Sophocles explores the tension between free will and destiny/fate in Ajax and Philoctetes with prophecy and seemingly independent action. In Ajax, Calchas predicts what will happen if the eponymous character is granted the freedom to depart from his tent. According to Calchas, Ajax will die if such a thing happens. Sure enough, Ajax absconds from his tent and kills himself. Ajax’s death touches on free will and fate. Due to Calchas, one can say that it was destiny for Ajax to die. One can also argue that Ajax, as a distinct being, could’ve made a different choice. The unsteady relationship between predetermined outcomes and human will creates tension in Ajax.
In Philoctetes, fate and free will are evinced near the end of the play when the eponymous character opts to go to Troy. On the one hand, Philoctetes himself decides to go to Troy. Conversely, Philoctetes goes to Troy because of the prophecy. Supposedly, if Philoctetes travels to Troy, his health will recover and he will earn some acclaim. As with the character of Ajax, the character of Philoctetes is propelled by a dichotomous mix of free will and foreordination, which results in tension.