What is the relationship between Oedipus and Jocasta in Oedipus Rex?

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The chorus tells us that Oedipus and Jocasta's marriage was happy.

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In Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, the quality of the relationship between Oedipus and Jocasta is not clearly stated, in part because she is absent from most of the play. It is understood that the two of them have a good relationship, though it understandably changes once it is revealed that she is his mother. When she is first introduced in the play, she acts as a peacekeeper between her husband and her brother, Creon. She cares deeply for both men and does not want Oedipus to banish Creon based on prophecy:

JOCASTA: O, by the gods, believe him, Oedipus.
First, in reverence for his oath to the gods,
Next, for my sake and theirs who stand before you. . . .
Now free yourself of what you said, and listen.
Learn from me, no mortal man exists
Who knows prophetic art for your affairs.

Believing prophets to be false, she urges Oedipus to make peace with Creon. She can see that he is angry, and to help calm him, she explains how she was once told of a prophecy—that her first husband, Laius, would be killed by their son—that never came true. After hearing this, Oedipus realizes that he killed Laius and that her prophecy at least partially came true. After trying to lift his spirits, she convinces him to go inside and relax, saying, "I would do nothing that did not please you." All of this showcases how devoted Jocasta is to Oedipus.

A very short time later, Oedipus learns from a messenger that his father, Polybus, has died. However, it is also revealed that Polybus was not his biological father; Oedipus was given to Polybus by the messenger, who in turn had received the child from a servant of Laius (after Laius heard the prophecy that his son would kill him). Jocasta realizes before Oedipus does that he is actually her son and begs him not to push for answers: "Don't, by the gods, investigate this more . . . O ill-fated man, may you never know who you are." In a way, she's still trying to protect him. Whether that is due to her love for him, her not wanting him to feel the same pain she does (as a result of knowing the truth), or a combination of the two is left open for interpretation. This is the last we see of her, as she eventually commits suicide.

Note: For this response, the above quotations come from Ten Greek Plays in Contemporary Translations, edited by L.R. Lind and published by the Houghton Mifflin Company.

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Jocasta seems to intuite that the rumors about the abominable crime that is bringing devastation to Thebes are related to her incestuous marriage. Deep down, she fears that she has in fact married her own son. However, one part of her rejects the idea, and she does everything in her power to prevent Oedipus from believing in prophecies.

You may remember that Oedipus Rex begins when Oedipus and Jocasta have been happily married for twenty years and raised four children. In her desperate need to protect her family, Jocasta would rather turn a blind eye on the truth.

Oedipus, on the other hand, is ruled by his inner conviction that he did not murder his father but a stranger, and that Jocasta cannot be his mother. His hubris finally fulfills the curse laid on the royal house of Thebes by Pelops, king of Pisa. Oedipus summons the witnesses to his alleged death as an infant. The shepherd's confession that he did not abandon him in the wild but gave him to the royal couple of Corinth, added to Tiresias' reluctant confirmation of this and other ensuing deceptions, put the shocking truth together.

Therefore, Jocasta and Oedipus' relationship in the play is one of extreme tension. She places love and family above all other things and is ready to manipulate and discard whatever facts might destroy the status quo. He wants the truth at any cost, mainly because he feels so self-confident that he cannot envisage the consequences.

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What was Oedipus and Jocasta's relationship like before the action begins in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex?

We are not told very much about the state of Oedipus and Jocasta's marriage before the play begins, culminating in tragic revelations for both people. However, we are give a few clues telling us that Oedipus treated Jocasta with the utmost kindness and respect and that the couple did have a happy marriage.

We first learn of Oedipus's respect for his wife when Creon responds to his accusations of treason. As part of his argument, Creon points out that Oedipus has granted Jocasta equal rule over the city and even shares ruling the city with himself as well, as we see in Creon's line, "Do you grant equal rule of this land to her [Jocasta]?" (605). Oedipus even confirms his respect for his wife and the kindness he treats her with in his following line, "All that she desires she has from me" (606). We also learn of the respect in which Oedipus treats his wife with when she comes to break up the fight between Creon and Oedipus. Oedipus respects his wife's opinion so much that he allows himself to be pacified, allows Creon to go home, and allows Jocasta to convince him that Creon is faithful.

Later, we learn from the chorus that their marriage was indeed a happy one. After Jocasta hangs herself and Oedipus stabs out his eyes, the chorus laments that so much tragedy and agony has befallen what was such a happy couple, as we see in their lines:

Their old happiness that was before was justly called happiness, but now on this one day mourning, madness, death, disgrace ... none have been absent. (1312-15)

Since the chorus states that they truly were a happy couple, we know that prior to the beginning of the play, the couple had a very strong and happy marriage that was full of mutual respect and kindness.

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