Compare and contrast Antigone and her sister Ismene, showing how the two contribute to the play and how Ismene is a foil character. 

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Ismene is presented as the ideal of how a woman in Ancient Greek society was expected to be: passive, demure, and obedient. She understands why her sister Antigone behaves the way she does but there's no way in a million years she'd ever consider defying Creon's express orders:

I scorn them not, but to defy the state

Or break her ordinance I have no skill.

Creon is the king of Thebes and as a ruler and as a man he expects his word, which is law, to be followed to the absolute letter. Ismene accepts this without demur. Her own personal feelings simply don't enter into it; as a woman and as a citizen she feels compelled to obey Creon.

Though often presented in the critical literature on the play as being some kind of coward, it should be pointed out that Iseme does actually volunteer to share the same fate as Antigone. Moreover, we might like to consider whether Ismene was the wiser of the two sisters, more level-headed, in her acknowledgement that her family had suffered enough without Antigone's making things worse by her willful act of disobedience.

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Ismene exists as a model of a conventional Greek woman, and in some ways almost a standard of correct behaviour against whom Antigone to be judged. In the first act of the play, Antigone and Ismene debate whether they should violate the decrees of Creon by burying their brother's body. Antigone argues that the natural laws of familial duty trump the mere human laws of Creon. Ismene argues that it is not a woman's place to rebel against the judgement of a king. The issue is complicated by the fact that burial and mourning were traditional female duties in Greek culture.

Ismene is  far more concerned about making a good marriage and having children than  Antigone, and less concerned about broader political, moral, or religious questions.

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