Literature Study GuidesAjaxCharacter Analysis

Ajax | Study Guide

Sophocles

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Course Hero, "Ajax Study Guide," August 24, 2020, accessed September 27, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Ajax/.

Ajax | Character Analysis

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Ajax

Ajax was a hero from Greek mythology. He was considered second only to the hero Achilles and is very proud of his status. As the strongest warrior following Achilles's death Ajax expects to be awarded the panoply (armor) of Achilles. When the armor is given to his rival Odysseus, Ajax is furious and plans to get revenge. He leaves his tent in the night intent on killing Odysseus and the two chiefs Agamemnon and Menelaus. Instead he is tricked by Athena who drives him crazy, and he slaughters the captured livestock thinking them to be his enemy. He is being punished by Athena for his pride. Instead of graciously accepting Athena's help in battle, he had turned the goddess away, his pride rising too high for a mortal. Ajax comes to his senses following the slaughter. He is distraught and cannot see a way to live past his shame. Despite his wife and soldiers begging him to see reason, he thinks only of ways to die honorably. Ajax commits suicide by falling on his sword. He takes bitter irony in the fact that the sword was gifted to him by his enemy Hector. Ajax bemoans his own name which means "sigh" in Greek. Even after his death Ajax is still angry and will not speak to Odysseus.

Tecmessa

Tecmessa was a princess from a territory conquered by the Greeks. She was given to Ajax following the battle. She cares for Ajax who has treated her kindly, and when Ajax goes mad she fears for her son Eurysaces. She worries about her son, sending him away to keep him safe. When Tecmessa hears Ajax begging for death following his madness she pleads that he consider her fate and Eurysaces fate if he dies. She is distraught on finding Ajax's dead body and covers him so that no one else sees him dead and bloody.

Teucer

Teucer is the half-brother of Ajax. He is a mythical hero and legendary archer from Greek mythology. Teucer is away when Ajax goes mad. He is afraid for his brother and hurries back after hearing a prophecy about Ajax's death. He returns too late to stop the prophecy from coming true. He is distraught and laments his brother's fate. Teucer is stubborn and argues with Menelaus and Agamemnon that Ajax should be given a proper burial. He refuses to stand down even when threatened. Teucer argues for his brother's character and deeds until he is finally allowed to give Ajax a burial.

Athena

Athena is the goddess of wisdom and values wisdom over power or strength. She favors Odysseus for his wisdom and is slighted by Ajax during the Trojan war when Ajax refuses her help. Ajax flies into a rage after losing Achilles's panoply (armor) to Odysseus and Athena sees this as a chance to get her revenge on Ajax. She drives him to madness so that he slaughters the entire captured flock and disgraces himself. She then flaunts her power to Odysseus by bringing the mad Ajax out in front of him. Pretending to be his ally, she gets Ajax to explain his plan to kill the captured oxen that he believes to be Odysseus. Though wise, she is also ruthless and she encourages Odysseus to mock Ajax in his downfall.

Odysseus

Odysseus wins the panoply (armor) of Achilles after Achilles is killed in battle. He wins it through a competition with Ajax. When he hears that Ajax has gone mad over the panoply Odysseus investigates the rumor by tracking Ajax to his tent. Odysseus respects Athena on hearing her voice outside Ajax's tent. Odysseus shows his wisdom by refusing to mock Ajax even though Athena encourages him to. When the Greek chiefs Agamemnon and Menelaus try to prevent Ajax's funeral Odysseus stands up for Ajax. Odysseus argues for Ajax's achievements as a hero. He even offers to take part in Ajax's funeral. His wisdom and valor prove him the ideal hero to receive Achilles's panoply despite Ajax's beliefs.

The leader

The leader is a loyal subject of Salamis, where Ajax comes from. The leader is shocked to hear of Ajax's madness and worries about the impact it will have on the Salaminians. The leader tries to get Ajax to see reason when Ajax is distraught. The leader argues with Menelaus and Agamemnon to convince them to let Ajax have a proper burial.

Menelaus

Menelaus helps vote on who gets the panoply (armor) of Achilles. Because Odysseus is chosen over Ajax, he is one of the subjects of Ajax's wrath. Menelaus is angry at Ajax's behavior and betrayal. He argues that Ajax sets a bad example. Subjects must be loyal to him. He refuses to let Ajax have a proper burial, and is accused of disrespecting the dead.

Agamemnon

Agamemnon is the subject of Ajax's rage when he helps vote for Odysseus to win the Panoply of Achilles. He is angry at Ajax for defying him and plotting to kill him. He argues with Teucer that Ajax should not be buried, supporting Menelaus's argument. Odysseus stands up for Ajax and urges Agamemnon to let the funeral proceed. Agamemnon relents because of his friendship with Odysseus, but to appease his pride he informs Odysseus that it be known that Ajax is buried under Odysseus's decision alone.

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