Whom I see! Right now you will know her by her voice!
ISMENE. Oh father and sister—two names
That are sweetest to me! (322-25)
and Ismene have fallen far from the Theban palace where they used to live, and
now they only have each other. Ismene isn’t exaggerating when she says that
“father” and “sister” are the sweetest names to her; the family relationships
are the only ones left in their tragic lives.
OEDIPUS. Child, have you come?
ISMENE. Oh father, ill-fated one, to see you!
OEDIPUS. Oh seed, of the same blood!
ISMENE. Wretched lives! (327-30)
Oedipus’ crime caused
his children to be born to an unholy union, that of himself and his mother. So
the family ties are also the proof and reminder of his tragedy; that’s why they
call each other “ill-fated” and “wretched,” even though they are “of the same
blood.” It’s the blood that’s causing the problem.
OEDIPUS. Touch me, child.
ISMENE. I touch you both together.
OEDIPUS. Her hand and mine?
ISMENE. And mine, an ill-fated one, is the third. (330-33)
When Ismene shows up,
Oedipus can’t see her, so he wants her to touch him. This way he can feel her.
This moment, where the sisters and father all hold hands, is powerful because
the family has found its way back to each other even in the middle of all this
pain and suffering. It’s a visual, physical representation of their bond.
OEDIPUS. Where are the blood brothers—the young men who are fit for labor? (335)
Oedipus doesn’t take
long before he notices that even though he has his daughters with him, he’s
missing his sons. And this absence is disgusting for him; the italics point out
his anger with his sons, and the question is sarcastic. The young men are fit for
labor, but it’s the young women who are actually doing it.
OEDIPUS. [. . .] But she believes that having a life in a
Is of secondary importance, if her father has nurture.
Antigone is like the
perfect child. She, instead of staying comfortably at home where her brothers
are fighting each other to the death over the throne, has decided to follow her
blind father into exile. It’s like the ancient Greek version of a pillow with
“home is where the heart is” embroidered onto it.
ISMENE. First they strove among themselves how to leave the
To Creon and not defile the city.
They contemplated, through reason, the ancient destruction
of the family,
How it beset your miserable house. (367-70)
Ismene explains how
her brothers have gone into a civil war, brother versus brother, to see who
would inherit the throne. In the meantime their uncle Creon takes over while
they fight it out. The brothers realize that neither of them should really be
on the throne because their family is cursed, but their thirst for power
overrides that realization. Yeah, we're pretty sure that won't end well.
ISMENE. And the younger one, inferior in age,
Deprives the one born before, Polyneices, of the throne
And has driven him from the land of his fathers. (374-76)
brother has cut the line and stepped into the throne ahead of his older
brother, who really should be the first to inherit the kingship. When he sends
Polyneices into exile he is not only just separating him from the throne; he’s
also separating him from his ancestral home.
OEDIPUS. Will they also cover me in burial with the dust of
ISMENE. No, the blood of your kin does not allow you, oh
Oedipus is concerned
that if he is taken back to Thebes and buried there, that the burial won't be
done properly. When Ismene says that “the blood of your kin” doesn’t allow him
to be buried properly, she means that his family members won’t let him. He has
been ultimately rejected by his sons and brother-in-law.
OEDIPUS. Did some one of my sons hear these things?
ISMENE. Both, equally, and they know it well.
OEDIPUS. And once they heard these things, did they—the most
evil of men!
--Place the tyranny before longing for me?
ISMENE. It pains me to hear these things, but nevertheless I
must bear them. (416-20)
Oedipus hopes that
his sons still care about him, but they care more about power than family. The
division of the family goes along gender lines, maybe because the girls aren’t
able to take the throne so its power doesn’t distract them from their family
duty? Or maybe they’re just better people than their brothers.
OEDIPUS. [. . .] But they—their father’s own!—
Who could have helped their father, did not wish
To do so! For the lack of a small word from them,
I was driven out forever, an exile, a beggar. (441-44)
Oedipus takes his
punishment from the gods without complaining too much. He gets it that he has
to face the consequences of his fate. But he just can’t forgive his family for
turning their backs on him. There they had a choice, unlike the divine justice
he’s facing. Poor Eddie (can we call him Eddie?).