In Oedipus Rex, what is the character of Jocasta?  

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Oedipus Rex, the character of Jocasta is complicated. She is both the mother and wife to Oedipus. She is also the mother of his children. This is a very confusing role. Jocasta tries to keep Oedipus from searching into his past, but he has to know. She warned him to stop trying to discover the truth. This is after she has figured out what is going on.

Jocasta's first entrance on stage is when she tries to stop Oedipus and Creon from arguing. She insists that they put their petty differences aside while the country is troubled as it is. Jocasta pleads with Oedipus to dismiss his grievances against Creon. She points out that Creon has been loyal to the both of them.

Later in the play, Jocasta tries to put Oedipus' fears away by telling him that King Laius was killed by highway robbers. She also tries to assuage his fears when a messenger arrives to tell Oedipus that his father Polybos is dead:

Later in the same scene she tries to stop him from questioning the messenger regarding his true father: "May you never learn who you are!" In her final speech she calls Oedipus "miserable'' and says she will have no other name for him.

She runs off the stage. Later, another messenger arrives to tell that Jocasta has killed herself. He describes her wailing and mental desperation. She could not bear the truth that she is wife and mother to Oedipus. She hangs herself in anguish. 

reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jocasta is a conflicted character who appears doomed from the start. This doom begins in a prophecy; that is, that Laius will die by his son's (Oedipus) hands and sleep with his mother, Jocasta.

As life progresses, Laius is murdered and Oedipus and Jocasta wed, having four children: Antigone, Polyneices, Eteocles, and Ismene. However, both are unaware of their blood relationship. Interestingly enough, Jocasta plays a complicated role in this play, that of both spouse and mother. This role foreshadows her fate upon discovery that Oedipus is actually her son, the child she thought dead on the mountainside so that the terrible prediction would be avoided.

Oedipus is determined to discover who killed Laius, and then the plot unravels, as he wants to uncover an uncomfortable truth about his identity. Ultimately, Jocasta has no escape but suicide when she discovers she has committed incest. Her despair concerning her actions is inconsolable. Ultimately, she is a strong, sympathetic character.