What are the motives and conflicts of some of the characters in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Creon falls into a conflict with Oedipus because Oedipus accuses him of treason. Oedipus believes that Creon has been plotting to take the throne since the reign of King Laius. He believes that Creon paid bandits to kill King Laius and now Creon is allowing Oedipus to be blamed for Laius's murder. In fact, Oedipus believes that Creon has paid Tiresias to deliver false prophecy blaming Oedipus of Laius's murder as well as the horrible prophecy that he will realize he has had children with his own mother. Hence, we can say that Creon's conflict is man vs. man. However, despite Oedipus's belief, Creon's motives are actually pure. Creon is actually loyal to the king and quite content with the power Oedipus has extended to him, as we see in his lines:

For now I have everything from you without fear; but if I myself were ruler, I'd do much against my will. How then could tyranny be sweeter to me than trouble-free rule and sovereignty? (615-619)

Hence, we see that Creon's conflict is man vs. man, but his motives for action are to heal the city, make peace with Oedipus, and live peacefully in the city under Oedipus's rule.

Jocasta is a character that has a conflict with fate and a conflict with herself as well, making her conflicts character vs. fate and character vs. self. Jocasta is a victim of fate. When she learned of the prophecy that her son would one day kill her husband and sleep with her, she thought she was taking measures to prevent the fulfillment of the prophecy by having her son killed. However, instead, the shepherd to whom she gave him took pity on the baby and gave him to someone from Corinth who gave the baby to King Polybus to raise. Because Oedipus continued to live, he fulfilled the prophecy even though Jocasta had believed for a long time that the fulfillment of the prophecy was impossible. Hence, Oedipus fulfilled both his and Jocasta's fate. Since Jocasta tried to escape her fate, we can say that one of her conflicts is with fate. However, she is also in conflict with herself because in the beginning of the play she believes as she has believed for years that she had escaped her fate. Regardless, as the play progresses, she hears enough evidence to learn the truth, which drives her to commit suicide, showing us that another one of her conflicts is character vs. self. Jocasta does everything she can to escape hearing the truth, even trying to convince Oedipus not to send for the shepherd. Her motive is to protect her husband from the truth, as well as herself.