Discuss the different characterizations of  Antigone, Creon, and Ismene in Antigone.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While they are connected to one another in the drama, each of the characters possess some distinctly different traits.  Creon is shown as a male ruler of the time period.  He believes in the rule of the political realm and that what is declared as law must be seen as justice.  In addition to this belief that the law is justice, Creon is autocratic, with no other limitations or checks to his power:

Holding on to power and suppressing rebellion of any kind are Creon's main objectives when he orders Polyneices to remain unburied. When notified by a sentry that someone has defied his order, he holds the sentry responsible until the culprit is caught. Creon is unbending and will not listen to the advice of his elders (the Chorus) or Teiresias, the prophet. He is an autocrat, an absolute ruler.

When the analysis shifts to Antigone, the primary division in the drama emerges.  Antigone believes that the law might not be the same as justice, with its pursuit being of a higher caliber.  Antigone's quest to honor her brother in a just and honorable fashion puts her on a collision course with Creon, with both being unrelenting in their beliefs.  Antigone demonstrates the idea that social and political dissent must be acknowledged within a political setting if individuals prove to be committed to ideas that go against the Status Quo:

By defying Creon's edict, she [Antigone] is showing her faith and sense of duty to her family. She personifies the belief that family and human relations should be placed above politics. Antigone is committed to her ideals.

Antigone also represents the non- traditional view of women, in that women could use their voice in political manners.  For Ismene, her characterization is one that embraces the traditional role of women in terms of being consensus driven and subservient to the political structure of the time.  In this respect, she is the opposite of her sister:

Ismene acts as a foil for Antigone; while she demonstrates a woman living according to the traditional rules governing the behavior and status of Athenian women, Antigone represents a pioneering woman who governs herself according to a sense of personal empowerment and self-reliance.