Unveiling Jocasta. The Brave Queen of Dryden and Lee

  • Marisa Sestito


To better appreciate the daring originality of Dryden and Lee’s Oedipus. A Tragedy, it is useful to begin considering the three authors discussed by Dryden himself in the Preface to the play: Sophocles, Seneca and Corneille, whom he acknowledges to have used only as partial sources, while in more cases than one his reluctance to admit their true influence is evident. In this perspective it is perhaps even more interesting that Shakespeare, whose relevance is perceivable everywhere, is never mentioned. Looking closer at Dryden’s critical attitude, there seems to be at work a peculiar consistency in passing over in silence not only trivial factors, but also the most innovative and subversive issues that identify the uniqueness of the play. As, for instance, the disruption of the Cadmean myth, which allows Dryden and Lee to empower Oedipus and Jocasta to be the ultimate protagonists of a long and ominous story, enabled in their suicide to paradoxically reconcile all tensions and assert their right to preserve their passionate bond, whatever that love may be.

Keywords: Sophocles; Dryden and Lee; Oedipus; incest; irony; sight