Three Female Characters in Greek Tragedies


Jim Creus Mrs. Baldi
English IV 2/18/97

Three Female Characters in Greek Tragedies

In the times of the ancient Greeks, women had an unpretentious role. They were expected to do take on the accepted role of a woman. In most cases, a woman’s role is restricted to bearing young, raising children, and housework. In Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Antigone, and Medea, the dominant female characters impacted upon men with authority and political power. It is an inescapable fate that one of these characters will fall, and that the Gods have control over everyone’s fate. Each dominant female character portrays her willpower and commitment to their beliefs. This is what leads to the inevitable tragedy.
In Oedipus the King, Jocasta, is Oedipus’ wife and the sister of Creon. She became a part of doomed Theban dynasty when she married Laius, the King of Thebes. As a result, the marriage had brought together two branches of the family of Cadmus and seemed to guarantee political strength. She became disappointed because she was unable to produce an heir to the throne. Seeking a solution, Lauis went to the oracle at Delphi and asked how the proble might be overcome. Instead, the oracle proclaimed that the son born to Jocasta would be his murderer. Upon hearing the prophecy, Lauis rejected all women. This infuriated Jocasta and she had gotten Lauis drunk, and slept with him. This proves that Jocasta refuses to be outdone, even by her husband. When Jocasta had given birth to a baby boy (Oedipus), Lauis had it sent away by a messenger to die of exposure high in the mountains. A shepherd discovered the boy and gave it to his master King Polybus.
As years passed, Thebes was plagued by a Sphinx that sought the answer to a riddle. It asked for the answer and killed everyone who had guessed incorrectly. This had riddled Thebes’ commerce and left its people disgruntled. To make matters worse, news reached the city that Lauis had been killed by unknown assailants. Desperate and in need of help, Creon (now the regent of Thebes) had offered up the throne and Jocasta to anyone who could solve the Sphinx’s riddle.
In the meantime, Oedipus came across the Sphinx and solved the riddle. He ended up in Thebes because he went to the oracle at Delphi just like his father Lauis. Now Oedipus is King of Thebes and another problem arises, a plague. He searches far and wide for the solution to save his people. Prophets and wisemen were brought in to help Oedipus with the plague. It is discovered that the plague will be lifted when Lauis’ death is revenged. Tiresias, an old prophet reveals that Oedipus is the murderer. Creon too, accuses Oedipus of the murder. Jocasta stands by Oedipus’ side.
A prophet? . . . free yourself of every charge! Listen to me and learn some peace I mind: no skill in the world, nothing human can penetrate the future. . . .my son wasn’t three days old and the boy’s father fastened his ankles, had a henchman fling him away on a barren, trackless mountain. Apollo brought neither thing to pass. My baby no more murdered his father that Lauis suffered- (201)

Here Jocasta questions the Gods and comforts Oedipus, her dear husband. They do not notice how blind they are because the Gods are always correct.
"Stange, hearing you just now . . . my mind wandered, my thought racing back and forth." (201) Oedipus finally begins to realize that his trip to Delphi begins to coincide with Jocasta’s explanation of Lauis’ murder. He begins to questions Jocasta frantically. Jocasta explains that a witness of the murder had been sent into hiding immediately after Oedipus’s crowning. Oedipus demands his presence, but Jocasta begs him to stop his investigation. "Impossible. Trust me, he could never make the murder or Lauis truly fit the prophecy." (208) Oedipus starts to realize he had put a curse upon himself when he had condemned the man who had slain Lauis. The witness verifies the truth to Oedipus and their stories match. Jocasta prays to Apollo that Oedipus won’t be so worrisome. "What should a man fear? . . . Better to live at random, Live as if there’s no tomorrow!" (215)