Sophocles

AJAX

1.
AJAX
:
Bring him into my arms ... No son of mine, I hope,
Is frightened by the sight of fresh-drawn blood.
It’ll soon be time to break him in and train him
In the hard school of life where his father learnt. My son
5 May you be everything your father was,
But less unfortunate. Then you will do well.
I would give much to be in your place now,
Seeing this trouble and not understanding
All that it means. There is no time of life
10 So happy as the days of innocence
Before you know what joy or sorrow are.
But when you come to know it, then my son,
See that your enemies know whose son you are
.....................................................................................
.............................................. My armour -
15 Tell Teucer this - is not for any umpire
(and least of all that enemy of mine)
To parcel out among the Greeks. Look, son;
This broad shield bears your name, EURYSACES -
Seven thicknesses, proof against any spear -
20.................. Learn how to hold it ...
There ... it is yours. But all my other weapons
I will have with me in the grave...

i) What is the situation here?
[5 marks]

ii) In Lines 1-13, what aspects of the Heroic Code are revealed in Ajax’s words?

[10 marks]

iii) Explain what Ajax means in Lines 15 -end.

[10 marks]

2.
Menelaus:
We brought this man from Greece, thinking we brought
An ally and a friend to Greeks; instead
What did we find him? A more dangerous foe
Than any Trojan; plotting the sheer destruction
5 Of all our army, stealing a march on us
At dead of night, to put us all to the sword
............................ That is why
We say that no man alive shall have the power
To put this body in a grave ..................................
10 We couldn’t rule him while he lived; but dead,
Say what you will, we’ll keep him in subjection
Under our hands; he never in his life
Obeyed a word of mine. When common men
Dare to defy the powers set over them,
15 They show their evil nature. There is no law
In a city where there is no fear, no order
In any camp that is not fenced about
With discipline and respect. The strongest man
Must be prepared to fall, it may be, at a touch
20 Of small mischance. In fear and modesty
He has the surest shield; where licence reigns
And insolence, the ship of state is doomed
............................................to disaster. Fear, I say,
should have its proper place........................
25 And this I warn you: take no hand or part
In burying him; for if you do, your grave
Will soon be ready for you.

i) Explain the situation here.
[5 marks]

ii) What arguments does Menelaus use for enforcing his authority and instructions?

[10 marks]

iii) How convincing are the counter arguments which are brought by Teucer against Menelaus?

[10 marks]

Essay Questions

1. “The play just peters out.” Do you agree?
2. Does Ajax deserve his fate?
3. How different is Sophocles’ Ajax to the Iliadic hero of the same name?
4. "The play plots the fall from grace of a great man. Discuss.
5. What parallels can you find between the characters and situations in the Ajax and other texts you have studied?

David Swift