Eteocles and the Women
The chorus makes a highly excited--and exciting entrance at v. 78. Aeschylean choruses typically march in chanting in stately anapests, but here they come in singing and dancing wildly to the dochmiac rhythm. My own guess is the Greek ear heard dochmiacs as we hear highly syncopated music. Instead of repeating same or similar elements--iambic, anapaestic, dactylic--or singing in a prevailing though varied rhythm, they are performing a wilder rhythm that seems to cut back against itself. The basic form is u--u-, often in pairs, but there are many variations. The first syllable is indifferent, that is it can be long or short; the long syllables can be resolved (with some restrictions) into two shorts, and the pattern can be reversed into the common variant: -uu-u-. Other metrical units can be inserted, such as: -- and u--. The whole effect would have verged on a frenzy of excitement.
In their terror, the maidens imagine all the horrors of a city taken by storm, and while the audience would have sympathized with their agitation, Eteocles is right to crack down, but his reaction is extreme, calling them immediately "unendurable" before declaring that neither in good times nor bad would he share a house with womankind. They argue that they are really begging the gods for help. He concedes that prayer is appropriate, but (partly on account of their demoralizing theatrics) the city will be deserted by the gods, once it has been taken. Again, this is extreme. The attackers are Greeks who worship the same gods, and, while atrocities and impieties may be committed in the course of a sack, Greece is not Babylonia where conquest of a city might mean imposition of the conquerors' gods.
So, two things to note immediately: Eteocles' hostility to women, and the treatment of the invading army as aliens. It might stretch the point considerably, but his statement about the gods' desertion might smack of blasphemy, perhaps anticipating Sophocles' portrait of Eteocles' father Oedipus.
Eteocles joins his contempt for women with his dubious religious views by claiming that it is up to men to pray for a city and the woman's job is to stay home and shut up. But as the women persist in their entreaties, Eteocles becomes even harsher and (256) cries out, "O Zeus, what a race of women you have granted us!" or "What a breed is this womankind kind you have granted us." Eteocles has been reacting to the women, but now he takes the lead and they are forced to follow. He mocks them by making a request. When they ask what it is, he tells them to do him a the favor of shutting up.
Having secured his point, Eteocles makes his prayer, emphasizing that he is following Greek custom, to the guardian gods of his country to protect the city. Since the audience is aware that the attackers include a hero beloved of Athena (Tydeus) and a just and virtuous prophet (Amphiaraus), the emphasis on Hellenism is arresting.
While it is true, as commentators have noted, that treating women as a plague is a convention of Greek literature, whose tale of Pandora parallels our story of Eve, but, I should suggest, Eteocles has become something of the parody of what feminists regard as the toxic male.