A Chorus of young women
A Chorus of young women, maidens from Phoenicia dedicated to the service of Apollo. They have stopped in Thebes and have been detained by the war of the Seven against Thebes. They provide the historical perspective necessary to see the duel between the two sons of Oedipus as the last link in a long chain of Theban misfortunes.
Eteocles (ee-TEE-oh-kleez), the king of Thebes, the son of Jocasta and Oedipus. He and his brother Polynices had agreed to rule the city of Thebes in turn, but Eteocles has refused to give up the throne and Polynices has appeared with an Argive army to claim his right. Jocasta tries to reconcile the two brothers, but without success. Eteocles believes that might is right and will fight rather than give up his power. He is, as he admits, the typical dictator; at the same time he is young, rash, and ignorant in warfare. Creon, Jocasta’s brother, helps him plan the defense of the city. In that defense he fights bravely, challenging his brother to single combat. The brothers kill each other. Eteocles’ only affection, his love for his mother, is expressed in his dying moments.
Polynices (pol-ih-NI-seez), the exiled brother of Eteocles who, when Eteocles refuses to allow him his period of rule, marches against Thebes. He has justice on his side, as the Thebans and even Eteocles recognize, but he has allowed his wrongs to lead him to the unpardonable sin of attack on his homeland. Speaking to Jocasta before her attempted reconciliation between the brothers, he reveals that he still loves his country; his mother, sister, and...
(The entire section is 705 words.)