Women often are put in positions that often create turmoil within themselves. Women tend to make decisions based more on emotion and values as opposed to what is dictated by governing laws and rulers. By choosing to do what is "right in their heart" women often suffer great consequences such as persecution, abuse, exile and even death. Antigone deals with this turmoil because she tries to perform the noble act of loyalty to her brother, Polyneices, as well as her loyalty to her family. Polyneices was slain by his own brother, Eteocles, in a battle where both were killed by each other's sword. King Creon sentenced Polyneices to be left dead and Eteocles to be given an honorable burial.
Antigone is faced with the decision to let her brother, Polyneices, lay dead in the street to be scavenged by animals or to be buried in a proper and decent manner so as to be accepted by the gods. She is in a position that gives her no rights as a woman, sister, niece or future queen. Her decision to bury her brother demonstrates her loyalty to her family, the gods and to all women. Her motivation drives her decisions far more than that what the laws of state have implemented. Antigone also demonstrates loyalty towards her sister, Ismene.
At first when the two sisters quarrel over the burial of Polyneices, Antigone demonstrates hatred and resentment towards Ismene. Antigone accuses her of dishonoring her brother and dishonoring the gods. She also attacks Ismene's morals by calling her weak and fragile. Antigone says to Ismene", But you, if so you choose, you may dishonour the sacred laws that heaven holds in honour".
(Antigone, Lines 76 and 77). Later when Ismene and Antigone confront Creon, Ismene is willing to die with Antigone even though she had no part of the criminal act. [I did it too, if she allows my claim; I share the burden of this heavy charge. But in your stormy voyage I am glad to share the danger, traveling at your side.] (Ismene, Lines 536 and 537, Lines 540 and 541) Antigone's loyalty to Ismene is shown when she forbids Ismene to accept punishment for something she had no part in. However, Antigone's loyalty to the gods seems to be the most powerful. Possibly because her fear of disobeying the gods is far greater than any turmoil she has yet to face.
Antigone fears that by disobeying the gods she will reap great consequences after death. She chooses to obey the laws set by the gods and accepts the punishment of death by Creon. [Was I to stand before the gods' tribunal for disobeying them, because I feared a man? I knew that I should have to die, even without your edict; if I die before my time, why then, I count it gain; to one who lives as I do, ringed about with countless miseries, why, death is welcome.] (Antigone, Lines 458 to 463) Not all women however are as willful as Antigone. Her own sister, Ismene, portrays a women reluctant to follow what she feels is right in her own mind and follow the laws set by the governing state. Ismene's words to Antigone, "I do them no dishonour, but to act against the city's will I am to weak".
(Ismene, Lines 78 and 79). Here she admits her weakness towards her sister's decision to bury her brother. The strength seen by Ismene is portrayed later when she faces Creon at Antigone's side after he sentences her sister to death. Ismene stands up to Creon and insists that she be sentenced to death along with her sister. Antigone expresses to Creon that Ismene is not involved and pleas for her life. She then confronts Ismene and expresses to her that she has no rights to die for an act she has no taken part in, "No!
Justice will not suffer that; for you Refused, and I gave you no part in it". (Antigone, Line 538 and 539) Women of different eras and cultures often portray similar loyalties towards family and faith. Mary Queen of Scots fought for her right to heir ship for the throne. It was turned over to a male heir and she suffered life imprisonment in a tower till her death as her punishment for challenging government. Joan of Arc, yet another strong women in history fought for her king and her religion. A woman's right to fight in battle was against the laws set forth by the government but she chose to defend for what she believed.
Again the result was death by beheading. Women of the 1800's were very much involved in transferring slaves in the Underground Railroad. They often were persecuted and imprisoned for assisting blacks in gaining their freedom. Women of the 20th century are still advocates for many human and civil issues. They choose to support issues that they feel are moral and humane as opposed to what the governing laws dictate what they should be. Such issues are abortion and equal rights.
It is seen throughout history that women such as Antigone, Ismene, Joan of Arc and so many other women battle with the turmoil of loyalty for family, religion and government. They continue to challenge government laws because they know what the moral issue is to be supported. Women are willing to accept the punishment betrothed on them, by government, to please their god and family and do what is right "in their heart" as opposed to defying their moral beliefs. The words spoken by Antigone to Creon after accepting her death sentence illustrates such an act.
She speaks saying, "To join my own, those many who have died and whom Persephone has welcomed home; and now to me, the last of all, so young, Death comes, so cruelly. And yet I go. Yet what I did, the wise will all approve". (Antigone, Lines 895 to 898 and Line 906).