Jocasta's Role in Oedipus' Fate

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Though a dutiful queen and protective, loving mother, Queen Jocasta is not simply the innocent victim of misunderstanding, for it becomes clear that she in fact knows the truth of Oedipus’ life and their union together. After hearing the prophecy about her child, Jocasta hands away her only son to be deserted in the mountains, believing her difficult choice would protect her baby from a life of fear and suffering. This means she would know about his feet being maimed. Furthermore, in a time when blood lines were kept as pure as possible, it seems unlikely that this new king would not resemble his father, and with her knowledge of the prophecy, it almost seems impossible that Jocasta would not even suspect. In fact, while her young husband seeks the truth of his past, he tells her about the prophecies he has heard personally, so her urging him to cease his quest for the truth implies she knows his true identity. Those who believe her to be ignorant to the truth of her union with Oedipus fail to realize her anguish comes not at the moment she becomes fully aware of the magnitude of the prophecy’s unfolding, whenever that may have been, but at the time of public discovery of the truth. In fact, she herself does not seem fazed by the notion of a man being sexual attracted to his mother. Jocasta’s suicide, therefore, reveals not her despair at her acts with her son, but her feeling of responsibility for the terrible situation being brought to light, for she finally knows failed to save her son from public humiliation. 1. Jocasta is the one who handed the child away, as made clear when Oedipus clarifies with the shepherd “My wife- she gave it [the baby] to you?” (231, 1288). The response from the shepherd is in affirmation and upon further questions from Oedipus as to the purpose of this exchange, the elderly shepherd states plainly “To kill it… she was afraid- frightening prophecies” (231, 1292, 1295). This means she knew the details of the disposal of the child,...
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