Broken Sisterhood: The Relationship between Antigone and Ismene in Sophocles’ Antigone

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Carolin Hahnemann


This investigation provides textual support for the view that, contrary to the interpretation recently advanced by Bonnie Honig, Antigone rejects Ismene in the prologue and persists in this rejection in the scene before Creon. Building on a pattern observed by Bernard Knox, I show that Sophocles employs dual forms to signal that a speaker is viewing Antigone and Ismene from the perspective of the family, i.e. as a pair of sisters, and contrasting μέν-δέ clauses to signal that a speaker is viewing them from the perspective of the city, i.e. as political agents. As a result, these easily overlooked grammatical markers turn out to serve an important role in the characterization of Antigone, Ismene and Creon, and their changing relationships to one another.

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