|Comparison of Queen Jocasta in Oedipus Rex and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth
Beside nearly every major male character in drama stands a strong supporting woman. Many dramas feature women in the roles of nobility. The play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles and the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare both feature one woman as a strong supporting character, who stands by the male lead. In Oedipus Rex the female in the supporting role is Jocasta, Queen of Thebes. Likewise in Macbeth, the female lead is Lady Macbeth. These two female characters are vitally important to both dramas. They have many aspects that are alike and many more that are different. Three major points to compare and contrast are: the ladies’ personalities, their relationship with the male lead and the nature of their deaths.
The first point of comparison is the personality of the two women. They are different in personality. Queen Jocasta is not as cunning in planning as Lady Macbeth. Jocasta is told in a prophecy that her infant son will grow up to kill her current husband (Laius, the baby’s father) and marry (and have sexual relations with her). Horrified by this prophecy, Jocasta has her newborn son’s heals pierced and sends him with a messenger. She believes that the baby has been abandoned and dies in the wilderness. Later she finds out that did not happen at all. The messenger gave baby Oedipus to a Sheppard, who in turn gave him to the childless king and queen in a neighboring town. Almost two decades later the son she thought she disposed of kills her husband in a road rage dispute. Her son then solves the riddle of the monstrous sphinx that has been terrorizing Thebes. The sphinx kills herself and Oedipus is the new town hero. He weds Jocasta and she bares four children by him. Her plan definitely failed.
Personality wise, Lady Macbeth is very cunning in planning. She gets the job done no matter what the cost to herself or others. Her husband, Macbeth is old in a prophecy that he will eventually become king. She knows the only way for this to happen is in the event of the death of the current king, Duncan. She decides Macbeth will speed the process along, by killing Duncan. When the time comes, Macbeth starts going insane and wants to back down. Lady Macbeth bullies him and forces him to do it. He does and is crowned king.
More differences in personality are evident. Jocasta is more not as evil as Lady Macbeth. She does not bully either of her husbands. Lady Macbeth is pushy, whereas Jocasta urges Oedipus to leave the truth about his identity a secret. On another note, both women do have one element in common: they are both dememented in personality. What mother would send her hours old son to slaughter in the wilderness just to cure a problem? Also, what wife would plot a murder and force her husband to commit it or else he will face consequences? These women obviously do not have guilty consciouses or remorse. They also have a warped sense of the important value of human life.
A second point of comparison between Queen Jocasta and Lady Macbeth is the differences in their relationships to the male lead in their individual play. Jocasta has an extremely odd and rare relationship with Oedipus. She is both his mother and wife. She bore him and later was intimate with him when he became a man. She has an incestrual relationship and does not realize it until it is to later. In some eyes she has committed the worst kind of incest, a mother with a son. Her second husband resided in her womb before her children, his siblings did. On the other hand, Lady Macbeth is not related to her husband. She is married to him, and brings her own bloodline to the marriage, unlike Jocasta. Lady Macbeth is also cruel to her husband, whereas Jocasta is seemingly loving until the very end.
The third and final major point of comparison is the deaths of these two women. Jocasta and Lady Macbeth both commit suicide. The manner in which they do this is different, however, as are the circumstances. Jocasta hangs herself after finally realizing the truth about the incest. She is found hanging by a noose over the very same bed where she and Laius conceived Oedipus and where she and Oedipus conceived their two sons and two daughters. Lady Macbeth kills herself, but she goes insane first. She sees blood on her hand, a subconscious hint of her guiltiness in the murder of Duncan. She sleepwalks and tries again and again to remove the blood with no luck.
The husbands’ reactions to the deaths of their spouses are also quite interesting. Oedipus finds Jocasta, cries, gently pulls her down and detaches her from the noose. Then he does the unthinkable: he takes the shoulder brooches from her gown and stabs out his own eyes, so that he may never see the looks of discuss from the townspeople when the story is reveled. This reaction is very extreme, and described as a horrible sight with blood spurting out of his sockets like red hail. He is left to wander around as a blind beggar the rest of his days. Macbeth, on the flip side, is mad that his wife chose that day to die. It is the day of his huge faceoff against enemy, Macduff. He is not mournful like Oedipus. He ends up joining his wife shortly thereafter. He is murdered by Macduff.
Some minor differences include: the title of the women, the number of children each have, and the time period and setting of the plays. The women have different titles, because Jocasta is Queen of Thebes and Lady Macbeth is just that, a Lady. This shows that Jocasta is far higher up in nobility than Lady Macbeth, although Lady Macbeth is higher up herself in the social ranks. The number of children the two women have is quite different. Jocasta has five children, Oedipus and two additional sons and two daughters. Lady Macbeth has no children. It is believed by some that she and Macbeth are either to young into their marriage to have conceived children yet or are experiencing infertility. Time period and setting are also quite different for the plays. Jocasta lives in an ancient time period, and in the land of Thebes. Lady Macbeth lives in the medieval age in Glamis. Two other differences include the femininity of the women and their names. Jocasta is very feminine, she is a mother, a Queen and wears nice clothing (as seen by the broaches on her dress that Oedipus uses on his eyes). Lady Macbeth, however, is a different story. She asks the demons of Hell to take away her woman like qualities. She asks them to replace the milk in her breasts with gull. She wants to have no feminine emotions of remorse or sadness over Duncan’s murder and wants to be powerful like a man. She, unlike Jocasta is probably the first example of a transgender human being. The names of the women differ because Jocasta is also called Iocaste in some versions of the play. Lady Macbeth’s name stays the same in all versions. It seems that Jocasta has no given last name and Lady Macbeth has no given first name. One point of likeness is that both women are the sole female characters of their plays. This is most likely to the time period and how plays were performed back then.
Queen Jocasta of Oedipus Rex and Lady Macbeth of Macbeth are both alike and different. They are both shining examples of women in dramas. They are supportive of their men. Their main differences are their personalities, relationships with the male leads and deaths. All in all both plays would be drastically different and could not function without them.