Role of Women: Oedipus the Essay

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Thryth is however easily rehabilitated by marriage, as she is to some degree functional within her society. Grendel's mother is not, and the only remedy for her type of complete evil is death. As her son, she is an outcast, and deserving of a death as such. Her evil has no place in a society that sees itself as predominantly good.

In Oedipus, the fulfillment of fate is the ultimate undesirable element, and can be compared to the idea of 'evil' in Beowulf. There is however no apparent duality that differentiates the women of the play, except in terms of maturity and in terms of their role as compared to that of men. Interestingly, a woman, Jocasta, is the cause of the undesirable event. She attempts to break the curse by what she believes is the murder of her son. Eventually however she is driven to suicide by her failure. Whereas the female characters in Beowulf then remain fairly static in their status as representatives of good or evil, Jocasta's role changes in terms of both the concrete and the symbolic.

Initially, Jocasta is the personification of female nobility. After the murder of her husband, Oedipus takes his place as both husband and king. With Jocasta, he fathers two daughters. Ismene and Antigone, although innocent, ultimately share in the fate of their parents. Jocasta's downfall occurs together with that of her husband. As he is gradually revealed as simultaneously husband and son as well as father and brother, the shame that takes his sight takes her life.

Jocasta's role in the play is to compliment her husband in both his glory and his shame. To a greater extent than in Beowulf, her role is intertwined with that of the main male character. Jocasta begins the process that will end in tragedy. She therefore initially attempts to control fate, and to wield power, but ultimately becomes not only powerless, but also lifeless. This is a legacy that her daughters also inherit.

At the end of the play, Oedipus is forced not only to place what remains of his own life in the hands of others, but also the lives of his daughters. He begs Creon to care for them. There are two elements at the end of the play that provides evidence for the view of women in the society represented. Firstly, Oedipus makes a point of the fact that he is not much concerned about the future well-being of his sons, because... "they are men, / and for themselves...can fend." However, his daughters are a very great concern, because they are unlikely to find husbands. This indicates that the main role of women was seen as being married and playing the role of supporter for their men. This is substantiated by Jocasta's fate.

Rather than submitting to the oracle and accepting the prediction, Jocasta steps out of her traditional role as supporting woman and takes matters into her own hands. This, along with her unfeminine attempts to stop the truth from revealing itself, ends in disaster for herself and her family. The ultimate fate that was predicted in the first place proved unyielding to her attempts at control.

In both the play and the poem, the male view of the female role provides the framework within which the female is allowed to operate. As soon as the female moves beyond these boundaries, she becomes undesirable in the context of the respective societies represented. Jocasta and Grendel's mother proved irredeemable in this respect, and met their fate in violence and death. While Thryth and Jocasta's daughters were allowed to live, only the former could be redeemed by marriage. The end of the tragedy indicates that Ismene and Antigone would forever carry the stain of their father's fate and their mother's sin.

In conclusion, women have very particular boundaries in both Beowulf and Oedipus the King. Whenever they step beyond these boundaries, disaster and often death result, while those remaining within the boundaries, either by fate or will, are seen as personifying…

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