CL106/EN106 Week 9:


1. Sophocles, Ajax:


Note: After Achilles' death the Greeks, having decided to award the hero's arms to the best of the Achaeans after him, voted to give them to Odysseus. Ajax (Aias) was upset by this award (to put it mildly) because he believed that he, and not Odysseus, deserved Achilles' arms. Teucer, Ajax' brother, is a bastard, and so lacks status in the army.


a. What exactly did Ajax do just before the play began? What did he try to do? How acceptable is either behavior?

b. Why does Athena treat Ajax the way she does?

c. What is Ajax like? In what ways is he admirable? In what ways not?

d. What is the function of Tecmessa in the play?

e. What do you make of the deceptive speech Ajax delivers before he kills himself?

f. Does Ajax deserve to be buried with due honors? Or should he be exposed to the scavaging animals as a traitor?

g. What is Odysseus like? What in the play makes you say this?

h. What is the play about?

i. Since Ajax dies just about half way through the play, how is the second part of the play also about him? In what way(s) do the two parts of the pay form a unified whole?

j. What is Sophocles' attitude to the events he portrays on the stage? How can you tell?



2. Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannos:


a. Beyond the narrative of Oedipus' self-discovery and blinding, what, if anything, is this play about?

b.What is Oedipus like in terms of both character and personality?

c. Compare Oedipus in this play with Ajax in the Ajax.

d. What is Sophocles' attitude toward the events he portrays on stage? How can you tell?

e. To judge from the Ajax and the Oedipus, how are Sophocles' plays different from those of Aeschylus?