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In Sophocles' Antigone, the title character likes to think of herself as someone who is dutiful to her loved ones, whereas her sister Ismene is someone who is willing to shirk her responsibility to her brothers. At lines 57-58, Antigone tells her sister:
Yes. I’ll do my duty to my brother—
and yours as well, if you’re not prepared to.
(Ian Johnston translation)
Also, Antigone is portrayed as somone who respects "those laws the gods all hold in honour", whereas Ismene is depicted as somone who will not go against what the city/state (in the form of Creon) has decreed. Thus, she argues that she does respect the gods, but she says that she "can't act against against the state" (Ian Johnston translation).
These quotations illustrate one of the great tensions in the play: divine law versus human law.
Creon, King of Thebes, represents human law and he does not want his decree that Polyneices is not to be buried to be violated. When he discovers that his son Haemon's fiance, Antigone, has buried Polyneices he sentences her to death. His comment to Ismene indicates his insistence on observing human laws rather than human relations: "There are other fields for him to plough" (Ian Johnston translation). Creon's callous comment about Antigone here soon gives way to another misogynistic remark as he orders slaves to take Antigone and Ismene inside the house because "they must act like women" (Ian Johnston translation). Later, at line 600, Creon again shows his concern over being ruled by a woman when he states to Antigone: "No woman’s going to govern me" (Ian Johnston translation).
Later in the play, when Creon and Haemon argue about the death sentence against Antigone, Creon urges his son not to trade in his good sense "for some woman’s sake" (Ian Johnston translation).
Haemon, in contrast, urges his father to show moderation in his actions and to bend like a tree in a storm or slacken his sails in a storm like a prudent sailor (807-810). Creon, however, will have none of Haemon's logic and accuses his son of being a "woman's slave" (Ian Johnston translation).
Although Creon worries about being defeated by a woman early in the play, eventually he changes his mind and decides that the best course may be "to follow our established laws" (Ian Johnston translation). Unfortunately, it is too late. Antigone has hanged herself and Haemon will kill himself after failing to kill Creon.
As for the play's chorus, they consist of old men from Thebes. They indicate that they fought on the side of Thebes against Polyneices ("Great war god Ares assisted us", 163 in Johnston's translation), but now they want to forget about the horrors of war ("let’s strive now to forget", 176 in Johnston's translation). They indicate that they will be obedient to Creon's laws ("No one is such a fool that he loves death"). They are, however, sympathetic to Antigone and weep as she is being led away to execution (911). Ultimately, the Theban elders side with Teiresias' advice and urge Creon to (1230-1231).
Go and release the girl from her rock tomb.
Then prepare a grave for that unburied corpse.
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