chapter  6
7 Pages

The 'Suppliant Women'

This ' pacifism' explains, too, Adrastus. 'Adraste visiblement agace Thesee.' Why l Theseus so pitilessly lays bare the foolish behaviour ofAdrastus not because he wants some kind ofstick with which to beat contemporary Argos - that we may believe when we are convinced that Euripides was not a great tragic poet - but for strictly dramatic reasons, to make it quite clear that this expedition of the Seven against Thebes was not something vaguely inevitable, not some misty but glorious emprise. The real purpose of the elenchus we do not see at first, naturally; we see only what it does. There was the strange oracle, that Adrastus should marry his daughters to a boar and a lion; two exiles turn up, the one a homicide, the other a man cursed by his father, ruffians both, for they start fighting at once. Confident in his brilliant identification ofthese two with the boar and lion, Adrastus passes over the natural circle of suitors.' Argives, and thrusts his daughters upon these two fortunate men, and they (aided by 'the clamour of the young men' which overbore him) at once involve the silly man in the war. He began by reading an oracle; he asked for no confirmation, and sought no more mantic aid. Indeed, such as came unasked he rejected. This extremely foolish, not to say impious, behaviour he describes later (734), after the manner ofhis kind, as 'the will ofZeus'.