Jocasta Oedipus Rex Essay Topics


Character Analysis

Queen Bee And Mother Hen

Jocasta is the Queen of Thebes, but it's just not as glamorous as it sounds. By all accounts, it seems like her first marriage with King Laius was a pretty happy one. That is, until he received the prophecy that he was destined to be murdered by his own son. This, of course, is what caused Jocasta and Laius to pierce and bind their one and only child's ankles and send him off to a mountainside to die. (In Ancient Greece, it was common to abandon unwanted children rather than kill them. That way the child's fate was in the hands of the gods, and the parent wasn't considered directly responsible for its death.)

Sometimes Jocasta is criticized for her distrust of prophecies. It's an understandable prejudice, though. Jocasta doesn't know that the prophecy Laius received came true—she believes her son to be dead and her husband to have been murdered by a band of thieves. This seemingly disproves the prophecy that said Laius would die by his son's hand. As far as Jocasta knows, she abandoned her baby boy to exposure, starvation, and wild beasts for nothing. She has very good reason to be more than a little skeptical of prophets.

It's important to note that though Jocasta is critical of prophecy, she isn't necessarily sacrilegious. In fact, within the play we see her praying to the god Apollo, making offerings, and asking for his protection. No other character, besides the Chorus, goes as far. In a way you could see her as one of the more pious characters onstage. (Not that it does her any good.) It seems that it isn't the gods themselves that Jocasta is skeptical of, but instead their supposed servants—men like Teiresias.

Jocasta realizes before Oedipus that he is her son, and that they have committed incest. When she hangs herself with bed sheets, it is symbolic of her despair over her incestuous actions. Interestingly, Jocasta plays both a spousal and maternal role to Oedipus. She loves Oedipus romantically, but like a parent, she wishes to protect Oedipus' innocence from the knowledge of their relationship:

JOCASTA Ah mayst thou ne'er discover who thou art! [...] O woe is thee, poor wretch! With that last word I leave thee, henceforth silent evermore. (1068-1073)

Like Oedipus, Jocasta commits most of her "sins" in ignorance. Yes, she did abandon Oedipus purposely when he was a baby, but even Oedipus says he wishes he had died on that mountainside.

Jocasta's Timeline

In Oedipus the king, Sophocles begins the story line with the city of Thebes grieving. Oedipus true identity is starting to become question, when he is told by a blind prophet that he is what plaguing the city. His wife, Jocasta is immediately skeptical about the prophecy, and tells him a story about an oracle that she had once received and never became fulfilled. However, this did not help Oedipus uncertainty, and only to cause more confusion to his soul was he visited from the past, a messenger from his “fathers” kingdom. The messenger brings new that his father has died of old age and that his kingdom wanted him to be there king. Jocasta believes this is good news, but only does her fate turn when Oedipus confesses that he ran away from his own kingdom to because he had heard a prophecy that he would hill his parents.

The messenger tells Oedipus that his fear was useless for he was not a blood relative of the king, but a gift handed from his very own hands. Jocasta realizes the true identity of Oedipus and begs him to stop his questioning and search it would only cause him more greif, but only does her grief cause her to commit suicide. Oedipus it told by a herdsman that Oedipus was given to him by the queen herself to be casted on the mountain side and left to die. Oedipus realization of his true identity and finding out that that his wife is his mother and that she killed herself he ripped out his eyes. (969-99) Jocastas is skeptical about the prophets and has her own philosophy about she what should be known or what should be looked in to, she believes that the less someone knows the better, is this what caused her own downfall? Jocasta, the queen of Thebes, turns out it was not as glamorous as it sounds.

Jocasta first marriage was a very successful and happy one until they received a prophecy that was that their son would kill his father and marry his mother. Sophocles represents Jocasta in a carefree manner. In her first entrance we can see that she is not worried about what the prophet spoke to Oedipus nor did she give it any importance. She tells Oedipus to not worry about what he said; she believes that no mortal is ever given the skill of prophecy. (986) Jocasta may have not trusted the words of the prophet, because to her knowledge the oracle that was once given to King Laius and her had never actually been fulfilled, but she indeed still does worshpid the God Apollo. To me it seems that she is not actually skeptical of the Gods, but instead to the men who are said to interpret the messages from the God.

The way she expressed herself about the god after she had told Oedipus the oracle that she had once received was, “That time Apollo did not make our child a patricide, or bring about what Laius feared, that he be killed by his own son. That’s how prophetic words determined things! Forget them. The things a god must track he will himself painlessly reveal.” (986) Jocasta is not skeptical about the god for she said that a god must do things himself, unlike the prophetic words, that to her, never revealed themselves. As the play progressed Sophocles presents a messenger who began to uncover the true origin of Oedipus.(992-993) Jocasta was first intrigued to find out that Oedipus father had died of old age she recalls to him that it was pointless of him to fear the oracle, and that the future is unknowable, life is ruled by chance. (992)

However, not until a few moments later did she began to unsolve the mystery and began to plead Oedipus to stop trying to find out who he was. Jocasta realizes before Oedipus that he is her son, and that she has committed incest. She began to tell him to give up his search that she was already in enough pain.(993) Jocasta did not want Oedipus to find out who she really was and cause him grief so she did not want him to keep looking into the past, the less he knew the better. Jocasta begged Oedipus to not question anything anymore to stop his grief, but later on her own grief cuases her to commit suicide.

Did Jocasta’s skepticism and philosophy become the reason to her own downfall? Yes, in my opinion they did. Jocasta did commit most of her wrongs in innocence, but she did abandon Oedipus on the mountain side and did not even attempt to find out if her son had lived or in fact died, the less she knew the better. This later on caused her to marry Oedipus and fulfill the oracle, which became the end of her life when she hang herself with bed sheets.

Work Cited
Sophocles. “Oedipus the King.” Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Ed. Edgar V. Roberts and Robert Zweig. 5th Compacted ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2012. 969-1004. Print.


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