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Aias (Greek Tragedy in New Translations) Paperback – May 6, 1999

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Product Details

  • Series: Greek Tragedy in New Translations
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (May 6, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195128192
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195128192
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.2 x 5.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #472,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Following E.F. Watling's 1953 translation of Ajax (Penguin), this new translation in free-flowing sprung rhythm by poet Pevear is a jewel for modern English readers. The scholarly critical introduction by Golder (classics, Boston Univ.) provides an excellent background and analysis of this tragedy, which was written around 450 B.C.E. When Aias, the most valiant Greek hero, discovers that dead Achilles' armor has been awarded by his comrades to his hated rival, Odysseus, he goes mad with jealousy and takes his own life. The suicide of the hero and the judgment of his family, friends, and enemies are the central theme. Chorus and soliloquy are used effectively to dramatize the progression of the plot and the mental state of the tragic hero. Stage directions are sparse. The numbered text, notes, and a glossary of geographical and mythical terms are helpful. Recommended for all academic and public libraries.AMing-ming Shen Kuo, Ball State Univ. Lib., Muncie, IN
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"This book is a brilliant addition to a distinguished series. For the long iambic lines so often used to represent the meter of the original, Richard Pevear substitutes a sprung rhythm--three stressed syllables per line. The result is a great success, an easily speakable version....Herbert Golder's eloquent and incisive analysis of the play locates the controversial figure of Aias in the political and intellectual context of the Athenian fifth century and also explores those aspects of his character that make him unique among the Sophoclean tragic heroes."--Bernard Knox

"The beauty and power of this clear, clean version cannot be denied....poet Richard Pevear, writing in a style reminiscent of the spare, stoic, puritan power of Robert Lowell's famous translations, makes the work sing."--Booklist

"A jewel for modern English readers. The scholarly critical introduction by Golder provides an excellent background and analysis of this tragedy."--Library Journal

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
I have always thought of the character of Ajax from the Trojan War to be the prototype of the "dumb jock" stereotype. Next to Achilles he was the best of the Achean warriors, but Ajax was deeply flawed in that he was stubborn and egotistical. I think his intelligence is further called into question by the myth regarding his death, which is the subject of this play by Sophocles. After the death of Achilles it is decided his glorious armor, forged by Hephaestus, will be given to the worthiest of the chieftains. Ajax expects the prize to come to him, but instead the other chieftains vote to give it to "wily" Odysseus. The inference to be drawn is that craftiness and intelligence are to be prize more than brute strength, which is why I tend to identify Odysseus and Ajax with that distinction between brains and brawn. Enraged by this slight, Ajax decides to kill Odysseus and the other chieftains who have slighted him, but Athena clouds his sight and he thinks the camp's livestock are his intended victims. When he comes to his senses, butchering a sheep he thought was Odysseus, Ajax is humiliated to the point he chooses to kill himself. The climax of this play, the oldest of the seven surviving plays written by Sophocles, is not the suicide of Ajax but rather a debate amongst the Achean leaders as to whether or not Ajax should be buried.

The issue central to the play "Ajax" is whether the title character should or should not be considered a true hero by the Greek audience attending the play. Homer, of course, has nothing to say regarding Ajax's fate in the "Iliad," although in the "Odyssey" when Odysseus encounters the shade of Ajax, the dead hero refuses to speak and turns away. However, in his telling of the tale Sophocles adds an important element to the suicide of Ajax.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Graham Henderson on March 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
"A brilliant addition to a distinguished series". That's what Bernard Knox said, and I couldn't agree more. I think most of us who love the classics will agree that if Knox says it is good, he can be taken at his word!
This translation is by a somewhat unlikely team. I knew Richard Pevear for his stunning, that is the only word for it, translations of great Russian masterworks such as The Idiot, The Demons, The Brothers Karamazov, Anna Karenina and the Master Margarita. These superb translations were undertaken with his wife, Larissa Volkonsky, and I urge you to grab one. They are somewhat controversial, particularly for a generation of readers who grew up with Victorian and Edwardian translations of the Russian masters. They are very close to the Russian and have an almost breathless immediacy to them. But the ARE different. ...P>So why all this talk about the Russians? Because Pevear (with an able assist from Herbert Golder) has done for the Greeks what he did for the Russians.... but this translations fiery. I have ALWAYS loved Ajax. I recently read a version of the Iliad to my three young nephews. And they each had their favourite. Achilles, Diomedes and Hector. But they each knew, that in a pinch? when the chips were down? when things get ugly? Who do you want beside you in the phalanx? That's right. That big brute Ajax. Bulwark of the Greeks. A killing machine. Taciturn. Implacable. "Even in death", writes Golder in his introduction, "in his sublime Homeric moment, Aias is famous for what Longinus called his 'eloquent silence': the refusal of his shade to speak to Odysseus in Hades." Now you HAVE to love that.
And who doesn't secretly admire him for the incident involving Athena.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
I do book groups and someone in the group recommended that we do this play by Sophocles. I am not well-versed in the play and this book is superb. The introduction is excellent, providing useful background and context; the notes on the text and the glossary are everything that an intelligent reader could desire.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Guillermo Maynez on April 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
"Ajax" is a tragedy in which the Gods intervene directly and permanently, altering the course of events. Its main subject is envy. After Achilles dies in the Trojan war, a jury is convened to decide who should receive his weapons and armor as heritage. After deliberating, the jury decides Ulysses is the warrior who deserves the most to be Achilles's heir. Then, Ajax, another brave and distinguished warrior, is totally enraged and mad with fury. As he decides to kill Ulysses and his followers, the goddess Athena "blinds" him and makes him take horses and sheeps for Ulysses and his men. And so he kills all the animals. But when he discovers what he has done, he commits suicide. We can see the other side of envy, magnanimity, when Agammemnon and Menelaus reject Ajax's burial (the standard punishment for traitors), but the noble Ulysses allows it. Throughout the play, you'll feel the bad feeling of envy poisoning the tale.
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Format: Paperback
this interpretation offers a great translation of sophocles.Ajax,the greek warrior who took his life too seriuosly or not seriously enough.Ajax is angry because the armour of the fallen Achilles is given to Ulysses and not to him.This is a slight which offends brave Ajax to to the bone,since he believes he is second only to Achilles.So deep does his resentment go that he plans to slaughter his allies in a murderous rage,that he is proud of.Instead he is tricked by the Gods into massacring a herd of farm animals,whom Ajax mistakes for Ulysees and his friends.Was Ajax blinded in a binge of alcoholic excess,or did the Gods actually smite him with a crushing(to Ajax's ego),hallucination?No harm done,since Ajax hasn't killed anyone,except a herd of cattle,could he not just laugh it off with a "Whew what was i thinking?" His wife and friends try to tell him that would probably be the best way out. But Ajax to himself has crossed his own line ,one which only "women" could recross.Now hear Ajax's own words about his reason for not allowing the cattle slaughtering incident to pass as a jest,instead he literally will die of embarrassment,"To stretch your life out when you see that nothing can break its misery is shameful-day after day,moving forward or back from the end line of death.There's no joy in that. Any mortal who warms his heart over empty hopes is worthless in my eyes.Honor in life or in death:if a man is born noble,he must have one or the other.You've heard all there is to say" In other words Ajax believes when he has lost his own self respect,no matter how trivial the reason for it seems to another,he has lost everything.A wonderful rendering of Ajax's last words are given in this interpretation,words that are as pertinent to us today.Read more ›
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