Hailey’s Response to Question #6

In the final words of Ajax, the chorus claims that “No man before the event can see /Nor what ends wait for him.” The chorus believes that Ajax’s downfall and the events of the play are mainly due to chance. Throughout the play, the chorus has been relentlessly fond of Ajax; it is for this reason that they do not wish to blame Ajax’s fate on his character, but instead on his inability to avoid his own fate. Additionally, the chorus is (understandably) in shock. They don’t know what to think or how to explain the events that just transpired. In their confusion, they prefer to blame the tragic end of their beloved Ajax on chance rather than analyzing what truly transpired. In the opinion of the chorus, he was forced to face dishonor and disgrace due to chance rather than his own character flaws.

But Sophocles did not intend for this play to be about chance; it is a plot that is defined by character. Ajax carefully planned his own suicide; his death was not accidental or rushed. Referring to the sword that Hector gave him due to their guest friendship, Ajax says “And last, I’ve propped it, so, with careful handling, / to help me soon and kindly to my death. / This preparation I have made” (821-823). Ajax consciously decided his own tragic end; it was his flaws in character that led him to commit this desperate act. In his death, Ajax tries to save a part of his former self. Earlier in the play, Ajax stated “Let a man live or nobly die” (479). Since Ajax brutally committed treacherous acts out of revenge and hostility, he destroyed his own virtue and honor. He allowed anger to consume him, so he sees death as the only way to preserve his former heroic self. His conscious preparations for his suicide, the madness that (in part) grows out of his rage, and his refusal to listen to the pleas of the Chorus and Tecmussa show that it is Ajax’s character, not mere chance, that determine the outcome of this play.