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The second play of the trilogy was the “Θρῇσσαι”. These
(ii) “Θρῇσσαι”.
Thracian women, who formed the Chorus, were captives of Ajax. Tecmessa, in Quintus Smyrnaeus, says that her lord had carried her away from her home, ‘along with other women, prizes of war1.’ The function of this Chorus was similar to that of the Salaminian sailors in Sophocles, to express reverence for Ajax, to mourn with him in his unjust defeat, and especially to sympathise with Tecmessa, a captive like themselves, and one whose lot was to be reduced, by the hero's death, to a level with their own2. The suicide of Ajax was related by a messenger3. Aeschylus adopted the legend already mentioned—that Ajax was invulnerable, except at one place (in the side, according to one account), which the lion-hide of Heracles had not covered. The messenger told how, when Ajax first attempted to slay himself, the sword bent against his body, ‘as when a man bends a bow.’ But anon a divine being came to him: she it was who showed him the place at which he must drive in the sword4. The simple fact that the suicide of Ajax was narrated by an eye-witness, who could describe the circumstances attending it, at once indicates how profoundly Aeschylus must have differed from Sophocles in his treatment of this subject. In the psychology of Ajax, as delineated by Sophocles, we can trace the growth of those complex feelings which imperiously required that his deed should be done in complete security from the witness of human eye or ear, so that he might be alone with his deliberate thoughts, and with the gods to whom he speaks them.

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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (3):
    • Sophocles, Ajax, 134
    • Sophocles, Ajax, 815
    • Sophocles, Ajax, 833
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