Read Ajax (Translations from Greek Drama) by Sophocles Free Online
Book Title: Ajax (Translations from Greek Drama)|
The author of the book: Sophocles
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 475 KB
Edition: Cambridge University Press
Date of issue: May 21st 2001
ISBN 13: 9780521655644
Read full description of the books Ajax (Translations from Greek Drama):“To mock foes, is that not the sweetest mockery?”
Athena’s cruel words leave Odysseus hesitant in the opening scene of Ajax, one of Sophocles’ most intense and dramatic plays. The powerful Goddess has made the Greek hero Ajax lose his mind and fight herds of cattle instead of men in his delusion. To make his shame perfect, she wants Odysseus to see his disgrace. When Odysseus refuses, she mocks him, asking provocatively if he is afraid of a madman. And the clever Odysseus answers, without hesitation this time:
“Had he been sane, no fear had made me shrink.”
That is a striking thought, and essentially true. A Greek hero, however powerful and angry, however dangerous to fight, is a known entity to Odysseus as long as he is sane, and uses the same rules to judge a situation as he would himself. A hero, with the same physical power, but deprived of the mental capacities, is a scarily uncertain threat, that can not be faced with regular methods.
Athena wants to show off her power to punish humans, so she forces Odysseus to watch Ajax in all his boastful delusion. He is left reflective:
“I know none nobler; and I pity him
In his misery, albeit he is my foe,
Since he is yoked fast to an evil doom.
My own lot I regard no less than his.
For I see well, nought else are we but mere
Phantoms, all we that live, mere fleeting shadows.”
Ajax’ misery is not over yet, however. The worst possible conclusion has yet to come: he will see his own madness and despair of life. For as long as he stays in his delusion, others might pity him, but he is triumphant. Only with the sane eyes of his society, he will know his own downfall. The effect is terrifying:
“Nobly to live, or else nobly to die
Befits proud birth. There is no more to say.”
The following scenes in “Ajax” have always fascinated me, as they oppose different values and ideals in society. Ajax argues for the necessity to live and die like a hero, following the Credo of Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori, and his wife Tecmessa counterbalances the heroic ideal with the duties of a father and husband, the long-term effects of his commitment to a family and his responsibilities on earth. The arguments are not put forward in a dialogue, as the two concepts are not compatible, and despite Tecmessa’s eloquent soliloquy for family and future, Ajax opts for the heroic exit, and opens up for a new discussion in Greek style: does he deserve a proper burial?
“Ajax” leaves me with a chilling feeling, a bitter taste of knowing that human beings are fragile, delusional, obsessed with matters of external honours and fame, and that they are willing to sacrifice everything they have built up for themselves to make a mark on history, to stand out in the crowd.
What for? Why carry the heroic ideals from generation to generation, from culture to culture, never stopping to think of the future that will come if we do not end the eternal circle of violence based on pride and delusion?
After the first world war, a generation of poets challenged the ancient idea of military glory, but The Poems Of Wilfred Owen have not been able to convince the majority of humanity of the vanity and waste of nationalism, patriotism, militarism and exclusive club or tribe behaviour.
Carol Ann Duffy once wrote a Wilfred Owen poem backwards, and made the soldiers reject the heroic ideal and go home: Last Post What a powerful message for everyday life with its pleasures of small things! But it does not look like we have lost the tribal honour codes in the world despite the voices raised against them ever since Sophocles made Tecmessa speak up for responsibility and life. The Ajaxes of this world are still more concerned with their own reputation and fame than with real solutions for the future!
And women and children are still more often than not the victims of this mindset.
Read information about the authorSophocles (born c. 496 bc, Colonus, near Athens [Greece]—died 406, Athens), (Greek: Sophocle) was an ancient Greek tragedy playwright. Not many things are known about his life other than that he was wealthy, well educated and wrote about one hundred and twenty three plays (of which few are extant). One of his best known plays is 'Oedipus the King' (Oedipus Rex).
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