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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Suicide of Ajax in the Homonymous Tragedy of Sophocles

In his tragedy Ajax Sophocles outlines the psychological portrait of the tragic hero and stresses the internal procedures that lead him to take his own life. The character of Ajax is depicted rigorous and strict with a supercilious, excessive appreciation of his won heroism that reaches impudence and arrogance. Ajax identifies himself with the behavioral model of valor and heroism that the figure of his severe but glorified father represents. He will not dare to stand before his father before he himself would accomplish the heroic deeds of his model. The supercilious self-esteem of Ajax and his rigid and arrogant nature suggest a narcissistic pathology, which is connected with an equally pathological “ideal Ego” that displays unfeasible or excessive ambitions as well as compulsive feelings of disgrace and makes man unable to face the consequences of his actions and the criticism of others. Ajax’s reaction to the outcome of the “crisis of arms” will reveal the susceptibility of his character. The course of the play follows the route of the psychical clashes of Ajax. The shame, humiliation and insult he feels because of the outcome of the “crisis of arms” cause a strong narcissistic trauma that leads the hero to revenge in order to restore his haughty self-appreciation. Driven by his narcissistic furor (with the intervention of the goddess Athena, according to Sophocles), he switches to a situation of “madness” and dispatches the cattle of the Achaeans in an illusion that he slaughters his hateful enemies. Regaining the perspicacity of his conscious of his nature that he is unable to change and thus he commits suicide in a desperate effort to restore his pathological insolence. Ajax takes his own life, since disgrace has deprived him of honor, the major reason of his existence.