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MonkeyNotes-Antigone by Jean Anouilh
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Ismene

Ismene is Antigone's older sister, lovely and charming. Haemon goes dancing with her, but in the end, he proposes to Antigone. Ismene is a practical conformist and would not dream of disobeying her uncle, King Creon. She fears authority and tries to persuade Antigone to do likewise, but she fails to convince her sister of her point of view. She understands Creon's predicament over Polynices and sympathizes with him.

Ismene tries to win Antigone over to her side with endless arguments. She will not help to bury Polynices, for she does not want to endure Creon's punishment and even admits to being afraid of dying. Even though she loves her sister, Antigone cannot understand her cowardice or her lack of a sense of sacred or familial duty.

Though the sisters are close to each other, they have contrasting personalities. Ismene is different from Antigone in every respect. Ismene is docile and practical, while Antigone is a spirited rebel. Ismene reminds Antigone that she is a girl and not a man; therefore, she is not obligated to perform the same duties or make the same sacrifices that are expected of a man. Antigone is horrified about her thinking, for Antigone feels her duties as deeply as any man, and much more deeply than Creon can fathom. In reality, Ismene envies Antigone's courage and self-sacrificing nature, which she lacks. At the end of the play, Ismene threatens Creon that she too will die with Antigone if he really condemns her sister to death. The audience knows that she is not brave enough to carry through with this threat, and fortunately, Antigone will not let her, for she knows that Ismene is innocent of any crime. By making the offer, however, Ismene redeems herself and shows, in the end, that she does have a sense of family loyalty.


Haemon

Haemon is Creon's son and the heir to the throne of Thebes. He likes dancing, sports, competition, and women. At the ball, the beautiful Ismene is his favorite partner; but this practical and handsome young prince chooses the plain, but spirited, Antigone over her lovely sister. Haemon proposes marriage to Antigone and becomes steadfastly loyal to her. When she questions his love, he professes his passion. At the same time he honors her privacy and freedom.

Unfortunately, a sense of doom follows the young lovers throughout the play. The Chorus sadly observes that in his engagement to Antigone, the rebel, Haemon has earned the princely distinction of dying a premature death. After he swears his allegiance to her, Antigone sends him away and says she will never become his wife, for she knows that she is to be put to death under Creon's edict. Haemon is heartbroken over her words and cannot comprehend her changed and strange behavior.

On learning of her arrest, Haemon pleads nobly with his father, Creon, to find a way out of the crisis and spare his beloved's life. When Creon tells his son that he is not above the law and must follow it, Haemon loses faith in his father, who has made the law. He feels betrayed by Creon, both as his parent and as the king. In the end, he defies his father and joins Antigone in the cave.

The audience is shocked to learn that the gentle Haemon turns beastly and tries to attack his own father in the cave. He is mad with grief because of Antigone's death. He stabs himself to die beside his beloved in a final embrace. Creon lays them out together to be forever united in death. Although Haemon is a minor character, he has a powerful impact within the play and makes a strong impression on the audience.

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