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Entering the AgonDissent and Authority in Homer, Historiography, and Tragedy$
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Elton T. E. Barker

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199542710

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199542710.001.0001

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Speaking back in Sophocles' Ajax

Speaking back in Sophocles' Ajax

(p.281) 5 Speaking back in Sophocles' Ajax
Entering the Agon

Elton T.E. Barker (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter tackles head-on the problem of the double agon in the play's second half, as Teucer and the Atreidae argue over Ajax's body, and interprets it as part of a strategy that emphasizes spectating and speaking back. Points of contact with the Iliad demonstrate this shift in perspective from the hero to those looking on, as first Odysseus is installed as a spectator of Ajax's Achilles-like dialogue with Athena, Ajax's men articulate their concerns, and Tecmessa, though only a slave, speaks back like an Andromache. This process culminates in Teucer's defence in the agon, as Sophocles stages a battle of words not for Achilles' arms, but for Ajax's memory. In this the Chorus play a key role by turning to Odysseus, showing their progress from dependants to autonomous subjects in the agon and prefiguring the role of the Athenian audience, as judges within a fully realized institutional arena.

Keywords:   agon, Teucer, Ajax, Iliad, audience, Chorus, speaking back, institutional, Sophocles

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