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Ajax

Overview

Ajax - Sophocles - Translated by R. C. Trevelyan

Sophocles's Ajax is a Greek tragedy written in the 5th century BC. The date of Ajax's first performance is unknown and may never be found, but most scholars regard it as an early work, circa 450 - 430 B.C. (J. Moore, 2). It chronicles the fate of the warrior Ajax after the events of the Iliad, but before the end of the Trojan War.
At the onset of the play, Ajax is enraged because Achilles' armor ...

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Ajax

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Overview

Ajax - Sophocles - Translated by R. C. Trevelyan

Sophocles's Ajax is a Greek tragedy written in the 5th century BC. The date of Ajax's first performance is unknown and may never be found, but most scholars regard it as an early work, circa 450 - 430 B.C. (J. Moore, 2). It chronicles the fate of the warrior Ajax after the events of the Iliad, but before the end of the Trojan War.
At the onset of the play, Ajax is enraged because Achilles' armor was awarded to Odysseus, rather than to him. He vows to kill the Greek leaders who disgraced him. Before he can enact his extraordinary revenge, though, he is tricked by the goddess Athena into believing that the sheep and cattle that were taken by the Achaeans as spoil are the Greek leaders. He slaughters some of them, and takes the others back to his home to torture, including a ram which he believes to be his main rival, Odysseus.

Ajax realizes what he has done and is in agony over his actions. Ajax's pain is not because of his wish to kill Agamemnon and Odysseus. He is extremely upset that Athena fooled him and is sure that the other Greek warriors are laughing at him. Ajax contemplates ending his life due to his shame. His concubine, Tecmessa, pleads for him not to leave her and her child unprotected. Ajax then gives his son, Eurysakes, his shield. Ajax leaves the house saying that he is going out to purify himself and bury the sword given to him by Hector. Teukros, Ajax's brother, arrives in the Greek camp to taunting from his fellow soldiers. Kalchas warns that Ajax should not be allowed to leave his tent until the end of the day or he will die. Teukros sends a messenger to Ajax's campsite with word of Kalchas' prophesy. Tecmessa and soldiers try to track him down, but are too late. Ajax had indeed buried the sword, but has left the blade sticking out of the ground and has impaled himself upon it.

Sophocles lets us hear the speech Ajax gives immediately before his suicide (which, unlike in most Greek tragedies, where action and death are reported, is called for to take place onstage), in which he calls for vengeance against the sons of Atreus (Menelaus and Agamemnon) and the whole Greek army. Ajax also wishes for the first to find his body to be Teukros, so that he is not found by an enemy and his body left without a proper burial. Tecmessa is the first to discover Ajax impaled on his sword, with Teukros arriving shortly after. He orders that Eurysakes be brought to him so that he will be safe from Ajax's foes. Menelaus appears on the scene and orders the body not to be moved.

The last part of the play revolves around the dispute over what to do with Ajax's body. Ajax's half brother Teukros intends on burying him despite the demands of Menelaus and Agamemnon that the corpse is not to be buried. Odysseus, although previously Ajax's enemy, steps in and persuades them to allow Ajax a proper funeral by pointing out that even one's enemies deserve respect in death, if they were noble. The play ends with Teukros making arrangements for the burial (which is to take place without Odysseus, out of respect for Ajax).

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781141751976
  • Publisher: Nabu Press
  • Publication date: 1/9/2010
  • Pages: 114
  • Product dimensions: 7.44 (w) x 9.69 (h) x 0.24 (d)

Meet the Author

Sophocles (c. 497/6 BCE - winter 406/5 BCE) is one of three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived. His first plays were written later than those of Aeschylus, and earlier than or contemporary with those of Euripides. According to the Suda, a 10th-century encyclopedia, Sophocles wrote 123 plays during the course of his life, but only seven have survived in a complete form: Ajax, Antigone, The Women of Trachis, Oedipus the King, Electra, Philoctetes and Oedipus at Colonus. For almost 50 years, Sophocles was the most-fĂȘted playwright in the dramatic competitions of the city-state of Athens that took place during the religious festivals of the Lenaea and the Dionysia. He competed in around 30 competitions, won perhaps 24, and was never judged lower than second place. Aeschylus won 14 competitions, and was sometimes defeated by Sophocles, while Euripides won only 4 competitions.

The most famous tragedies of Sophocles feature Oedipus and also Antigone: they are generally known as the Theban plays, although each play was actually a part of a different tetralogy, the other members of which are now lost. Sophocles influenced the development of the drama, most importantly by adding a third actor, thereby reducing the importance of the chorus in the presentation of the plot. He also developed his characters to a greater extent than earlier playwrights such as Aeschylus.

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