Women were often given roles as complex characters in Greek tragedies. These roles commonly provided insight on the different ways women were viewed in ancient Greek society. Jocasta in Sophocle’s play, Oedipus the King and Medea in Euripides’ play Medea are two examples of such characters. Both Jocasta and Medea are represented as tragic female characters as a result of their unfortunate circumstances, their loyalty to their husbands and their loss of their children.
Jocasta and Medea are both portrayed as victims of unfortunate circumstances brought about by actions beyond their control. In Oedipus the King, an oracle reveals a prophecy to Jocasta that her son was “fated to lie with [his] mother... and was doomed to be murderer of the father that begot [him].” (lines 793-795). Hearing this prophecy compels Jocasta to order her son to be left on a hillside to die. Although Jocasta’s actions prove she attempted to avoid this fate, it was inescapable and resulted in her ultimate demise. Similarly, Medea is also a victim. She was left in a state of despair after her husband, Jason, whom she had given up everything for, abandoned her to marry the daughter of the ruler of Corinth, in pursuit of power. He “cast [her] like a harlot and [betrayed] the children.” (lines 11-12). This cruel treatment of Medea by her husband emotionally destroyed her, leaving her unstable. Unlike Jocasta, who tried to avoid the evil that was prophesied, Medea was determined to get revenge against her husband. Even though Medea intended to punish Jason, she is still a victim of Jason’s heartless behavior, which was not in her control.
Both plays reveal that Jocasta and Medea were loyal to their spouses. When Jocasta came to the realization that the prophecy had come true and that her husband, Oedipus, was also her son and the murderer of his father, she was determined to protect Oedipus from learning the truth. She begged Oedipus, “do not hunt this out...if you have any...
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