Sophocles’ Ajax: The Struggle Over the Corpse
The end of the Ajax is a rhetorical battle over the corpse of Ajax, and, though it is a war of words, it is no less serious than the Homeric conflicts over the battle and armour of a fallen hero. The basic antagonists are three: Teucer, the two Atridae (who make much the same argument, though Agamemnon is more reasonable, perhaps because he is dealing with Odysseus), and Odysseus.
Rather than summarize the scene, I'd like to leave it up to the readers to give their response to the following questions:
First, what is the nub of each set of arguments. Try to decide which points are fairly made and which unfair or off target. Let us start with Teucer, then proceed to Menelaus, then Agamemnon, and then Odysseus. In explaining the arguments, try to see what they tell us of the arguer. What sort of a man is Teucer? How is he different from the Atridae (and from his half-brother)? What are his basic concerns? On what principles does he rest his case?