It’s a 430 B.C. Guy Thing

Gender roles in Thebes fit like puzzle pieces: men are like warriors, and women are like wives. When the City of Thebes is overcast by an awful plague, the Chorus begs their mighty King, Oedipus, to save the day. “… with the shrieks of women, living women, wailing. You are a man, not a god-I know. We all know this, the young kneeling before you know it too, but we know how great you are, Oedipus, greater than any man.” (30-36). The chorus is praying for Oedipus to adhere to the cries of women and children, implying that it is a man’s duty to take care of them. Women in Thebes virtually belong in the same category as children, meaning they can’t live without the protection of men. Luckily, Oedipus is a strong, persistent, and sometimes aggressive character, who won’t pause for anything until justice is served. These attributes, commonly used to describe men, play a prominent role in the outcome of the play. These powerful gender stereotypes lead me question to how the play would differ if a woman were the lead role.
To explore this possibility, I look at Oedipus’ wife, (and mother), Jocasta. If she were the city’s only hope, would she be capable of completing the task? To save the city she must search for the killer of her husband and avenge him. Yet, given her reaction to Oedipus’ relentless pursuit for the truth, she wanted nothing more than for him to stop. So the odds of Jocasta ridding Thebes of the plague are not likely. “No, Oedipus! No more questions. For god’s sake, for the sake of your own life! Isn’t my anguish enough- more than enough?” (1061-1064). The difference between Jocasta and Oedipus in this situation is that Jocasta would rather not discover the truth, whereas Oedipus can’t go on another second without knowing. Oedipus blames Jocasta’s sour reaction on shame, maybe even saying a woman can’t handle it like he can.
Jocasta feels so disgusting when the truth about her family is discovered that she kills herself in the same bedroom where she slept with her son and her son’s father. She ends her life dramatically, but is quickly look past a bit later when Oedipus stabs his eyes out in the same room. Oedipus can’t let go of his masculinity, even in the most extreme situations. He has to be the star of the show.
In the end it wouldn’t be a question of if you feel bad for Jocasta, because she never acted aggressively or with cruel intentions. But, in the real play, it is a question of if you feel bad for Oedipus because his characteristics contradict those of a victim.
If Jocasta were the lead role, my guess is that the truth would be kept a secret. She most likely would have fled the city forever without telling anyone. Jocasta seemed to be good at keeping things hidden. So, relentlessly threatening people to find out the truth and then stabbing your eyes out is probably just a stereotypical guy thing.

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