Chapter

<i>Ajax</i>: moral certainty

Lauren J. Apfel

in The Advent of Pluralism

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199600625
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191724985 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199600625.003.0007

Series: Oxford Classical Monographs

Ajax: moral certainty

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This chapter turns attention towards Sophocles' Ajax, particularly in light of Homeric precedents. It argues that Ajax personifies a strong link between heroism and the monistic style of decision‐making that is typical of the Iliad. More than that, Ajax is an exaggerated form of the Iliadic hero, one who gives even less credence to conflicting considerations when presented with a dilemma and experiences even less regret or loss as a result. Sophocles' entire portrait of Ajax, including the deception speech, works to illustrate the supreme moral certainty that drives the choices the hero makes. This certainty, it is contended, is in large part the root of his tragedy. The chapter then discusses the relationship between Ajax and Odysseus. While Ajax is not a play that hinges on a moral clash between characters, this inchoate ethical disagreement harks back in an important way to the Homeric division between Achilles and Odysseus and is, in the last analysis, incommensurable.

Keywords: Ajax; Iliadic hero; Homer; monism; heroism; dilemma; deception speech; Odysseus; Achilles

Chapter.  14770 words. 

Subjects: Classical Philosophy

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