The Significance of Women in the Play Oedipus

In: English and Literature

Submitted By naninan
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"When you say Man," said Oedipus, "you include women too. Everyone knows that." She said, "That's what you think." These lines, from the ending of Muriel Rukheyser's poem "On Oedipus the King, Myth," comment on the significance of women both in the play and in society. Though the character of Oedipus suggests that women are equal, the issue of the true role of women is brought up in the poem, and is raised in Sophocles' play.

The female who plays the largest role in Sophocles' play is Oedipus' wife and mother, Iokaste. From the beginning, one can assume that she has little say in the events of her life. As queen of Thebes, she had little power over the rulings of the kingdom. Furthermore, once news of her husband's death came about, she was forced to accept marriage with the next man who came to rule Thebes. Iokaste had absolutely no say in the matter. She could neither choose who her future husband would be nor choose not to marry. She was seen as property in the eyes of society and could therefore be presented to the next ruler as a gift.

Later on, Iokaste is used to comment on the nature of women in general. During scene three, when Oedipus is closer to discovering the truth about his origins, Iokaste becomes weary and begs Oedipus to stop. In his impatience and desire to find out the truth, he decides to ignore the pleas of his wife and instead insult her. In this scene, Oedipus says, "Go, one of you, and bring the shepherd here. Let us leave this woman to brag of her royal name."(749)This comment, aimed at Iokaste, suggests that it is common for women to brag about insubstantial things as family lineage. Later on in this scene he also says, "Let it come! However base my birth, I must know about it. The Queen, like a woman, is perhaps ashamed to think of my low origin."(749)This comment seems to further reinforce Oedipus' claim that women are…...

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