The Tragedy of Ismene? 12th Grade

Though it was written over two millennia ago, Sophocles’ Antigone features one of the preeminent symbols of female defiance in its title character. The play centers on the exploits of Antigone as she openly goes against the king’s decree in the name of honor and piety. Though she ends her story in death, she nonetheless proves the powers of which the supposedly weak and subordinate are capable of having when they have righteousness on their side. It is therefore surprising to learn that perhaps Antigone is not the true hero of this classic Greek play, but rather her sister, Ismene. This is what Jennifer Kirkpatrick argues in her groundbreaking essay, "The Prudent Dissident: Unheroic Resistance in Sophocles’ Antigone." Kirkpatrick brings forth an entirely different reading of Antigone that involves Ismene being the one who buries Polynecies the first time, thus casting her as the unsung hero of the play. This idea is radical; however, upon careful examination one can see it is actually highly plausible.

In order for Ismene to have buried Polynecies, the first and foremost thing to assure is that the plot of Antigone would allow it – which it does. As Kirkpatrick points out, Ismene has no alibi or witness placing her someone else...

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