Friday, March 25, 2011

Ajax by Sophocles


Ajax is one of the earlier plays by Sophocles and displays the meaning of Greek tragedy. This piece recycles the characters from Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey but Sophocles finds a way to twist the characters to suit his needs while not straying too far from Homer’s original creation. Characters that reappear are Ajax, Menelaus, Agamemnon and Odysseus, to name a few. The action takes place after the death of Achilles during the Trojan War staying true to Homer’s series of events from the Iliad.

The opening of the play begins by stating that the armor of Achilles will go to one of the men in the army. Both Odysseus and Ajax are men that have proved themselves throughout the war as being strong and courageous. It is left to Agamemnon and Menelaus, the leaders of the army, to choose who would receive the armor. When Odysseus is picked to have the honor of having Achilles’s armor, Ajax goes into a jealous rage. He believes he was the better of the two and that one that should be picked.

As Ajax’s anger builds, his mind starts to darken. He thinks about killing the men in the army with Menelaus, Agamemnon and Odysseus at the top of his list. As Ajax is contemplating these thoughts, Athena the god of wisdom begins to play with his mind. To save the army and protect her champion Odysseus, Athena causes Ajax to see the cattle and herds as men. Through the night he starts slaying and capturing animals believing that they were actually people. Ajax keeps a few animals tied up with the intention of torturing them before he murders them. These animals that he keeps are ones he believes to be the three he most hates.

As morning breaks news gets out as to what Ajax had done. The spell cast onto him by Athena lifts and Ajax is upset by what he has done. He speaks about how going after weak animals means nothing and gives foreshadowing as to his future actions. While this goes on the chorus and his wife Tecmessa beg him to live and do what is right.


1. Do you believe it is wrong for the Greek gods to interfere? Why or why not?

2. What do you think brought on Ajax's anger? Pride, jealousy, both, or something else?

9 comments:

Hayley D 11/12 said...

1. I think that in some cases the Greek gods have to interfere in order to save people (which is what we see in this novel). But in general I think that it is better if they don't interfere because their actions might lead to even bigger consequences in the future.
2. Based off of the summary you've given, I feel that pride and jealousy both brought on Ajax's anger. Because he feels like he deserves the armor. When Odysseus is chosen, Ajax is obviously jealous because he believed that he was the best and can't comprehend how Odysseus could be chosen over him. Therefore, I truly feel that both jealousy and pride were contributing factors to his anger.

Mike B 13-14 said...

I dont think greek gods should interfere with human life. It seems when ever they do it leads to bigger problems. I guess its ok if they interfere to save lives like in the story but mostly they should let humans live their own live with freewill.

Eric Y 13-14 said...

For one, I believe for the good of mankind it was correct for the gods to interfere because this way people still have the confidence that the gods all all powerful.

For two, I think it was Ajax's Hubris because it seems thats the downfall of most of the Greek characters.

tyler k 13-14 said...

I feel that the gods shouldnt interfere since freewill and the consequences it brings are natural and people should expirience life by their own hand, not higher being.

Brad S 11-12 said...

1. In some cases yes. Everybody needs at least a little guidance throughout life because no one is perfect. When the gods interfere to benefit the lives of others, i feel as that is right, but if they get jealous and start wars, i think they should step out of the lives of others.

James F (11-12) said...

1. i do not believe it is wrong. based on the culture of ancient greece, it is completely understandable that the gods interfered. this is what they believed in. if you did something to anger the gods then you were punished.

Kara K. 5/6 said...

I feel like it is only right at certian times for Greek gods to interfere. If they are saving a person's life, then thhey have the right to do so. If it is to send a plague on a city or other concenquence, I feel that they should not have the right to do that.

Kaitlyn S. 13-14 said...

I agree with most of what you guys said about how sometimes it is necessary for them to intervene and other times it's not. For the most part I think they should let people do their own thing.

For my second question, I think that it was both or that they could go hand in hand. Jealousy is brought on by someone doing better than you so your pride gets the green eye.

Mrs. Sherwood said...

Graded