What is the role of women in Sophocles' Oedipus the King?explain

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noahvox2 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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This is an interesting question because the only female character in the play who has a speaking role is Oedipus' mother/wife, Jocasta (Iocasta). Jocasta tries to mediate the dispute between Oedipus and Creon. Initially, she tries to comfort Oedipus when he worries about the prophecies that he will kill his father and marry his mother, but once she realizes that he is on the verge of discovering the truth, he tries to persuade him not to investigate the matter further.

Other women mentioned in the play include Merope, whom Oedipus believed was his mother. Because of the prophecy about sleeping with his mother, Oedipus left the house of Polybus and Merope in hopes of avoiding the prophecy.

Oedipus' daughters Antigone and Ismene appear at the end of the play, but do not speak. Oedipus is heartbroken when they are taken away from him at the end of the play.

Another female presence in the play that we should not overlook is the Sphinx, whose riddle Oedipus solves. In some ways, the Sphinx embodies the power that women have over men. Women drive and inspire men to take risks, to do daring deeds, and to inquire into difficult matters. Oedipus rose to his greatest heights when he solved the Sphinx's riddle.

So, in Oedipus the King, the roles of women are manifold: mediator, comforter, cautioner, objects of heartfelt affection, and inspiration.


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