The Character of Ismene in Antigone

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 645 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 645|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Loyalty as a Character Trait
  2. Passivity and Fear as Character Traits
  3. Implications and Themes
  4. References

Antigone, a tragic play written by Sophocles, revolves around the conflict between opposing values and beliefs. At the center of this conflict is Ismene, a character who embodies various traits that contribute to the development of the play's themes. Ismene's character is complex, and her actions and decisions have significant implications for the plot. In this essay, we will explore the character traits of Ismene and analyze their implications in the context of the play. Through an examination of her loyalty, passivity, and fear, it becomes evident that Ismene's character serves as a foil to the protagonist, Antigone, and highlights the themes of rebellion, duty, and the limits of familial loyalty.

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Loyalty as a Character Trait

One of the prominent character traits of Ismene is her loyalty, particularly towards her family. From the very beginning of the play, Ismene expresses her loyalty by attempting to dissuade Antigone from defying the king's decree. She argues that they are women and should not challenge the authority of men. Ismene's loyalty to the established order and her fear of repercussions are evident when she states, "We must remember we are women born, and as such, we're not meant to fight with men" (Sophocles, 33). Her loyalty to the societal norms and her desire to protect her family from harm are admirable traits, but they also underline her passivity and fear.

Moreover, Ismene's loyalty to her family is further highlighted when she later decides to share the blame for Antigone's actions. Despite her initial refusal to defy the king's decree, Ismene changes her mind and wants to take equal responsibility for burying their brother, Polyneices. She declares to Antigone, "But now I'll go out, quickly, and join you in the task" (Sophocles, 80). Ismene's loyalty to her family extends to a willingness to face the consequences alongside her sister, which showcases her sense of duty and familial bond.

Passivity and Fear as Character Traits

While loyalty is a commendable trait, Ismene's passivity and fear act as obstacles to her potential growth and contribute to her character's development. Ismene's initial passivity is evident in her refusal to participate in Antigone's plan to bury Polyneices. She fears the consequences that may arise from defying the king's decree and believes that women should not challenge the authority of men. This passivity is a stark contrast to Antigone's rebellious nature, emphasizing the conflicting perspectives within the play.

Ismene's fear also plays a significant role in shaping her character. She is constantly haunted by the fear of punishment and the potential harm that may befall her family. When Antigone is caught burying Polyneices, Ismene pleads with the king and confesses her involvement, hoping to save her sister from further harm. This act of self-sacrifice demonstrates Ismene's love for her sister and her fear of losing her. However, it also showcases her lack of agency, as she relies on others to protect her.

Implications and Themes

Ismene's character traits have profound implications for the play's themes. Her loyalty, passivity, and fear serve as a foil to Antigone's rebellion, duty, and unwavering pursuit of justice. Ismene's reluctance to defy authority highlights the limits of familial loyalty and the tension between individual conscience and societal expectations. Her passivity and fear draw attention to the themes of powerlessness and the consequences of submission. By contrasting Ismene's character with Antigone's, Sophocles explores the complexities of human nature and the various responses to moral dilemmas.

In conclusion, Ismene's character in Antigone is characterized by loyalty, passivity, and fear. Her traits serve as a foil to Antigone's rebellion, duty, and unwavering pursuit of justice. While Ismene's loyalty to her family is commendable, her passivity and fear hinder her growth and agency. Through her character, Sophocles explores themes of rebellion, duty, and the limits of familial loyalty. Ismene's complexity adds depth to the play, allowing for a nuanced exploration of the human condition.

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Sophocles. Antigone. Translated by Robert Fagles, Penguin Classics, 1984.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

The Character of Ismene in Antigone. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 20, 2024, from
“The Character of Ismene in Antigone.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
The Character of Ismene in Antigone. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Jul. 2024].
The Character of Ismene in Antigone [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 20]. Available from:
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