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Jocasta's Soliloquy

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I

When I married the child molester I knew that I loved only his title, not his temperament. Laius was a weak man, chained to lust and to a boy who he would not let slip from his memory.

I remember Laius drunk and crying because of the words of Apollo's fool. A prophesy that our child would turn against him to erase the stain of Chrysippus' defilement. Our son, our firstborn, and now I am pregnant.

Laius watches as I grow round. The months go by like flaming chariots. He is afraid that I will keep the child and leave him to his fate, but I will protect my husband. He is the king, after all.

 

II

The curse is born today. A son as foretold.

Poor boy.

As I leave to have his feet bound Laius turns away. In terror? In love? In fear? I will not ask. As for the child, the heir to the Theban throne, he is pierced and handed over to a loyal servant. Better the boy die than meet Chrysippus' fate.

 

III

At dawn there is a great rustling of wings at the city gates. A great Sphinx has perched and cries day and night for a man to answer her riddle. At first the adults marvel at her, and the children are afraid. Soon their roles reverse.

Four legs, and then two, and then three? No one knows the answer.

As usual Laius is useless and weak. Pestilence reigns, and will reign as long as the Sphinx remains at our gate raining down her destruction upon the people. All the while their king spends his days pining for two lost beloved boys.

 

 

IV

Time passes in a series of personal plagues. I have no more children, and soon there is no food in the city. Laius does what he can about the later and manages to slip with a few of our servants though the city walls and leaves for Delphi to seek help. Only one of the servants who left with him returns as a survivor to tell me of Laius' death. He begs to be sent away, as far from the city walls as possible. I allow it; he is owed a great service, after all, for taking away that long ago son.

I adorn myself with funeral robes and shrouds of mourning, but in my heart I am elated, exultant. I am finally free of my husband, and I am also free of my gods. Apollo's curse came to nothing; Laius was murdered by a band of highwaymen. I refuse to pray to gods who do not exist.

 

V

"Man," answers the stranger with the wild hair and dirty beard. The riddle is solved, and the Sphinx dashes herself against the city wall that had been her perch. Thebes is free.

Hailing him as their hero the people hand this stranger, this Oedipus, the crown that was Laius' and that should now rightfully grace the brow of his son. Of course, along with the crown comes another prize: Me. 

I do not love this stranger, but he is a good king and a loyal husband. Thebes becomes a beacon tower, rising from a sea of chaos.

From Oedipus I receive four children, and each one reminds me of my first son. As I look at them I cannot help but wish to send them to their brother's fate, but Oedipus loves his children.

 

VI

Time passes. Golden years filled with glory and honor for Thebes, and her royalty.

Then a drought comes, and once again there is famine and the land is barren. Oedipus blames himself, for in his adopted homeland he had wished to be faultless. He seeks answers, and again aid is sought from Apollo's fool. The report returns that the murderer of Laius must be found and sent away from Thebes. Oedipus says that one of the highwaymen must be among us, and he orders him found and exiled.

He needs someone to blame and so he attacks Creon, who says he wants nothing of the crown and its responsibilities. Oedipus believes him, but I know my bother better than that. Oedipus accuses Tiresias, too,  the sage who has never had a false prophecy. Oedipus' fear is understandable though, I know his story. He is cursed as my first son was cursed, to be a dishonor to his family in the most heinous ways, and he fears that he is cursed still.

In our bed, I tell him not to worry so about what the gods say. They are only ghost lips, whispering foolishness.To calm him I tell the story of how my first child, dead in his second week of life, disproved the prophecy of Apollo.

Oedipus says nothing, but only bends a knee to scratch at his ankles.

 

VII

From Corinth a messenger comes to tell of the death of Polybus, the king Oedipus had called father. So Oedipus' curse is unfulfilled as well? There are no gods in my mind now; this murders my last thought of them. 

The messenger also admits to other things as well; unexpected things. Merope is barren and always has been. Oedipus is not her son, nor the true son of Polybus by any other woman. He was a foundling.

My mind begins to stir at this. I want to scream to the messenger "Quiet, you fool!" but Oedipus insists on hearing the whole truth. The messenger tells of Oedipus' birth, or rather his birth to Corinth. How he, a lowly shepherd of Polybus, had brought him as a babe to Merope, with his ankles bound.

The curse.

My husband.

My son.

There are no more words.

 

VIII

I retreat to the palace. To my bedchamber. To the room which holds the bed that is both my marriage bed and the bed on which all five of my children were birthed.

So, gods, you do exist? Yes. As our tormentors. I realize now that only gods could be so cruel.

I am not angry. I am not confused. I am repulsed, and I know what I must do.

Goodbye, light.

Goodbye, Thebes.

Goodbye, bitter fate and tempestuous gods. 

May they bind the feet of my corpse.