"It is Obedience (loyalty) that is the mother of Well-being."
Aeschylus - Seven Against Thebes l. 210
Plot Summary of Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes | Terms to Know | Study Questions | Characters | Study Guide
Each year in Athens there was a religious and civic event that honored the god we associate with wine and revelry, Dionysus. It was called the Great or City Dionysia. Although the festival honored Dionysus, the playwrights who competed at the dramatic component of the festival wrote on a wide variety of topics, usually from myth and legend, but also from history, as in the case of the Persian War-themed tragedy with which Aeschylus first won the prize.
Two quick points to be aware of in this ancient Greek form of drama: In Greek tragedy, violence occurred off-stage with a messenger bringing the bad news. A chorus that sang and danced also offered opinions or commentary on the on-stage events and conversed with the actors.
The following are some pages on this site that may help you appreciate the Seven Against Thebes of Aeschylus, especially if you are new to reading Greek tragedy. One additional tip I use for reading tragedy in translation is to rewrite every line into my own words. This helps me focus and provides a condensed version for later reference. It also forces me to make as much sense as I can of the dialogue. (I don't need to do this when I read in the original language: When struggling with the Attic Greek, my appallingly long vocabulary lists present an almost word-for-word translation, so I don't have to paraphrase.) Online English translation: Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes, by E. D. A. Morshead
The ancient Greek tragedies didn't have acts per se, but you can look at the Seven Against Thebes as divided into (modern) acts based on the episodes and stasima. Here is a quick summary of the acts. See if your line-by-line rewrite of the tragedy corresponds with this.
The Seven Against Thebes has one major controversy: the last act (the one with a defiant and imperious Antigone). Was it a later interpolation or not? While reading the tragedy, you can use these questions to try to get a feel for the play, its actual Athenian rather than Theban audience, and the times. For instance, the king keeps telling the chorus to shut up, but -- without any visible consequences -- they fail to obey him.
The cast of characters is relatively small -- if you exclude non-speaking roles and the chorus, but one man played multiple parts with a change of mask and costume.
These are some terms about Greek tragedy and the myths that are specifically for the Seven Against Thebes and other Theban plays.
Did you enjoy the play? If so, you might want to read more about the playwright.
While the list of terms about the Seven Against Thebes may help in understanding this particular play, there are many other concepts you'll find in Greek tragedy if you start reading articles on it.