Antigone by Sophocles: The Prologue

Flashcard maker : James Storer
Explain the reasoning behind Ismene’s decision not to help Antigone bury Polyneices and what it reveals about the ancient Greek culture.
Ismene is fearful of breaking the law and facing death; however, she is not fearful of any punishment that may occur after death as a result of her disrespecting the gods. In addition to fear, she makes the argument that, because she is a woman, she should not be taking a stand against men. Her character reveals that the ancient Greek people had differing opinions about gender equality as well as who held the ultimate authority.
ISMENE:
So I’ll ask those underground for pardon—
since I’m being compelled, I will obey
those in control. That’s what I’m forced to do.
It makes no sense to try to do too much.

In your own words, explain the lines spoken by Ismene and what they reveal about her character, how her character differs from Antigone’s, and how she feels about divine authority and human authority.

Ismene feels that human authority has more power than the gods; therefore, she will submit to Creon’s decree forbidding the burial of her brother Polyneices. She plans to seek the forgiveness of the gods for her decision but does not seem to fear them. In addition to fearing Creon, she does not feel that she is strong enough to take a stand against the law. In contrast, Antigone does not fear human authority and chooses to follow the gods. Unlike her sister, she displays courage and strength.
Which character shares Ismene’s opinion that one should remain loyal to the state?
Eteocles
Which tragedy causes the conflict for Antigone?
the death of Polyneices
Compare and contrast the conflict between Polyneices and Eteocles to that of the sisters.
The brothers were in conflict because Polyneices was leading a rebel army against the Theban government. Eteocles, loyal to the government, fought against his brother. This conflict reveals the theme surrounding the idea of human authority and law. While the sisters are not engaged in a literal battle, they disagree about where their loyalty should lie. Like Eteocles, Ismene chooses to be loyal to the government. Like Polyneices, Antigone is willing to defy human authority to follow what she believes to be right. Antigone seems to stand alone as the character who is loyal to her family and the gods. The brothers disrespected one another and the gods by killing each other; Ismene disrespects her family and the gods by not burying her brother.
In Thebes, directly in front of the royal palace, which stands in the background, its main doors facing the audience. Enter ANTIGONE leading ISMENE away from the palace

In your own words, explain what this stage direction reveals about the characters, conflict, and theme of the play.

The first scene takes place in front of the royal palace, which symbolizes the authority and power associated with government, thus supporting the conflict and theme surrounding human authority. The unspoken action associated with Antigone leading her sister away from the palace reveals Antigone’s intentions. She has already made the decision to turn her back on human authority and wishes to persuade her sister to do the same. The stage directions reveal the conflict between Antigone and the Theban government.
Whom does Antigone blame for the tragic history of her family?
Zeus
ANTIGONE:
What’s this they’re saying now,
something our general has had proclaimed
throughout the city?

Which statement is the answer to the question posed by Antigone?

Anyone who buries Polyneices will be stoned to death.
Dishonors which better fit our enemies
are now being piled up on the ones we love.

Which character speaks these lines?

Antigone
What does the play reveal about the relationship that existed between the ancient Greek people and their gods?
The prologue reveals that the ancient Greek people felt the gods had expectations of the people. The Greeks believed that certain customs, such as burial rites, were required by the gods, and disrespecting their authority would lead to punishment.
ANTIGONE:
Yes. I’ll do my duty to my brother—
and yours as well, if you’re not prepared to.
I won’t be caught betraying him.

Which theme do these lines reveal?

familial loyalty
The prologue covers which stage of the plot structure?
exposition
Why does the playwright include the family’s tragic past?
to foreshadow tragedy
What is the penalty for defying Creon’s decree?
death
Now, dear Ismene, my own blood sister,
do you have any sense of all the troubles
Zeus keeps bringing on the two of us,
as long as we’re alive?

Which character speaks these lines?

Antigone
Which two characters value the authority of the state?
Eteocles and Ismene
What is the biggest obstacle that the protagonist must face?
Creon’s decree
ISMENE:
I’m not disrespecting them. But I can’t act
against the state. That’s not in my nature.

According to this passage, what does Ismene value?

human authority
ANTIGONE:
Eteocles, they say, has had his burial
according to our customary rites,
to win him honor with the dead below.

Why does Creon decide to bury Eteocles according to custom?

Eteocles was loyal to Thebes.
What is the goal of the protagonist?
to bury Polyneices

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