Seven against Thebes Themes

Themes

Anger and Hatred
Anger and hatred are emotions that can control the protagonist and blind him to his obligations and choices. Eteocles is a victim of his own anger. When told by the Scout of the planned attacks on the city gates, Eteocles quite rationally assigns one of his warriors to each gate, each matched to the skills of the attacker. But when the Scout relates that Polyneices is to attack the seventh gate, Eteocles assigned himself to defend that gate. The rational decisions, which provided the best possible defenses for the city, are forgotten in the hatred that he feels for his brother. Because Eteocles is blinded by his hatred, he and his brother die, and only the seventh gate is not successfully defended.

Choice and Fate
Eteocles recognizes that the gods are in control of his destiny. When the Chorus begs Eteocles not to meet his brother, Polyneices, in battle, Eteocles says that fate has already determined his future: ‘‘Why kneel to Fate when sentenced to death already?’’ This surrendering to fate allows Eteocles a way to escape responsibility for his actions. He may make bad choices, as he does when he decides to fight his brother, but he is not responsible, since the he is only fulfilling his destiny. This approach to fate relegates the gods to little more than puppet masters, who simply pull man’s strings, and it means that man need not reason, need not be responsible, and need not search for a greater purpose in life. It is all decided by the gods anyway.

Death
Death has a significant role in Aeschylus’s play because death is the fulfillment of the curse that doomed Laius, Oedipus, Eteocles, and Polyneices. But death does not result in the end of the tragedy. Seven Against Thebes ends with the decree that Eteocles is to receive a hero’s funeral, but Polyneices, his brother, is to...

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