Men and women had contrasting roles in Ancient Greece, opposites in every sense of the word, which is portrayed in the play Oedipus the King, by Sophocles. Athenian women did not have the liberty of going out into the city. Their role in society was mainly at home, to ensure that the children and house itself were being taken care of. The lack of female characters in this play help to enforce this idea, everyone – aside from Jocasta – was male. The chorus, which was supposed to represent the people, were the embodiment of only the male population. Due to the setting of the play being primarily out in the public, it was only typical for women to be scarce – as they were being kept guarded within their own homes, often by male slaves.
Jocasta spent a great deal of her time within the palace, as the stage directions established her movement to simply be walking in and out of the castle. At any point in which she was not engaging in conversation with Oedipus, she returned to the palace [home], her ‘rightful’ place in society. Conversely men spent most of their time outdoors getting involved in city endeavors. Creon was sent out multiple times to perform chores for Oedipus, which often meant extensive travelling to retrieve information, much like the messenger who delivered the news of the dead King of Corinth to Oedipus. As displayed in these two characters, men had responsibilities and obligations to perform outdoors.
Women were very low on the social hierarchy, evident in their power in political situations. Jocasta – although Queen of Thebes – had little to no power. Her voice in saying what should be done, was merely a suggestion and did not have to be taken seriously. In the instance where she told Oedipus to believe Creon’s innocence, he was reluctant and just stated the evidence that suggested Creon to be guilty; it was only after the Chorus [men] had pleaded for Creon release, that Oedipus obeyed. In addition, Oedipus’s daughters were portrayed as having no authority or ‘voice’ whatsoever, as their appearance was vacant of any dialogue or speech.
Oedipus the King was able to capture the essence of Athenian gender roles, and played a crucial role in determining the function and capabilities of all the characters, and how they ultimately affected the outcome of the story.