As Sophocles' tragedy Antigone opens, Antigone is explaining to her sister, Ismene, what she plans to do and asks her to help. Antigone intends to give her fallen brother, Polyneices, a proper burial despite the fact that Creon, her uncle who rules Thebes, has forbidden him to be buried because he has acted as a traitor. Ismene is shocked to hear that Antigone will commit a crime in violating a decree from Creon.
Antigone argues her case by saying that her crime is holy. She explains that she will be sinless because she owes more allegiance to the realm of the dead than to that of the living, since the afterlife will be much longer than her life on earth. She accuses Ismene of violating the law of the gods in order to honor the laws of men. This sets up the philosophical conflict of the play: whether a person should obey the laws of the gods over the laws of men. Ismene is a foil to Antigone, for she chooses the safe path of following her uncle's orders while Antigone is willing to die for obeying what she considers to be higher laws.