Sophocle's Ajax is a mighty Greek warrior in the time of the Trojan war, second only to Achilles in "perfect prowess" (Sophocles, Ajax 1415). His wife is "spear-won", and his entire presence on stage is marked by Hector's bloody sword, a room-full of "sword-slain cattle", or his "self-dealt wound". After Achilles' death, a competition is set up between him and Odysseus over who will inherit Achilles' armor, symbolizing the inheritance of the latter's prized status. When the Atreidae decide that Odysseus should get the armor, instead of humbly accepting the judges' decision, Ajax's pride over his power and valor spurs him in revenge against Agamemnon and Menelaus, a wild act that is only thwarted by the duplicitous intervention of Athena, the patron goddess of Odysseus. She drives Ajax mad and instead of massacring the Atreidae, he slaughters cattle instead. The double humiliation and the rancor that he has stirred up in the Greek camp against him drive him to commit suicide.
Ajax's actions-both the madness-inducing revenge, and his suicide-show not only a lack of wisdom but selfish pride in his lust for power. ...Show more