Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Seven Against Thebes

Delahoyde & Hughes


Seven Against Thebes seems to be the third play of an Oedipal trilogy produced in 467 bce (and winning first prize). It contains minimal action and plays more like an archaic pageant. Eteocles, son of Oedipus, prepares to defend Thebes from his brother Polyneices and the Achaians who, claims a prophecy, plan a night attack. A messenger reports seeing seven commanders swearing by bull’s blood to fight to the death. The Chorus of Theban women see the enemies approaching. Eteocles prays and promises sacrifices. The messenger returns and for each Achaian commander at each of the seven gates Eteocles names Theban defenders. He’ll fight Polyneices himself at the seventh gate. The Chorus thinks this is a bad idea — there’s already been too much of a family curse on this clan. Grandpa Laius was instructed by the gods not to be a breeder but nevertheless produced Oedipus, who in turn put a curse on his sons when they treated him shabbily.

The messenger announces that Thebes is safe but that the brothers killed each other. Antigone and Ismene, their sisters, enter with the corpses. The city counselors insist that Eteocles be given an honorable funeral but that Polyneices is to remain unburied. Antigone defies this and announces she will bury him. The Chorus is divided about this plan.

Work Cited

Aeschylus. Seven Against Thebes. Trans. David Grene. Aeschylus II. 2nd ed. by David Grene & Richmond Lattimore. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. 87-130.


Orpheus: Greek Plays