Oedipus Rex

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Jocasta Character Analysis

Wife of Oedipus. Also, mother of Oedipus. When the play begins, she no longer believes in the prophecies of seers. She tries to convince Oedipus not to worry about what Tiresias says. As more evidence points toward the probability that Oedipus has in fact fulfilled a terrible prophecy, she begs him not to dig any further into his past. He will not be persuaded. Realizing that her son killed her first husband, that she is now married to her son, and that Oedipus is about to bring all of this to light, Jocasta takes her own life.

Jocasta Quotes in Oedipus Rex

The Oedipus Rex quotes below are all either spoken by Jocasta or refer to Jocasta. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Oedipus Rex published in 1982.
Lines 709-997 Quotes
Listen to me and learn some peace of mind:
no skill in the world,
nothing human can penetrate the future.
Related Characters: Jocasta (speaker), Oedipus
Page Number: 780-782
Explanation and Analysis:

Jocasta gives this consoling speech after Oedipus recounts his interaction with Tiresias. She claims that prophets have no real knowledge of events to come, and that Oedipus therefore should not be disturbed by what Tiresias has said.

These lines make a sharp division between the human and divine realms: Jocasta associates “skill” with “human,” both of which contrast with the providence of the “future.” Much like Oedipus praised his intelligence over the bird auguries of Tiresias, Jocasta claims that human skill can only affect the current state of affairs and cannot “penetrate” or enter any zone beyond that of the present. Though this appeal might strike some as disheartening, it would grant “peace of mind” to Oedipus and Jocasta by denying the significance of the prophecies they have heard thus far. That is to say, it would allow them to exist in their human realm without the anxiety that they should change their actions to respond to the unique “skill” of Tiresias.

It is important to clarify here that Jocasta is not denying the existence or providence of the gods. This is not an atheistic passage, but rather one that sharply delineates between divine and earthly realms. Her claim is that mediums such as Tiresias do not actually bridge the gap between the two realms, but rather exist fully in the human one—and thus have no unique access to the divine.

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Lines 998-1310 Quotes
Man of agony—
that is the only name I have for you,
that, no other—ever, ever, ever!
Related Characters: Jocasta (speaker), Oedipus
Page Number: 1176-1179
Explanation and Analysis:

Jocasta has just concluded that Oedipus is her son and she repeatedly implores him not to continue his investigation. When he refuses to do so, she screams this at him.

This passage plays on the way that Oedipus introduced himself at the play’s onset: recall that he selected not to use his name at first, but rather implied that all should know him based on his fame. Here, Jocasta similarly replaces his name, but instead with the epithet “man of agony,” thus foreshadowing how this will be Oedipus’s new legacy by the play’s end. Beyond condemning him to a life of misery, Jocasta’s language also subtly wipes away his identity. Replacing his specific name with this generic term denies the coherence between Oedipus's current royal position and his actual identity. Jocasta implies that he will hold “no other” title or identity in the years to come, and that this identification with agony with be permanent: “ever, ever, ever!” Thus Sophocles uses Jocasta’s moment of realization—called in Greek tragedy an anagnorisis—to demonstrate the pending end of Oedipus’s identity as it is currently defined.

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Jocasta Character Timeline in Oedipus Rex

The timeline below shows where the character Jocasta appears in Oedipus Rex. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 341-708
Sight vs. Blindness Theme Icon
Finding Out the Truth Theme Icon
Action vs. Reflection Theme Icon
...is being unreasonable and paranoid. Oedipus refuses to listen, and says he wants Creon dead. Jocasta—Oedipus's wife and Creon's sister—approaches. (full context)
Lines 709-997
Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Finding Out the Truth Theme Icon
Action vs. Reflection Theme Icon
Jocasta tells Oedipus and Creon that it's shameful to have public arguments when the city is... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Jocasta asks how Oedipus's argument with Creon started. Oedipus tells her that Creon sent Tiresias to... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Sight vs. Blindness Theme Icon
Finding Out the Truth Theme Icon
Jocasta tells a story from her past: When Laius and Jocasta were still married, an oracle... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Finding Out the Truth Theme Icon
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Jocasta's story troubles Oedipus, so he asks Jocasta for more details about the murder of Laius.... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Finding Out the Truth Theme Icon
Jocasta asks to know what's troubling Oedipus. Oedipus tells her his life story. His father Polybus... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Finding Out the Truth Theme Icon
...prophecy would not come true. As he wandered, he one day reached the place where Jocasta says King Laius was killed. There he had an incident with a group of men... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Sight vs. Blindness Theme Icon
...a shepherd, had said that a group of thieves killed Laius, not just one man. Jocasta also tells him not to worry, because the murder of Laius does not fit the... (full context)
Lines 998-1310
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Finding Out the Truth Theme Icon
Jocasta enters and makes an offering to Apollo to appease Oedipus's mind. Just then, a messenger—an... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Jocasta urges Oedipus to live without fear. Yet Oedipus admits that because his mother is still... (full context)
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Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
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Jocasta reacts sharply to this last piece of news. Meanwhile, the chorus tells Oedipus that this... (full context)
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Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
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Jocasta now begs Oedipus to abandon his search for his origins. Oedipus thinks she's worried that... (full context)
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Sight vs. Blindness Theme Icon
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...not speak. Finally, the shepherd gives in: the parents of the baby were Laius and Jocasta. The shepherd says he was told to kill the baby boy because of a prophecy... (full context)
Lines 1311-1680
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A second messenger enters with news of events in the palace. Jocasta locked herself in her room to mourn Laius and her own fate. In hysterical grief,... (full context)