In the Prologue, Ismene says, "We are only women, we cannot fight with men, Antigone." In the Prologue, Ismene says, "We are only women, we cannot fight with men, Antigone." How does Creon treat...

In the Prologue, Ismene says, "We are only women, we cannot fight with men, Antigone."

In the Prologue, Ismene says, "We are only women, we cannot fight with men, Antigone." How does Creon treat women, in particular Antigone? Would Antigone have been treated the same way if she were a man? Can you cite at least five examples from the play supporting your answer? Thank you!

Expert Answers
scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Creon treats women as inferiors and does not like them to oppose him. Antigone infuriates him because she stands up to him in front of others and wins the opinion of the Choragos.

I do believe that Antigone would have been treated differently if she had been a man. First, Creon is furious when he discovers that not only has someone disobeyed his order about leaving the body but that that person is a woman. Creon, as a new leader, does not want someone questioning his authority, and it is especially damaging when a woman challenges him--it makes him appear weak.

Similarly, if Antigone were not a woman, Creon might have been more willing to listen to her reasoning for trying to bury her brother's corpse.  But instead, Creon views himself as the logical one and wants no explanation from his niece.

Antigone's being a woman also complicates Creon's handling of her sentence.  If she were a man, Creon most likely could have followed through with his threat to execute anyone who disobeyed his order, but when he finds out that Antigone is the one who defied him, he is placed in a precarious position.  She is able to garner sympathy and respect from the Chorus, the Sentry, and from Creon's own son (Antigone's fiance).  If she were a man, Creon would not look unusually cruel for following through with his order.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ismene's statement helps to represent the traditional view of women in Greek society.  Sophocles' inclusion of Ismene might help to show the institutional inertia against which Antigone fights.  She not only battles for family honor, but in this process, must fight the roles that are socially dicated upon her as a woman.  In such a condition, Antigone is "not supposed" to challenge the rule of the monarch Creon.  For his part, Creon's hubris is a part of his own tragic condition.  His refusal to hear Antigone's narrative is a reflection of his own affirmation of self.  Certainly, the fact that Antigone is a woman has a part in this process, but I don't think that Antigone would have been heard had she been a man.  In my mind, I think that Antigone would have faced the same stubborn refusal from Creon, but perhaps the intensity of his anger would not have been as high had she been a man.

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree that Antigone's being a woman causes Creon to treat her in particular ways; however, there are other factors that motivate his decisions regarding her punishment.  First, Creon is somewhat sympathetic to Antigone because of her relationship with his son Haemon and the people of Thebes.  I agree with the above post that if Antigone were a man, she would likely have been executed for disobeying him.  However, Creon is made aware of the fact that the people of Thebes are sympathetic towards Antigone plus Haemon has come to him to beg for leniency on Antigone's behalf.  Creon considers these two factors, and he does not want to appear overly harsh in front of the people.  As a result, he decides to imprison her as a sort of compromise.  So, although I do think that gender is a factor, there are other issues that compound with gender to influence Creon's decisions.