Ajax (AY-jaks), the son of Telamon and, excepting Achilles, the strongest and bravest of the Greeks who fought to win Troy. After Achilles was killed, his armor was claimed both by Ajax and by Odysseus; on the testimony of Trojan prisoners that Odysseus had been the more formidable foe, the Greeks awarded the coveted armor to him. Enraged and envious, Ajax left his tent by night, stealthily, to kill not only Odysseus but Agamemnon and Menelaus as well. The goddess Athena cast a madness upon him so that, thinking them Greek leaders, he massacred the flocks and herds. The play begins when Ajax is at the height of his delirium. After the fit has passed, he is seen to be immoderate and proud, but at the same time he commands sympathy not only because of his greatness of spirit but also because he has been, however deservedly, the victim of Athena’s terrible wrath. His magnificent sense of personal honor demands that his scheme be eradicated by suicide, an action he carries out in spite of the pleas of Tecmessa and the Chorus. He is a man of such colossal inner strength, nobility, and self-sufficiency that he is not only alienated from his fellow men but also brought into conflict with the gods themselves.
Odysseus (oh-DIH-see-uhs), a resourceful leader of the Greeks at Troy. Ingenious in action and skillful in speech, he is a foil to Ajax. Whereas...
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