Before the play begins . . .
Oedipus, the great king of seven-gated Thebes, who had defeated the riddling Sphinx, has discovered that he killed his father Laius and married his mother Jokasta. They have four children: Eteocles, Polynices, Antigone, and Ismene. When the sons compete for power after their father’s downfall, Oedipus curses them to a mutual doom.
When Eteocles refuses to share the throne, Polynices goes to a rival city, Argos, to raise an army to fight for his claim.
In the play . . .
Eteocles tells us of his responsibilities as a leader, and the Scout warns of the impending attack by Polynices’ army.
The Chorus, in a panic, appeal to the gods to protect the city. Eteocles calms them and goes with the Scout to plan their defense, but the Chorus imagines the worst.
When the Scout returns, he describes the opposing seven generals stationed against the Theban troops at each of the city’s gates, and Eteocles must have plan to withstand them.
We see how Oedipus’s curse will play out, and the Chorus and the Scout urge Eteocles to avoid his fate. By the end of the play, though, the city and the family must cope with the aftermath of the curse and the war.