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Women’s Struggle in Sophocles’ and Ibsen’s Works


Even though the two plays; ‘Antigone’ by Sophocles and ‘A Doll’s House’ by Henrick Ibsen were written in completely different times, they share certain thematic elements when it comes to the portrayal of the female characters. For instance, the characters “Antigone” by Sophocles and Nora in “A Doll’s House” represent the defiant women who stood up against men in a majorly patriarchal society while the characters Christine and Antigone’s sister Ismene stand out as equally submissive and never question the regulations that the society has made especially when they favor the men. As the paper unfolds, the similarity in the defiant characters, as well as the submissive characters in both texts, is analyzed to determine which tactic worked best for women in mostly male-dominated societies.

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The character of the two sisters Antigone and Ismene, as portrayed by Sophocles is completely different. This comes out to be realized especially when the issue of the burial of their brothers is introduced. Following the death of their two brothers, the two sisters completely differ in their stands about the burial of their brother Polyneices. This follows a decree issued by the king Creon ordered that rather than being buried with honor, Polyneices be cast away. This is what exactly triggers the defiance in Antigone. From the first response that Antigone receives from Ismene after passing the news of the decree to her sister, it is completely obvious that Ismene is submissive and just helpless when it comes to challenging decisions made by men.

Whether or not Ismene’s submissiveness was a tactic remains a matter of contention considering that Antigone ends up tragically with the death of the character resulting from her defiance and rebellion against the King’s decree. “…Antigone had hanged herself by the cord of her robe, by the red and golden twisted cord of her robe” (Sophocles 4.1.14). It is therefore clear that in a society where women seem defenseless and incapable, it is futile to wage war against the system as seen in Antigone. The theme further stands out in Ibsen’s masterwork: ‘A Doll’s House.’

The two friends, Nora and Christine, in Henrick Ibsen’s play ‘A Doll’s House’ tend to move in different directions as the play progresses. This follows the fact that Nora who once was a submissive homemaker ends up rebelling and leaving the marriage while Christine who moves into the town as a widow eventually marries and unites the family tactically. The character Nora challenges the overly seemingly tranquil institution of marriage and the general norms of marriage by struggling to find the exact person that she is and living according to her believes.

In such a masculine society as Nora notes, women are supposed to make sacrifices to save their marriages. Nora states, “…no man would sacrifice his honor for the one he loves…thousands of women have” (Ibsen 3.1.15-16]. She had made the sacrifice of having to borrow money to save her dying husband a thing that escapes unappreciated from the minds of even the husband years later. Christine on the other hand employs tactic rather than mere defiance in her quest. This explains how she manages to change her situation at the end of the play.


The struggle of women for liberation in a society where men have dominated all the social institutions and shaped the way of thinking seems faced with many obstacles. This stands out through the outcome of the emancipations by the two defiant characters in the two texts. Nora ends up single while Antigone loses her life at the end of the play. The submissive characters that employ tactic and decide to play along rather than challenge the male authorities end up better and alive.

Works Cited

Ibsen, Henrick. A Doll’s House. England: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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Sophocles. Antigone. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, April 29). Women’s Struggle in Sophocles’ and Ibsen’s Works.

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"Women’s Struggle in Sophocles’ and Ibsen’s Works." StudyCorgi, 29 Apr. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Women’s Struggle in Sophocles’ and Ibsen’s Works." April 29, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Women’s Struggle in Sophocles’ and Ibsen’s Works." April 29, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Women’s Struggle in Sophocles’ and Ibsen’s Works." April 29, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Women’s Struggle in Sophocles’ and Ibsen’s Works'. 29 April.

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