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The award of the arms was not dramatised by Sophocles.
The Ajax of Sophocles.
In his Ajax he assumes, like Pindar, that the award was decided by the Greek chiefs. For the rest, the outline of his plot is taken from the Little Iliad.

The scene is laid before the tent of Ajax, at the eastern end

Analysis of the play. I. Prologue: 1—133.
of the Greek camp, on the northern coast of the Troad. The time is early morning. Odysseus is scanning foot-prints on the ground,—walking to and fro as he does so, in perplexity. The goddess Athena (who is invisible, probably, to him, though seen by the spectators) speaks to him, and tells him that she can resolve his doubts. Ajax, whom he seeks, is within yonder tent. And Ajax has really done the outrage of which he is suspected: it is he who, in the past night, butchered the oxen and sheep of the Greeks, along with the men in charge of them. His plan had been to murder the Greek chiefs, beginning with the Atreidae; but, just as he had reached their tents, Athena struck him with frenzy, and turned his rage aside upon the cattle. At this moment he is tormenting some of the animals in his tent, fancying that they are the Greek princes. And she will show him to Odysseus. She then calls Ajax to come forth. Odysseus is alarmed at the prospect of being confronted with this raging madman: but the goddess reassures him; the maniac shall not see him.

Then Ajax comes out, with a blood-stained scourge in his hand, and boasts, with wild laughter, of his triumphs. He has killed the Atreidae, and now he is going to flog Odysseus to death. When he returns to his task, Athena reads the moral to her favourite. Let him beware of sinning, through pride, against the gods, as Ajax has done. ‘A day can humble all human things, and a day can lift them up; but the wise of heart are loved of the gods, and the evil are abhorred.’ Athena then disappears; and Odysseus departs.

The Chorus of Salaminians, followers of Ajax,—at once

Parodos: 134—200.
sailors and warriors,—now enter. They have heard the rumour that Ajax is the author of the onslaught on the cattle, and are keenly disquieted. If the deed has really been his, he must have been driven to it by some angry deity who demented him. But they rather believe that it is a slander, prompted by the jealousy of the Greek chiefs. He has been too long secluded; let him arise, and clear his good name, which is theirs also.

At this moment

II. First episode: 201—595. (First Kommos: 201—262.)
Tecmessa comes to them from the tent. She tells them that Ajax has gone mad, and has been slaughtering cattle in the tent. Thus they learn that the worst is true. In the lyric dialogue (kommos) which follows, they learn further that the frenzy of Ajax is past; he is sane again, but is plunged in the deepest despondency. She has just finished a detailed account of what happened in the night—how her lord sallied forth, how he returned, and how, while tormenting his victims, he conversed with ‘some phantom’ at the tent-door—when Ajax himself is heard calling from within. She opens the door of the tent (i.e., the interior is disclosed by the eccyclema), and Ajax is seen sitting amidst the slaughtered cattle.

He cries

(Second Kommos: 348—429.)
to his trusty friends to slay him; he is disgraced, and has become a mockery to his foes: this shame has blotted out his past deeds. In vain the Chorus and Tecmessa try to comfort him. Each successive utterance makes it clearer that he can think of only one refuge. When at last he has said this plainly—reviewing the whole situation in which he finds himself, and reasoning out the conclusion that nothing remains for him but to die—Tecmessa makes her appeal. Let him think what his death will mean for her and for his child. His only reply is to command that the boy shall be brought to him. This is done; and the touching words which he then speaks (incidentally showing his affection for Tecmessa) are words of farewell. He charges the Chorus with his last injunctions for Teucer, who is to see that his armour is buried with him,—saving only the shield which his son Eurysaces (who takes his name from it) is to keep. And Teucer shall take Eurysaces home to Telamon and Eriboea in Salamis.—He then sternly commands Tecmessa to retire, with the child. She addresses him with despairing entreaties; but he roughly silences her, and withdraws into the tent.

The Chorus,

First stasimon: 596—645.
whose thoughts turn wistfully to Salamis, lament how their hard lot at Troy is now aggravated by this new and dread affliction of their lord. They deplore his cruel fate, and imagine the grief of his aged parents. His plight is indeed such that death might well seem a lesser evil.

Ajax re-enters, with a sword in his hand. He had lately

III. Second episode: 646—692.
parted from his friends with an open and stern expression of his resolve to die. But now his first words announce at least a change of mood. Time can alter all things; and he has been softened. He is going ‘to purge his stains,’ and ‘to bury’ his sword. He wishes ‘to avoid’ the anger of Athena; and ‘henceforth’ he will know how to yield to the gods—and to revere the Atreidae. Perhaps they will soon hear that all is well with him.

A discussion of this speech will be found below (§ 12). Its

Hyporcheme (serving as second stasimon): 693—718.
effect is to throw the Chorus into a transport of joy, to which they give vent in song, accompanied by lively dance. So Ajax has been reconciled to the gods, and has forgiven the Atreidae! The trouble is overpast!

A Messenger enters from the Greek camp. Teucer has just

IV. Third episode: 719—865.
returned from a foray in the Mysian uplands. On his arrival, the infuriated Greeks had thronged around him, denouncing him as ‘the kinsman of the maniac,’ and threatening to stone him. Meanwhile the Greek chiefs had met in council before Agamemnon's tent. The seer Calchas, drawing apart from their circle, had given a private and friendly warning to Teucer. Ajax, he said, had incurred the anger of Athena, by proud words formerly spoken. But her anger will pursue him for this day only. If, during this day, he can be kept within the tent, his life may be saved.

On learning that Ajax has just gone out, the Messenger is filled with dismay, which the Chorus share. They call forth Tecmessa. On hearing what Calchas has said, she implores the Chorus at once to aid her in seeking Ajax. The Chorus now leave the orchestra, in two divisions. One division goes out on the left of the spectators, to search the coast eastward from the camp: the other goes out on the right, to search westwards. Tecmessa also goes forth, and the Messenger departs.

A change of scene now takes place—from the ground in front of the tent, to a lonely spot on the sea-shore, fringed with underwood. (The change of scene in the Eumenides, from Delphi to Athens, is the only other certain instance in Greek Tragedy.)

Ajax is seen standing near the sword which he has fixed by its hilt in the ground. He invokes Zeus—to save his corpse from dishonour, by apprising Teucer: Hermes—to give him swift convoy to the nether world: the Furies—to avenge him on the Greeks: Helios—to tell the news in his island-home: Thanatos—to release him. Then he bids farewell to Salamis, to Athens, to the springs, rivers, and plains of Troy: and falls upon his sword.

The Chorus

Epiparodos: 866—878. Third Kommos: 879—973.
re-enter the orchestra in two bands (as they left it), from opposite sides. They do not see the body of Ajax, which is screened by the underwood amid which it fell. While deploring the failure of their search, they hear a sharp cry of anguish from the copse near them. It is Tecmessa, who has found what they sought. She will not suffer them to see what she has seen, but covers the body with a robe.

Amid the laments

V. Fourth episode: 974— 1184.
which follow, Teucer hastens in: Zeus had heard the prayer of Ajax; ‘a swift rumour, as from a god,’ had come to the brother. His first thought is for the child that Ajax had bequeathed to his care; and on learning that Eurysaces has been left at the tent, he sends Tecmessa to fetch him. He then unshrouds the corpse; his bitter grief has free course; and as he withdraws the sword from the body which it has transfixed, he remembers that it was Hector's fatal gift.

Menelaüs now enters, and roughly tells Teucer that the body of Ajax is to remain where it lies, unburied. Ajax was a worse than Trojan foe; he had plotted the murder of his comrades, who were saved only by divine interposition. Reverence for authority shall be upheld: Ajax defied the Atreidae while he lived, but they will dispose of him in death. Teucer replies to the second part of the indictment—the charge of insubordination. Ajax was an independent ally, not a vassal of the Atreidae. In the stormy altercation which follows, Menelaüs has the worst of it, and departs, with a hint that he can bring force to bear.

He has just gone, when Tecmessa comes, with the child Eurysaces, for whom Teucer had sent her to the tent. (Henceforth she is a mute person.) The child is now made to kneel, in the posture of a suppliant, by his father's body, holding in his hand locks of hair (his own, Tecmessa's, and Teucer's), as offerings to the dead. Teucer fears that Menelaüs may seek to separate the kinsfolk from the body of Ajax by force: he therefore places the body under this religious safeguard of a formal ‘supplication,’ and invokes a solemn curse on any one who may attempt to remove the suppliant by violence. He then goes out, to choose a place for the grave of Ajax.

The Chorus bewail their hardships at Troy. Ajax was once

Third stasimon: 1185— 1222.
their comfort, and they have lost him. Would that they could pass Sunium, and greet sacred Athens!

Teucer re-enters hurriedly, having noticed the approach of

VI. Exodos: 1223— 1420.
Agamemnon, who appears directly afterwards. Agamemnon reproves the presumption of Teucer (‘the captive woman's son’). What, after all, was this Ajax? ‘Whither went he, or where stood he, where I was not?’ Ajax lost the arms: that is no reason why Teucer should attack the judges. ‘Sober thyself, I say;—recall thy birth;—bring hither someone else,—a freeborn man,—who shall plead thy cause for thee before us.’ Teucer makes a scathing reply. He reminds the king who it was that saved the ships from Trojan fire and sword,—who it was that met Hector in single combat. ‘Were these deeds not his, who, thou sayest, nowhere set foot where thou wast not?’ As to the taunt that he, Teucer, is disqualified by birth for being the champion of Ajax—can the son of Atreus and Aëropè say that to the son of Telamon and Hesionè? With Tecmessa and Eurysaces, he is ready to die in this cause.

At this point—when nothing seems to remain but that the Atreidae should enforce their will—Odysseus enters. He intercedes with Agamemnon, who is ready to hear ‘his best friend.’ ‘Ajax,’ he says, ‘was my bitterest foe, after I won the arms’: but ‘in all our Greek host which came to Troy, I have seen none who was his peer, save Achilles.’ Agamemnon argues, wavers, and finally says that, though he will always detest Ajax, Odysseus may do as he pleases.

The king having gone, Odysseus proffers friendship to Teucer, and expresses a wish to take part in the obsequies. Teucer warmly thanks him,—contrasting his noble conduct with that of the Atreidae. He fears to accept the co-operation of Odysseus in the actual rites, lest that should displease the dead; but will welcome his presence as a spectator, and his help in conciliating the army. Odysseus assents, and withdraws.

Various tasks in relation to the funeral are now assigned to the Chorus by Teucer. He raises the body of the hero, directing the child to lay his hand upon it, that he too may have a part in the office. Then Ajax is carried forth, followed by his wife and his son, with Teucer and the Salaminian warriors, to be laid by the Hellespont in his grave at Cape Rhoeteum, the grave which was to be ‘ever memorable among men1.’

1 The words of the Chorus in vv. 1166 f., “βροτοῖς τὸν ἀείμνηστον τάφον”.

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