What happens to Ismene at the end of Antigone?  

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Ismene, Antigone's sister, appears in two key scenes in the play. In the play's beginning, Ismene refuses to help Antigone bury their brother Polyneices. This causes Antigone to break with her sister; she tells Ismene, "I shall be hating you soon." Ismene appears later, in Scene 2, and attempts to share Antigone's blame, and therefore her fate, death at Creon's hands. Antigone denies that Ismene played any part in burying Polyneices, but Creon condemns her, also. The scene ends with Creon sending both Antigone and Ismene away under guard.

Ismene is not seen again, but she is mentioned once. At the end of Scene 3, following his confrontation with Haimon, Creon says that Haimon "shall not save these girls from death." When Choragos asks if Creon has sentenced both Antigone and Ismene to death, Creon replies:

No, you are right.

I will not kill the one whose hands are clean.

Ismene's life is spared; Antigone is soon entombed to die. What becomes of Ismene after that is not addressed, but she surely could not have lived in peace. As she said to Creon when she explained why she was choosing to die with Antigone, "But how could I go on living without her?"

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