death to her family, and she does not see the point of continuing the feud (it would now be between her and Antigone and their Uncle Creon).

In the end, both women possess admirable qualities. Antigone's strength and boldness allow her to affect her uncle and all of Thebes before she commits a martyr's suicide, and Ismene's calmness allows her to bring hope of a more peaceful future for Thebes when all the carnage is done. She is the only female family member left alive at the play's end, and it will be up to her to decide if she will continue following the laws of man or if she will try to assert herself as a woman.

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