The play Oedipus the King by Sophocles has often been described as the story of a “tragic hero.” This story is indeed tragic; however, Oedipus is not the only character stricken by tragedy. Equally stricken may be the character of Jocasta. She, as well as Oedipus, suffers many tragedies throughout the story. Shifting the story to a different perspective quite possibly may increase how we view it. The point is not to denounce Oedipus’ role as a tragic hero, but to denounce his role as the only tragic character.
First, defining the term “tragic hero” would be beneficial in determining Jocasta’s status. Tragedy is “a drama representing an important event generally having a fatal issue; a fatal and mournful event; a murderous or bloody deed” ("Tragedy"). The definition of hero is “the person who has the principle share in some exploit” ("Hero"). Stanley Garden’s internet page Tragic Hero defines tragic hero as the following: “In a tragic play, the tragic hero usually does some fearful deed which ultimately destroys him. The main character of a tragic play does a good deed which in turn makes him a hero. The hero reaches his prime and in the end a fearful deed which he had committed earlier, ultimately destroys this man once called hero.” Using these definitions we will see if we can prove Jocasta to be a tragic hero.
Oedipus’ mother and wife, Jocasta, went through her share of trials. When she was wife to Oedipus’ father, King Laius, Jocasta conceived a baby boy whom she was forced to give up to death. After receiving a prophecy that his son would kill him and take his throne, King Laius convinces Jocasta that their son is a great threat. He then orders that the baby boy be...
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... her fatal decision.
It seems that Jocasta suffers many tragedies, possibly more than Oedipus himself. Using our definition of a tragic hero, Jocasta’s fearful deed is that of giving up her son to death. That turns out to be her downfall and destroys her. However, she does not fit the criteria as a tragic hero. Jocasta did not do a good deed turning her into a hero. She goes through many tragedies, but this only categorizes her as a victim of tragedy. While Oedipus is still the “tragic hero,” he is no longer the main victim in the play.
“Tragedy.” New Webster’s Dictionary. 1998 ed. Florida: Paradise Press, Inc. 1998.
"Tragic Hero". Ed. Stanley Garden. 7 February 2001 <http://www.college-term-papers.com/Term Papers/English/The-Tragic-Hero.shtml >.
“Hero.” New Webster’s Dictionary. 1998 ed. Florida: Paradise Press, 1998.
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