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The Advent of PluralismDiversity and Conflict in the Age of Sophocles$
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Lauren J. Apfel

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199600625

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199600625.001.0001

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Ajax: moral certainty

Ajax: moral certainty

Chapter:
(p.240) VII Ajax: moral certainty
Source:
The Advent of Pluralism
Author(s):

Lauren J. Apfel

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199600625.003.0007

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

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