Jocasta as the Victim of Oedipus the King
The play Oedipus the King by Sophocles has often been described as the story of a “tragic hero.” This story is indeed tragic; however, Oedipus is not the only character stricken by tragedy. Equally stricken may be the character of Jocasta. She, as well as Oedipus, suffers many tragedies throughout the story. Shifting the story to a different perspective quite possibly may increase how we view it. The point is not to denounce Oedipus’ role as a tragic hero, but to denounce his role as the only tragic character.
First, defining the term “tragic hero” would be beneficial in determining Jocasta’s status. Tragedy is “a drama representing an important event generally having a fatal issue; a fatal and mournful event; a murderous or bloody deed” ("Tragedy"). The definition of hero is “the person who has the principle share in some exploit” ("Hero"). Stanley Garden’s internet page Tragic Hero defines tragic hero as the following: “In a tragic play, the tragic hero usually does some fearful deed which ultimately destroys him. The main character of a tragic play does a good deed which in turn makes him a hero. The hero reaches his prime and in the end a fearful deed which he had committed earlier, ultimately destroys this man once called hero.” Using these definitions we will see if we can prove Jocasta to be a tragic hero.
Oedipus’ mother and wife, Jocasta, went through her share of trials. When she was wife to Oedipus’ father, King Laius, Jocasta conceived a baby boy whom she was forced to give up to death. After receiving a prophecy that his son would kill him and take his throne, King Laius convinces Jocasta that their son is a great threat. He then orders that the baby boy be put to death. This marks the first of the many tragedies to come to Jocasta. The loss of a child ( or loved one) would impact almost anyone’s life. To have let the child she bore knowingly be put to death must have put a great stress on Jocasta. Marriage and pregnancy are already stressful situations. One might wonder if Jocasta had any support from her husband or others.
Years later, Jocasta has to endure the death of her husband, King Laius. He is murdered by a stranger. Not only does she have to cope with the loss of another loved one, but she wonders for a lengthy period of time who her husband’s murderer is and if he will ever be caught. This is the second of the tragedies Jocasta has to deal with. She is now a widow with no children.
Following this is her marriage to Oedipus, the new king of Thebes. One can only wonder how she must have felt. She may have felt like she has betrayed her dead husband. Or that she is forced to marry Oedipus because of the circumstances. We can not know the unwritten feelings of a fictional character, but I think if I were to put myself in that situation, I would have very mixed feelings, and my emotions would be hard to contain. I doubt Jocasta loves Oedipus,...