Oedipus (EHD-ih-puhs), a king of Thebes. By the time the Thebaid opens, he has killed his father and married his mother, has blinded himself, and has been deposed. He does not appear often in the work, but he is important as a motivating force, for it is his curses on his ungrateful sons that set the action of the story in motion. Traditionally, Oedipus has been viewed as a kind of demigod, made more than human by the depths of his fall from glory and by his terrible suffering. The Thebaid follows the tradition, surrounding Oedipus with an aura of the more-than-human. Oedipus shows little personality beyond an all-consuming rage.
Jocasta (joh-KAS-tuh), the mother and wife of Oedipus. She plays a small role, but her legendary status makes her larger than life. In book VII, she attempts to arrange a meeting and reconciliation between her two sons, but she fails. Later, she attempts to stab herself over their bodies. If Oedipus is presented almost entirely in terms of rage, Jocasta is the image of grief.
Eteocles (eh-TEE-oh-kleez), one of the two sons of Oedipus. His unwillingness to surrender the throne at the end of his one-year term is the cause of the invasion led by his brother, Polynices. He is presented as the Greek stereotype of the tyrant—greedy, suspicious, cruel, arrogant, and bad-tempered. He is more a type than a person.
Polynices (pol-ih-NI-seez), the exiled son of Oedipus. He leads the Argive invasion of Thebes. Although presented as proud, resentful, and envious, he seems a little less self-assured than his brother. It is...
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