Classics Sophocles’ Ajax
by
P. J. Finglass
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0262

Introduction

Sophocles’ Ajax is one of seven dramas by that playwright which have survived complete. Probably performed around the 440s BCE, it depicts the crisis experienced by Ajax when he suffers a perceived slight by being denied the arms of Achilles after that warrior’s death. Sophocles’ play begins during the aftermath of Ajax’s failed attempt to destroy the Greek army in revenge for this injury. It depicts Ajax’s realization of what he has done, his decision to kill himself, and his concubine’s failed attempt to dissuade him; his suicide and the discovery of his body; the debates between his half-brother Teucer and the leaders of the army over what should be done with his body; and the eventual decision to bury him thanks to the intervention of his former foe Odysseus. The text, language, and imagery of the drama have long been the subject of intense scholarly scrutiny, as have characterization in the play, connections with contemporary politics, and issues of heroism and ethics.

Editions and Commentaries

The text of Sophocles is anything but settled, and different critical editions usually differ from each other in dozens of places. Some editions below are accompanied by a commentary that explains the text preferred by the editor, and also elucidates points of language and interpretation. Jebb 1896 has deserved classic status; Stanford 1963 is less important; Garvie 1998 and Finglass 2011 are more up to date. Other editions do not have an accompanying commentary. Lloyd-Jones and Wilson 1992 is the most often used edition, but many of its textual choices are wayward and caution must be exercised in using it. The text of Lloyd-Jones 1997 is not exactly the same, and has a translation. Dawe 1996 should always be consulted, even if on the whole his choices are less reliable; Dain 1958 is now rather out of date. Kamerbeek 1963 contains a commentary without a printed text of the play, although that can be reconstructed from the textual preferences expressed in the commentary; but in general scholars and students alike can dispense with what is not a very impressive work.

  • Dain, A. 1958. Sofocle. Tome II. Ajax – Oedipe Roi – Électre. Texte établi par Alphonse Dain et traduit par Paul Mazon. Paris: Société d’édition “Les Belles Lettres.”

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    A poor text with brief and unsatisfactory apparatus, out of date anyway thanks to subsequent manuscript collation; wildly conservative.

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    • Dawe, R. D. 1996. Sophoclis Aiax. Stuttgart and Leipzig: Teubner.

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      Text with detailed apparatus. Apparatus more reliable than that of Lloyd-Jones and Wilson 1992; textual decisions too often adventurous, however.

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      • Finglass, P. J. 2011. Sophocles: Ajax. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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        Edition with introduction and detailed commentary incorporating a translation. The most up-to-date critical edition and commentary; analysis throughout of text, language, stagecraft, and meaning.

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        • Garvie, A. F. 1998. Sophocles: Ajax. Warminster, UK: Aris and Phillips.

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          Edition with introduction, facing translation, and commentary keyed to the translation. Intended primarily for students, but very helpful for scholars too. Adopts a positive, “hero-worshipping” view of Ajax.

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          • Jebb, R. C. 1896. Sophocles: Ajax. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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            Edition with introduction, facing translation, and commentary. A classic work, still valuable; simultaneously timeless and out of date. Reprinted in 2004 (Bristol, UK: Bristol Classical Press). Introduction by P. Wilson.

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            • Kamerbeek, J. C. 1963. The plays of Sophocles: Commentaries. Vol. 1, The Ajax. 2d ed. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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              Commentary only. Rarely illuminating.

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              • Lloyd-Jones, H. 1997. Sophocles: Ajax, Electra, Oedipus Tyrannus. Loeb Classical Library 20, 21, 483. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                Text slightly changed from Lloyd-Jones and Wilson 1992 with brief apparatus and facing (not always reliable) translation. Corrected revision of 1994 impression.

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                • Lloyd-Jones, H., and N. G. Wilson. 1992. Sophoclis Fabulae. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                  Text with apparatus. A deservedly standard edition, however sometimes vitiated by errors in the apparatus and excessive fondness for Lloyd-Jones’s own textual interventions. Corrected revision of 1990 impression.

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                  • Stanford, W. B. 1963. Sophocles: Ajax. London: Macmillan.

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                    A solid commentary, now showing its age.

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                    Textual Work Outside Editions

                    Much key work on the text of Sophocles appears in monographs and articles rather than in editions and commentaries. Fraenkel 1977, Fraenkel 1983, and Fraenkel 2007 all record the important seminars held on the play by Eduard Fraenkel in Italy in the last years of his life. Dawe 1973 is key for the manuscripts, and Finglass 2008 forms a supplement to that; Lloyd-Jones and Wilson 1990, Lloyd-Jones and Wilson 1997, and Willink 2002 discuss many different passages; Long 1964 and Finglass 2009 are two in-depth discussions of particular passages that also give an account of previous scholarship.

                    Translations

                    Lloyd-Jones 1997, Garvie 1998, and Finglass 2011 (all cited under Editions and Commentaries) all contain translations; excellent translations not accompanied by a Greek text include Taplin 2015 (as suited to speaking as to reading), Moore 2013, Esposito 2010, Golder and Pevear 2010, and Mazon 1958 (a French translation of great accuracy and style, infinitely better than the Greek text that accompanies it).

                    • Esposito, S. 2010. Odysseus at Troy: Ajax, Hecuba, and Trojan Women. Newburyport, MA: Focus.

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                      This translation is quite close to the Greek and has extensive excellent notes (on the same page) as well as a substantial interpretive essay.

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                      • Golder, H., and R. Pevear. 2010. Translation of Sophocles’ Ajax. In The complete Sophocles. Vol. 2, Electra and other plays. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                        This translation is more poetic; the notes in the back are not extensive, but it has a fine introduction by Golder.

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                        • Mazon, P. 1958. Sophocle. Tome II. Ajax – Oedipe Roi – Électre. Texte établi par Alphonse Dain et traduit par Paul Mazon. Paris: Société d’édition “Les Belles Lettres.”

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                          The most accurate translation into a modern language; captures nuances that no other rendering does.

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                          • Moore, J. 2013. Translation of Sophocles’ Ajax. In Sophocles II. Ajax, The Women of Trachic, Electra, Philoctetes, The Trackers. Edited by M. Griffith, G. W. Most, D. Grene, and R. Lattimore. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                            The latest revision of Moore’s translation in the classic series of translations of Greek tragedy produced by David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, now revised by Mark Griffith and Glenn Most.

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                            • Taplin, O. 2015. Sophocles: Four tragedies. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                              Accurate, readable translation, suitable for performance.

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                              General Works of Interpretation

                              Hesk 2003 is a key short monograph on the play and can be warmly recommended, as can Cairns 2006, a fundamental article; Poe 1987 is not as significant but still worth citing. Chapters on the play in books dedicated to Sophocles’ oeuvre as a whole include Segal 1995, Burian 2012, Garvie 2016, Morwood 2008, Reinhardt 1947, Winnington-Ingram 1980, and Finglass 2012.

                              • Burian, P. 2012. Polyphonic Ajax. In A companion to Sophocles. Edited by K. Ormand, 68–83. Malden, MA, and Oxford: Blackwell.

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                                Emphasizes the range of perspectives to be found in the play, not just Ajax’s own.

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                                • Cairns, D. L. 2006. Virtue and vicissitude: The paradoxes of the Ajax. In Dionysalexandros. Essays on Aeschylus and his fellow tragedians in Honour of Alexander F. Garvie. Edited by D. Cairns and V. Liapis, 99–131. Swansea, UK: Classical Press of Wales.

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                                  Addresses the question of Ajax’s rehabilitation; assesses the importance of links between the play and epinician poetry.

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                                  • Finglass, P. J. 2012. Ajax. In Brill’s companion to Sophocles. Edited by A. Markantonatos, 59–72. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill.

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                                    Focuses on aspects of the play that give it unity.

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                                    • Garvie, A. F. 2016. The plays of Sophocles. 2d ed. London and New York: Bloomsbury.

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                                      Contains chapter on Ajax; gives Garvie’s views of the play, for which see also Garvie 1998 (cited under Editions and Commentaries), in a convenient format.

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                                      • Hesk, J. 2003. Sophocles: Ajax. Duckworth Companions to Greek and Roman Tragedy. London: Duckworth.

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                                        Stimulating introduction to the play for students and scholars alike; a particularly good volume from this series, and accessible to those without Greek.

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                                        • Morwood, J. 2008. The Tragedies of Sophocles. Exeter, UK: Bristol Phoenix.

                                          DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781904675716.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          Contains chapter on Ajax offering a lively discussion of the play aimed at non-specialists but certainly of interest to scholars and students.

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                                          • Poe, J. P. 1987. Genre and meaning in Sophocles’ Ajax. Beiträge zur klassischen Philologie 172. Frankfurt: Athenäum.

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                                            General analysis of the play; not as rewarding as its ambitious title might suggest.

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                                            • Reinhardt, K. 1947. Sophokles. Dritte Auflage. Frankfurt: Klostermann.

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                                              Contains chapter on Ajax; classic interpretation still worth reading, although dated in some respects. Translated by H. Harvey and D. Harvey as Sophocles (Oxford: Blackwell, 1979).

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                                              • Segal, C. P. 1995. Sophocles’ Tragic World. Divinity, Nature, Society. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                                                Chapter on Ajax explores the many perspectives on Ajax found in the play, and the interaction of the drama with epic tradition.

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                                                • Winnington-Ingram, R. P. 1980. Sophocles: An interpretation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                  DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511586194Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  Contains two chapters on Ajax; provides shrewd analysis that is sceptical of the “hero-worshipping” view of the protagonist, and also gives due weight to the concluding scenes.

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                                                  Staging

                                                  Ajax has more entrances and exits than any other Greek tragedy (see Ley 1988 for an account), and more problems of staging too (see Blume 2004 for an overview). The staging of the suicide scene is so controversial that it was the subject of a three-day conference, the articles from which are collected in Most and Ozbek 2015, the key work in this area; previous pieces on this subject include Scullion 1994, Heath and OKell 2007, and Gardiner 1979. The staging of the opening scene is discussed by Mastronarde 1990 and Pucci 1994; Meineck 2006 stresses the importance of modern stagings to interpret what went on in antiquity. Mueller 2016 is good on props.

                                                  • Blume, H. -D. 2004. The staging of Sophocles’ Aias. Mediterranean Archaeology 17:113–120.

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                                                    Discusses problems of staging throughout the play.

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                                                    • Gardiner, C. P. 1979. The staging of the death of Ajax. Classical Journal 75:10–14.

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                                                      Argues convincingly that Ajax kills himself inside the skene building, not in full view of the audience; explores the consequences of this for the rest of the staging.

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                                                      • Heath, M., and E. R. OKell. 2007. Sophocles’ Ajax: Expect the unexpected. Classical Quarterly n.s. 57:363–380.

                                                        DOI: 10.1017/S0009838807000456Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        Accepts Scullion’s thesis (Scullion 1994) and adventurously explores its consequences; argues that Ajax formed part of a connected trilogy.

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                                                        • Ley, G. 1988. A scenic plot of Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes. Eranos 86:85–115.

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                                                          Analysis of the staging of the play; includes an account of all exits and entrances in the drama.

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                                                          • Mastronarde, D. J. 1990. Actors on high: The skene roof, the crane, and the gods in Attic drama. Classical Antiquity 9:247–294.

                                                            DOI: 10.2307/25010931Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                            Essential for the first scene of the play and its staging; argues that Athena appears on a platform at the top of the skene building.

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                                                            • Meineck, P. W. 2006. Ancient drama illuminated by contemporary stagecraft: Some thoughts on the use of mask and ekkyklēma in Ariane Mnouchkine’s Le Dernier Caravansérail and Sophocles’ Ajax. American Journal of Philology 127:453–460.

                                                              DOI: 10.1353/ajp.2006.0041Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              Argues that consideration of the stagecraft of a contemporary work can help us better to appreciate the staging and interpretation of Sophocles’ Ajax.

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                                                              • Most, G. W., and L. Ozbek, eds. 2015. Staging Ajax’s suicide. Seminari e convegni 42. Pisa, Italy: Edizioni della Normale.

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                                                                Essential collection of essays by different scholars on how Ajax’s suicide was staged, the product of a conference available in full online, and the most important port of call for future study of what is perhaps the single most difficult question of the staging of classical tragedy.

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                                                                • Mueller, M. 2016. Objects as actors: Props and the poetics of performance in Greek tragedy. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

                                                                  DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226313009.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                  Emphasizes the importance of props in the play, notably Ajax’s shield and sword.

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                                                                  • Pucci, P. 1994. Gods’ intervention and epiphany in Sophocles. American Journal of Philology 115:15–46.

                                                                    DOI: 10.2307/295346Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    Considers the staging and significance of Athena’s intervention at the start of Ajax.

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                                                                    • Scullion, S. 1994. Three studies in Athenian dramaturgy. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde 25. Stuttgart and Leipzig: De Gruyter.

                                                                      DOI: 10.1515/9783110950533Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                      Chapter on Ajax argues that there is no change of scene and that Ajax’s suicide takes place in front of his hut.

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                                                                      Language and Narrative

                                                                      Book-length studies of tragic or Sophoclean language that include discussions of Ajax include Rutherford 2012, Long 1968, and Budelmann 2000. Articles and chapters that focus on the language of the play include Instone 2007, Jong 2006, and Lardinois 2006.

                                                                      • Budelmann, F. 2000. The language of Sophocles: Communality, communication and involvement. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                        Helpful general book on Sophocles and his language, focusing on characters, myth, gods, and the chorus.

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                                                                        • Instone, S. J. 2007. “Darkness, my light”: Enigmatic Ajax. In Hesperos: Studies in Ancient Greek Poetry Presented to M. L. West on his Seventieth Birthday. Edited by P. J. Finglass, C. Collard, and N. J. Richardson, 228–238. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199285686.003.0016Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          Examines how the language and action of the play blurs the distinction between life and death.

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                                                                          • Jong, I. J. F. de 2006. Where narratology meets stylistics: The seven versions of Ajax’ madness. In Sophocles and the Greek language: Aspects of diction, syntax, and pragmatics. Edited by I. J. F. de Jong and A. Rijksbaron, 73–93. Mnemosyne Supplement 269. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill.

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                                                                            Discusses how different characters describe Ajax’s madness in different ways and with different perspectives on the action.

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                                                                            • Lardinois, A. P. M. H. 2006. The polysemy of gnomic expressions and Ajax’ deception speech. In Sophocles and the Greek language. Aspects of diction, syntax and pragmatics. Edited by I. J. F. de Jong and A. Rijksbaron, 213–223. Mnemosyne Supplement 269. Leiden, The Netherlands and Boston: Brill.

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                                                                              An innovative approach to the deception speech, examining the part played within it of maxims and the multiple meanings that they can hold.

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                                                                              • Long, A. A. 1968. Language and thought in Sophocles: A study of abstract nouns and poetic technique. University of London Classical Studies 6. London: Athlone.

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                                                                                Still the best book dedicated to the language of Sophocles. The author puts his deep familiarity with poetic language to use in elucidating the tone, register, and meaning of words, phrases, and passages from throughout the play.

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                                                                                • Rutherford, R. B. 2012. Greek tragic style: Form, language and interpretation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511842771Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  Excellent close study of Sophocles’ language, including discussion of many passages from Ajax.

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                                                                                  Heroism and Ethics

                                                                                  March 1991–1993 takes a positive view of Ajax, regarding him as an uncomplicated hero. Other work tends to be more nuanced, with Easterling 1984 looking at how the implied comparison with Homer’s Hector has an effect on the audience’s view of Ajax as a hero, and Gasti 1992 noting his failure to follow values that contemporary society held dear; Knox 1961 is more positive toward Ajax, but nevertheless regards him as essentially out of kilter with contemporary Athenian values. The question of whether or not the play alludes to Ajax’s status as a cult hero in Athens in debated by Burian 1972, Henrichs 1993, and Currie 2012. Taplin 1979 offers an interesting argument about Ajax’s own sense of his place within the moral universe. Lawrence 2005 and Lawrence 2013 applies recent work on philosophical ethics to his analysis of the play.

                                                                                  • Burian, P. 1972. Supplication and hero cult in Sophocles’ Ajax. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 13:151–156.

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                                                                                    Argues that the supplication at Ajax’s body ordered by Teucer implies Ajax’s status as a recipient of hero cult.

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                                                                                    • Currie, B. 2012. Sophocles and hero cult. In A companion to Sophocles. Edited by K. Ormand, 331–348. Malden, MA, and Oxford: Blackwell.

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                                                                                      Argues that any reference in the play to Ajax’s hero cult is indistinct and indirect.

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                                                                                      • Easterling, P. E. 1984. The tragic Homer. Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 31:1–8.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.1111/j.2041-5370.1984.tb00524.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        A much-cited comparison of Ajax’s farewell to his son with Hector’s farewell to his in the Iliad.

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                                                                                        • Gasti, H. 1992. Sophocles’ Ajax: The military hybris. Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica n.s. 40:81–93.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/20547129Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          Argues that Ajax fails to live up to the cooperative values particularly appreciated in the age of hoplite warfare.

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                                                                                          • Henrichs, A. 1993. The tomb of Aias and the prospect of hero cult in Sophokles. Classical Antiquity 12:165–180.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.2307/25010992Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            Argues that the play alludes to the hero-cult offered to Ajax in contemporary Attica.

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                                                                                            • Knox, B. M. W. 1961. The Ajax of Sophocles. Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 65:1–37.

                                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/310832Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              A major study of the play, often admiring of Ajax, and yet also portraying him as not fitting the societal norms of the 5th century. Reprinted Word and Action. Essays on the Ancient Theatre (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1979), pp. 125–160.

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                                                                                              • Lawrence, S. 2005. Ancient ethics, the heroic code, and the morality of Sophocles’ Ajax. Greece and Rome 2d ser. 52:18–33.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1093/gromej/cxi007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Analyzes the play from the perspective of ancient ethical theory.

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                                                                                                • Lawrence, S. 2013. Moral Awareness in Greek Tragedy. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                  Chapter on Ajax contains further analysis of the morality of the play, in particular of Ajax as an ethical agent.

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                                                                                                  • March, J. R. 1991–1993. Sophocles’ Ajax: The death and burial of a hero. Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 38:1–36.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/j.2041-5370.1993.tb00700.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Takes an unflinchingly positive view of Ajax’s character and actions throughout the play.

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                                                                                                    • Taplin, O. 1979. Yielding to forethought: Sophocles’ Ajax. In Arktouros. Hellenic studies presented to Bernard M. W. Knox on the occasion of his 65th birthday. Edited by G. W. Bowersock, B. M. W. Knox, W. Burkert, and M. C. J. Putnam, 122–129. Berlin and New York: De Gruyter.

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                                                                                                      An analysis of Ajax’s deception speech which claims that it is not sarcastic, but rather shows that he has come to a new vision of the world.

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                                                                                                      Politics

                                                                                                      Kelly 2015 considers the reaction of the Athenians in the ancient audience of the play; Scodel 2003 connects the play with contemporary Athenian politics, Goldhill 1987 with the ceremonies put on in Athens at the Dionysia festival (although it is not certain that the play was performed at this festival). Scodel 2006 looks at the drama in the context of contemporary attitudes to ethnic identity, Barker 2004 and Bradshaw 1991 in the context of contemporary political values.

                                                                                                      • Barker, E. T. E. 2004. The fall-out from dissent: Hero and audience in Sophocles’ Ajax. Greece and Rome 2d ser. 51:1–20.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/gr/51.1.1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        Examines the place of dissent from authority within the drama and its positive and negative aspects, including how that dissent would be seen focalized through the lens of Athenian democratic traditions.

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                                                                                                        • Bradshaw, D. J. 1991. The Ajax myth and the polis: Old values and new. In Myth and the polis. Edited by D. C. Pozzi and J. M. Wickersham, 99–125. Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                          Considers to what extent the values represented by Ajax would have been appreciated by the contemporary Athenian audience.

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                                                                                                          • Goldhill, S. 1987. The Great Dionysia and civic ideology. Journal of Hellenic Studies 107:58–76.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.2307/630070Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            Much-cited article on the importance of Athenian democratic ideology for the understanding of tragedy; analyzes in particular the significance of the pre-play ceremonies for the performance of Ajax at the Dionysia festival.

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                                                                                                            • Goldhill, S. 1990. The Great Dionysia and civic ideology. In Nothing to do with Dionysos? Athenian drama in its social context. Edited by J. J. Winkler and F. I. Zeitlin, 97–129. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                              Revised version of Goldhill 1987.

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                                                                                                              • Kelly, A. 2015. Aias in Athens. The worlds of the play and the audience. Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica n.s. 111:61–92.

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                                                                                                                Investigates what Athenians in the ancient audience would have made of the play.

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                                                                                                                • Scodel, R. 2003. The politics of Sophocles’ Ajax. Studia Classica Israelica 32:31–42.

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                                                                                                                  Sees a close link between Ajax and contemporary Athenian politics of the mid-5th century.

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                                                                                                                  • Scodel, R. 2006. Aetiology, autochthony, and Athenian identity in Ajax and Oedipus Coloneus. In Greek Drama III. Essays in Honour of Kevin Lee. Edited by J. Davidson, F. Muecke, and P. Wilson, 65–78. Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies Supplement 87. London: Institute of Classical Studies.

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                                                                                                                    Examines questions of Greek ethnic identity raised within the play: the chorus as Salaminian and Athenian, Ajax as an Aeacid, Teucer as a Greek or barbarian.

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                                                                                                                    Imagery

                                                                                                                    Different aspects of the imagery of the play are discussed by these articles: Biggs 1966 on the imagery of disease, Buxton 2006 on the white horses of day from Ajax’s deception speech; Taddei 2003 on the blood that clings to the hands of Ajax; and Golder 1990 on imagery more generally.

                                                                                                                    • Biggs, P. 1966. The disease theme in Sophocles’ Ajax, Philoctetes and Trachiniae. Classical Philology 61:223–235.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1086/365154Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      Analyzes the contribution of disease language and imagery to the overall effect of the play.

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                                                                                                                      • Buxton, R. G. A. 2006. Weapons and white horses: The language of Ajax. In Sophocles and the Greek language. Aspects of diction, syntax and pragmatics. Edited by I. J. F. de Jong and A. Rijksbaron, 13–23. Mnemosyne Supplement 269. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill.

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                                                                                                                        Takes an innovative approach to Ajax’s deception speech that looks at the impact of its imagery.

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                                                                                                                        • Golder, H. 1990. Sophocles’ Ajax: Beyond the shadow of time. Arion 3d ser. 1:9–34.

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                                                                                                                          Engagingly written account of the play that looks at previous versions of the myth, imagery, and characterization.

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                                                                                                                          • Taddei, A. 2003. Le colpevoli mani di Aiace. In Tradizione testuale e ricezione letteraria antica della tragedia greca. Atti del convegno Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa 14–15 giugno 2002. Edited by L. Battezzato, 129–148. Amsterdam: Hakkert.

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                                                                                                                            Analyzes the frequent references in the play to Ajax’s bloody hands which establish his status as a murderer.

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                                                                                                                            Visual Arts

                                                                                                                            An overview of the myth of Ajax in the visual arts is provided by Touchefeu 1981, to which Jenkins 2002 is a possible supplement; Davies 1973, Davies 1985, and Golder 1992 all read Sophocles’ play alongside particular images of the myth to be found on vases.

                                                                                                                            • Davies, M. I. 1973. Ajax and Tekmessa: A cup by the Brygos Painter in the Bareiss Collection. Antike Kunst 16:60–70.

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                                                                                                                              Publication of a vase showing the covering by a woman with a piece of cloth of a man’s body, pierced through by a sword; dating to the first quarter of the 5th century, this image anticipates a key event of Sophocles’ Ajax.

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                                                                                                                              • Davies, M. I. 1985. Ajax at the bourne of life. In ΕΙΔΩΛΟΠΟΙΙΑ. Actes du Colloque sur les problèmes de l’image dans le monde méditerranéen classique. Château de Lourmarin en Provence: 2–3 septembre 1982. Edited by H. Metzger, 83–117. Archaeologica 61. Rome: Giorgio Bretschneider.

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                                                                                                                                Compares Ajax’s suicide speech with vases showing the warrior moments before he kills himself.

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                                                                                                                                • Golder, H. 1992. Visual meaning in Greek drama: Sophocles’ Ajax and the art of dying. In Advances in nonverbal communication. Sociocultural, clinical, esthetic and literary perspectives. Edited by F. Poyatos, 323–360. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: J. Benjamins.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1075/z.60.28golSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  Looks at Sophocles’ account of the myth in the context of previous depictions of the myth in art.

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                                                                                                                                  • Jenkins, I. 2002. The earliest representation in Greek art of the death of Ajax. In Essays in honor of Dietrich von Bothmer. Edited by A. J. Clark and J. Gaunt, 153–156. Allard Pierson Series 14. Amsterdam: Allard Pierson.

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                                                                                                                                    Argues that Ajax is depicted in a bronze statuette from the last quarter of the 8th century (see plate 41), which would be the earliest representation of the myth in visual art or literature; far from a convincing hypothesis, however.

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                                                                                                                                    • Touchefeu, O. 1981. Aias I. Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae 1.1 312–336. Zurich, Switzerland, and Munich: Artemis

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                                                                                                                                      A complete account (down to the date of publication) of depictions of the Ajax myth in visual art; essential for understanding the varieties of the myth known up to Sophocles’ time.

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                                                                                                                                      The Gods

                                                                                                                                      The mysterious nature and purposes of the gods in Ajax is brought out in different ways by Parker 1999, Wigodsky 1962, and Erp Taalman Kip 2007.

                                                                                                                                      • Erp Taalman Kip, A. M. van. 2007. Athena’s one-day limit in Sophocles’ Aias. Mnemosyne 4th ser. 60:464–471.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1163/156852507X169663Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        Analyzes different explanations proposed by scholars for the mysterious statements in the play that Athena’s anger will pursue Ajax for one day alone.

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                                                                                                                                        • Parker, R. 1999. Through a glass darkly: Sophocles and the divine. In Sophocles Revisited: Essays Presented to Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones. 11–30.

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                                                                                                                                          Analyzes the place of divine action with this play (and others), and the sometimes faulty perspectives that mortals have of that action.

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                                                                                                                                          • Wigodsky, M. M. 1962. The “salvation” of Ajax. Hermes 90:149–158.

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                                                                                                                                            Argues from different characters’ statements throughout the play that the gods acknowledge Ajax both as a criminal and as a great man.

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                                                                                                                                            Other Characters and the Chorus

                                                                                                                                            Ajax himself has tended to dominate discussion of the play that bears his name, but there has been some interest in other figures too. The chorus has received attention from Gardiner 1987 and Burton 1980; more recently, aspects of the presentation of Tecmessa have been out under the spotlight by Ormand 1996 (a prize-winning article), Finglass 2009a, and Finglass 2009b.

                                                                                                                                            • Burton, R. W. B. 1980. The chorus in Sophocles’ tragedies. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                                                                                                                                              Chapter on Ajax offers a stimulating discussion of the role of the chorus in the drama.

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                                                                                                                                              • Finglass, P. J. 2009a. Sophocles’ Tecmessa: Characterisation and textual criticism. Eikasmos 20:85–96.

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                                                                                                                                                Analyzes three textual points, all of which have consequences for the portrayal of Tecmessa in the drama; looks at how previous scholars’ ungrounded assumptions about that character have led them to favor poor textual choices.

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                                                                                                                                                • Finglass, P. J. 2009b. Unveiling Tecmessa. Mnemosyne 4th ser. 62:272–282.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1163/156852508X321194Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  Picks up a hint in Garvie 1998 (cited under Editions and Commentaries) to argue that Tecmessa may have covered Ajax’s body with her veil, and explores the significance of such an action.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Gardiner, C. P. 1987. The Sophoclean chorus: A study of character and function. Iowa City: Univ. of Iowa Press.

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                                                                                                                                                    The most recent detailed account of the function of the chorus in Ajax; generally emphasizes the simple, direct nature of their perspective on Ajax, and argues that the audience will have had a more nuanced one.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Ormand, K. 1996. Silent by convention? Sophocles’ Tekmessa. American Journal of Philology 117:37–64.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1353/ajp.1996.0017Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      Argues that Tecmessa’s falling silent part-way through the play results from her newly asserted status as Ajax’s widow, in that she now follows the conventions that governed the lives of Athenian citizen women. Largely reprinted Exchange and the Maiden: Marriage in Sophoclean Tragedy (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1999), pp. 104–123.

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