This dramatic female monologue is a selection from Act One of Antigone by Sophocles.
About Ismene as a Character
Ismene is a fascinating character. In this dramatic monologue, she conveys grief and shame as she reflects upon her father Oedipus' sad history. She also warns that Antigone's fate and her own might be worse if they disobey the laws of the land. She is at once melancholy, fearful, and diplomatic.
Context of the Monologue Within the Play
The brothers of Ismene and Antigone battle for control of Thebes. Both perish. One brother is buried as a hero. The other brother is deemed a traitor to his people.
When the corpse of Antigone's brother is left to rot out on the battlefield, Antigone is determined to set things right, even if it means defying the laws of King Creon. Her sister Ismene is not as headstrong. She is sad for the death and dishonor of her brother. However, she does not want to risk her life by upsetting the “powers that be.”
Bethink thee, sister, of our father's fate,
Abhorred, dishonored, self-convinced of sin,
Blinded, himself his executioner.
Think of his mother-wife (ill sorted names)
Done by a noose herself had twined to death
And last, our hapless brethren in one day,
Both in a mutual destiny involved,
Self-slaughtered, both the slayer and the slain.
Bethink thee, sister, we are left alone;
Shall we not perish wretchedest of all,
If in defiance of the law we cross
A monarch's will?-weak women, think of that,
Not framed by nature to contend with men.
Remember this too that the stronger rules;
We must obey his orders, these or worse.
Therefore I plead compulsion and entreat
The dead to pardon. I perforce obey
The powers that be. 'Tis foolishness, I ween,
To overstep in aught the golden mean.