39 pages 1 hour read


The Seven against Thebes

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 467

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Character Analysis


Eteocles is the son of Oedipus and Jocasta and the brother of Polynices. He is the ruling king of Thebes, having seemingly ousted his older brother (his rival for the throne). Eteocles cuts a brave and heroic figure, leading the Thebans unwaveringly into war against the invaders. He is an effective leader, a quality demonstrated by his composure throughout the “Shield Scene,” in which he carefully pairs the attacker at each of the city’s seven gates with the most suitable Theban champion.

Despite his bravery and effective leadership, however, Eteocles is not without his share of responsibility for the conflict, having apparently dispossessed his brother Polynices unjustly. Eteocles himself shirks responsibility for Polynices’s actions, placing the blame instead on the anger of the gods and on the curse placed upon him and his brother by their father, Oedipus. In the world of the play, this interpretation is at least partially valid, with significant responsibility assigned to the Fury tasked with fulfilling Oedipus’s curse or to the notion that the brothers were both “possessed by evil spirits” (1001).

In contrast to Eteocles’s composure in affairs of war and state, he is very harsh toward the Chorus. He tells them in no uncertain terms to curb their fearful prayers, going so far as to hope that “Neither in evils nor in fair good fortune / may I share a dwelling with the tribe of women!” (187-88).