Is Jocasta of Oedipus Rex a flat, generalized queen character or an individual with a distinctive personality?

Expert Answers
karaejacobi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jocasta has a specific character, and she is a dynamic character in Oedipus Rex because her character develops and evolves as she realizes the sins of her past.

Jocasta is Queen of Thebes and has been for quite a while. She was the wife of the previous king, Laius, and was basically given as a wife to the new king, Oedipus, after he solved the riddle of the Sphinx, thus saving the city and inheriting the throne. We do not actually meet Jocasta in person until the end of part 1, when she comes out of the palace to inquire about the argument between Creon and Oedipus. She tries to get to the bottom of their quarrel and tries to calm her husband. Throughout the play, she listens to her husband's anxieties but expresses a strong point of view: she thinks prophecies cannot be trusted because she thinks she and Laius circumvented the prophecy about their son killing him and marrying her. What she does not yet know, of course, is that Oedipus is her son, and the prophecy has come true.

We witness Jocasta's character change as she hears more information from Oedipus and others about the circumstances of Laius's death and Oedipus's journey from Corinth to Thebes. She gradually realizes that she is wrong, and she clearly regrets what she has done. Jocasta exits the stage in part 2, and we later hear from a messenger that she became hysterical and then hung herself in the bedroom. She recognizes that her marriage bed is the site of all of the evil acts of which she and her husband Laius were forewarned. Jocasta's character undergoes a dynamic change from content, confident queen to horrified victim of fate.

davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jocasta is a complicated character, to put it mildly, and therein lies the seeds of her development. She is no flat, generic queen, but then she can't be; she is, after all, both mother and wife to Oedipus and so needs to play two roles at once. In the midst of all the ensuing tumult, she has to stay strong and hold her family together come what may. This becomes all the more imperative once she realizes the terrible truth about Oedipus's true parentage.

Yet she eventually succumbs to weakness, ending her life as she can no longer live with the shame and the horror that has been brought upon her family. In that sense, Jocasta is indeed a dynamic character; she isn't the same woman at the end of the play as she was at the beginning. Then, we should recall, she showed herself to be outspoken and fearless, reprimanding Oedipus and Creon over their petty bickering. If there's one person who can get through what's about to follow, we think, it must be Jocasta. Tragically, she defeats our expectations. From a dramatic standpoint, however, this simply makes her a much more interesting, more compelling character, one with whom we can more readily identify.

sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jocasta is certainly a very dynamic character.  She is strong-willed, confident, and persuasive.  She feels deeply about the health of both her family and  her country, and she holds herself to very high standards.  Consider the power she exerts over others.  When Oedipus and Creon argue, Jocasta does not hesitate to reprimand them:  "Poor foolish men, what wicked din is this?/With Thebes sick to death, is it not shameful/That you should rake some private quarrel up?"  She is able to put an end to the argument.  As strong-willed as she is, she is not always consistent.  She puts faith and encourages faith in the oracles only so far as it suits her own purpose.  By trying to shield Oedipus from the truth, she further shows complexity to her character.  She is not simply dutiful for truth and to her king; she is a woman trying to preserve the sanity of her husband, the sanctity of her marriage, and the integrity of her country.