In Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, what do you learn about the characters from how they handle grief?In Oedipus the King. What does grief and how each handles it say about the characters in this work?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex”, two major characters experience grief, Jocasta and Oedipus. In both cases, the experience is repeated.

Jocasta first experiences grief in finding out that her son is condemned to kill his father. Although she permits Oedipus to be sent away, she is complicit in letting him survive, and thus her grief at losing her child makes her less ruthless than  her husband. When she finds out the identity of Oedipus, she kills herself, the only path left for ending the curse. Whether we should consider this evidence of courage or cowardice is uncertain.

For Oedipus, there is some evidence that grief causes him to act rashly. Towards the end of the play, grief makes him lose his sanity temporarily, but he eventually, in his decision to wander to Colonus, attains wisdom through grief.