How would you summarize the Prologue of Antigone by Sophocles?

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the Prologue of Antigone by Sophocles, Antigone calls her sister, Ismene, out of the palace to speak to her. She wants to tell Ismene privately about Creon's edict that Polyneices, their brother, who died the day before, may not be buried, but Eteocles, their other brother, shall receive a proper interment. The two brothers both died in battle, with Eteocles defending Thebes and Polyneices trying to conquer it from without. With the male heirs of Oedipus both dead, Creon finds himself the new ruler, and one of his first laws regards the burial or non-burial of the two brothers and the death sentence upon anyone who would violate his order. Antigone asks Ismene to help her bury Polyneices; Ismene will not, citing the fact that she is just a woman and is destined to obey "the stronger." Antigone lets her know that she will bury her brother, and Ismene assures her that, even though she disagrees with Antigone's errand, she still loves her.

The Prologue performs several important tasks for the drama. First, it gives critical backstory about the battle that killed Antigone's brothers. Second, it introduces the conflict, with Antigone stating that she must honor the gods' will above Creon's law. Third, it establishes Antigone's character as a strong, brave woman, especially compared to Ismene, who believes "we must remember, first, that we were born women, as who should not strive with men." Thus the feminist theme, another important part of the conflict, is introduced as well.