Ajax tells the story of the great Greek general during the Trojan War, who, deprived of the recognition due to him, goes insane and commits suicide.
Prior to the beginning of the play, Ajax is enraged because his cousin Achilles' armor was awarded to Odysseus, rather than to him. He vows to kill the Greek leaders who disgraced him. Before he can enact his extraordinary revenge, though, he is tricked by the goddess Athena into believing that the sheep and cattle that were taken by the Achaeans as spoil are the Greek leaders. He slaughters some of them, and takes the others back to his home to torture, including a ram which he believes to be his main rival, Odysseus.
Ajax realizes what he has done and is in agony over his actions. Ajax’s pain is not because of his wish to kill Agamemnon and Odysseus. He is extremely upset that Athena fooled him and is sure that the other Greek warriors are laughing at him. Ajax contemplates ending his life due to his shame. His concubine, Tecmessa, pleads for him not to leave her and her child unprotected. Ajax then gives his son, Eurysakes, his shield. Ajax leaves the house saying that he is going out to purify himself and bury the sword given to him by Hector. Teucer, Ajax’s brother, arrives in the Greek camp to taunting from his fellow soldiers. Kalchas warns that Ajax should not be allowed to leave his tent until the end of the day or he will die. Teucer sends a messenger to Ajax’s campsite with word of Kalchas’ prophecy. Tecmessa and soldiers try to track him down, but are too late. Ajax had indeed buried the sword, but has left the blade sticking out of the ground and has impaled himself upon it.
Sophocles lets us hear the speech Ajax gives immediately before his suicide (which, unlike in most Greek tragedies, where action and death are reported, is called for to take place onstage), in which he calls for vengeance against the sons of Atreus (Menelaus and Agamemnon) and the whole Greek army. Ajax also wishes for the first to find his body to be Teucer, so that he is not found by an enemy and his body left without a proper burial. Tecmessa is the first to discover Ajax impaled on his sword, with Teucer arriving shortly after. He orders that Eurysakes be brought to him so that he will be safe from Ajax’s foes. Menelaus appears on the scene and orders the body not to be moved.
The last part of the play revolves around the dispute over what to do with Ajax's body. Ajax's half brother Teucer intends on burying him despite the demands of Menelaus and Agamemnon that the corpse is not to be buried. Odysseus, although previously Ajax's enemy, steps in and persuades them to allow Ajax a proper funeral by pointing out that even one's enemies deserve respect in death, if they were noble. The play ends with Teucer making arrangements for the burial (which is to take place without Odysseus, out of respect for Ajax).
About the Company: American Theatre of Actors
The American Theatre of Actors was founded in 1976 by James Jennings, who continues as its President and Artistic Director. It is a repertory theatre company consisting of 50 actors, 20 playwrights and 10 directors. Its purpose is to promote the development of new playwrights, directors and actors and provide them a creative atmosphere in which to work without the pressures of commerical theatre. The plays are dramas and comedies dealing with the social and ethical problems of contemporary society. Over 800 new works have been presented and more than 8000 actors have worked at ATA, including Dennis Quaid, Bruce Willis, Danny Aiello, Dan Lauria, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin O'Connor, Kevin Spacey, William Fichtner and Edie Falco.
May 25-28 at 8 PM; May 29 at 3 PM.:
Theater: American Theatre Of Actors
Address: 314 West 54th Street
New York, NY 10019
|Cost:$15.00 or Call: at 212 581 3044|