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Pages (PDF): 74
Publication Date: 440 BC
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Sophocles's Ajax is a Greek tragedy written in the 5th century BC. The date of Ajax's first performance is unknown and may never be found, but most scholars regard it as an early work, circa 450 - 430 B.C. It chronicles the fate of the warrior Ajax after the events of the Iliad, but before the end of the Trojan War.
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Before the tent of AJAX in the Greek camp at Troy. It is dawn. ODYSSEUS is discovered examining the ground before the tent. ATHENA appears from above.
ATHENA: Son of Laertes, ever do I behold thee
Scheming to snatch some vantage o'er thy foes.
And now among the tents that guard the ships
Of Ajax, camped at the army's outmost verge,
Long have I watched thee hunting in his trail,
And scanning his fresh prints, to learn if now
He be within or forth. Skilled in the chase
Thou seemest, as a keen-nosed Spartan hound.
For the man but now has passed within, his face
And slaughterous hands streaming with sweat and blood.
No further need for thee to peer about
Inside these doors. But say what eager quest
Is thine, that I who know may give thee light.
ODYSSEUS: Voice of Athena, dearest of Gods to me,
How clearly, though thou be invisible,
Do I hear thy call, and seize it with my soul,
As when a bronze-mouthed Tyrrhene trumpet sounds!
Rightly thou judgest that on a foe's trail,
Broad-shielded Ajax, I range to and fro.
Him, and no other, I have long been tracking.
This very night against us he has wrought
A deed incredible, if in truth 'tis he.
For we know nothing sure, but drift in doubt.
Gladly I assumed the burden of this task.
For not long since we found that our whole spoil
Had been destroyed, both herds and flocks, slaughtered
By some man's hand, their guardians dead beside them.
Now 'tis on him that all men lay this guilt:
And a scout who had seen him swiftly bounding
Across the plain alone with reeking sword,
Informed me and bore witness. I forthwith,
Darting in hot chase, now pick out his tracks,
But now, bewildered, know not whose they are.
Timely thou comest. As in past days, so
In days to come I am guided by thy hand.