The Semiotic Basis of Politics in Seven Against Thebes

Alessandro Grilli

Abstract


Beyond its formal segmentation, the structure of Seven Against Thebes is marked by the successive stages of a confrontation, in which the protagonist Eteocles faces first the panicking Chorus, and then (through the messenger’s report) the boastful assaults of the foreign warriors. In both phases, the conflict reveals a radical divergence in the understanding of language and signs, and points out the prerogatives of language as one of the play’s major themes. This paper tries to read these different stages as illustrations of polarized worldviews reflecting the ambiguous status of the λόγος in the episteme of the first half of the fifth century BCE: in its interaction with the Chorus, Eteocles emphasizes the rational and anal-ytical basis of language in opposition to its expressive value; when discrediting the Seven’s ominous vaunts, the Theban leader highlights the necessity of referential constraint, in which he sees a defence against the primitive, fallacious and anti-cultural misuse of signs. In the final phase, when his action showing him as a rational strategist is disrupted by the re-emergence of his father’s ἀρά, Eteocles does not fail to reaffirm the need for a convergence between the rules governing the linguistic sign and the roots of moral and political order.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13136/sjtds.v4i2.178

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