The Phoenician Women

by Euripides

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What does Monoeceus resolve to do in The Phoenician Women? What happens to the Argive soldier Capaneus as he is scaling the city wall? In spite of Messenger’s initial good news about her sons, what does Jocasta learn from the Messenger concerning what they are about to do? What does Jocasta decide to do in response to this news? When Creon returns to the stage, what is he carrying? According to the Messenger, what were the circumstances of Jocasta’s death?

Menoeceus resolves to sacrifice himself, and do so by suicide. Jocasta learns from the Messenger that her sons plan to engage in one-on-one contest to determine the rulership of Thebes. She enlists Antigone to accompany her to the battlefield and try to stop their fight. Creon comes onstage carrying Menoeceus’s corpse. The Messenger reveals that Jocasta dies in the same manner as her nephew, by stabbing herself through the throat.

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In The Phoenician Women, the former queen Jocasta is distressed because her two sons, Eteocles and Polynices, are heading up rival factions in a civil war that will determine the control of Thebes. Eteocles currently holds the Theban throne and had refused to share power with his brother. The Argives become Polynices’s allies in the war he declares to contest Theban rulership after Polynices marries the daughter of Argos’s king.

Menoeceus is Jocasta’s nephew, the son of her brother Creon. Based on the prophecy of Tiresias, Menoeceus decides to sacrifice himself in an effort to bring peace. His disregards Creon’s suggestion of fleeing rather than being sacrificed. Instead, he dies by suicide, thrusting a sword through his own throat.

A Messenger soon arrives and tells Creon that Jocasta and both her sons are dead. Arriving too late to the battlefield, she found that Eteocles and Polynices had fatally wounded each other in battle. Eteocles dies without a word, but Polynices manages with his dying breath to ask to be buried in Thebes. After both sons die, the distraught mother grabs a sword and plunges it into her own throat, dying on the spot. The rival armies engulf the battlefield, and the Thebans defeat the Argives and secure their city.

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