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The Role of Jocasta in Oedipus the King

The tragedy of Oedipus the King is among the world’s best known stories. Nis determination to know the truth of things, and his evident belief in the power of the individual to affect the world inspire both respect and pity. His wife and mother, Jocasta, seems almost a shadowy figure beside him. Certainly, she is less understood. Yet she, too, is worth of admiration should inspire both admiration and fear. For, like Oedipus himself, this essentiall pragmatic and courageous woman (1) is lead to her fate not by blasphemy,(2) but by a love for her husband (3a) that is greater than her concern for anything, including herself. (3b) Like Oedipus, Jocasta seems both pragmatic and determined to deal with the truth. She enters the drama from her home, and seems to have little patience for male posturing, ordering then to, “Get back home, sir, you and Creon you/into your house.”(35) But her concern here is not to conceal. When she is convinced sees that her husband is visibly upset by his encounters, she immediately announces that, “I stay … to know.” (38) When Oedipus explains that Creon has attempted to lay the guilt for Laius’s death on him, she responds not with horror or by dismissing the idea, but by asking if Creon’s suspicions are based on, “His own invention or on evidence?” She is pragmatic, and not apparently afraid of truth. Indeed, even after Oedipus reveals that her reassurances about the death of Laius have “shattered peace”, and as he says, “struck at my very soul” (40) she continues to answer his questions concerning the old king’s death. She is concerned, even – as she admits - frightened, asking, “Why Oedipus, what nightmare thought has touched you now?” (41) Yet she still furnishes the details he demands, describing Laius’s looks and the numbers in his procession. Whatever her worries may be, she does not conceal or in any way deviate from honesty at this point. It would be incorrect to dismiss In fact, it

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