Jocasta: Character Analysis & Quotes

Jocasta: Character Analysis & Quotes
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  • 0:01 Analyzing Jocasta
  • 0:28 A Heavy Heart
  • 2:00 Quotes from Jocasta
  • 3:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.

Ever wonder about the woman behind the original mother of the Oedipus complex? In this lesson, find out more about Jocasta, an eloquent woman of conflict and conviction.

A Complex Character: Analyzing Jocasta

To say that Jocasta is complicated would be the understatement of over two millennia. Through all that time, talk about the story of how this Theban queen (otherwise known as Epicaste or Iokaste) mistakenly married her own son has often centered on Oedipus. After all, it was Oedipus who murdered his father and Jocasta's first husband, Laius, before eventually marrying his mother by accident. But what about the female perspective?

A Heavy Heart

When we look closely at Jocasta, the first thing we see is guilt. According to mythology, Jacosta conceived Oedipus through her husband Laius and gave birth. However, Laius had been told from an oracle (a medium that delivers prophecies) that his son with Jocasta would grow up to kill him. So, Jacosta gave her baby over to Laius, who instructed to have his own son die of exposure, little knowing that Oedipus would live on.

From the very beginning of her entrance into mythology, it is clear that decisions and other events beyond her control leave Jocasta feeling guilty. Later, after Oedipus unknowingly killed his own father and married Jacosta (and fathered children through her), she took her own life. The accounts of writers such as Homer, Statius, and others vary concerning what was the final cause of Jacosta's decision, but all sources agree that this noble but perhaps misguided woman eventually committed suicide to ease her guilt for her role in the degradation of her family and city.

Despite her evident vulnerability, Jocasta has a formidable spirit in these myths. She transcends many social protocols with her willingness to intervene in men's affairs: for instance, when she constantly counsels Oedipus or puts down a quarrel between him and her brother Kreon. She is also quite the skeptic, often remarking on the inefficacy of people's involvement with prophecy and other divine matters. She observes the normal pieties but is particularly suspicious of secondhand information.

In Her Own Words: Quotes from Jocasta

Several writers put words into Jacosta's mouth. One of these was Sophocles in his work Oidipous Tyrannos (Oedipus: The King). It goes as follows:

'Such was the prophet's horoscope. O king,
Regard it not. Whate'er the god deems fit
To search, himself unaided will reveal
' (725-727).

He also wrote the following:

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