Comparative Essay On Ajax And The Odyssey

2662 words - 11 pages

Prompt: Classical Works represent women as no more than possessions of men

Book 21 and 22 of The Odyssey by Homer and Ajax from Sophocles both put forward representations of women that inhibits them from being more than possessions of men; however, their positions within the realm of the possessed can be elevated or depreciated depending on many factors.

Tecmessa, Ajax's captive bride, according to the list of characters, is the prime example of women being possessions. Her character reflects the time of the play, where Athenian audiences would be familiar with the fate of women in war, as they had inflicted slavery upon many like her. As such, her character is unique in that she is given a role because slave women in other texts rarely get a say, for example, the maids in the Odyssey. This suggests that while she is enslaved and possesses Ajax, she is also given a higher standing than most and held to a similar ideal of Athenian women in what was expected of them. The patriarchal society of the fifth century Athens required women to be seen rather than heard; according to Pericles' Funeral Oration, this point is demonstrated here in Tecmessa: Have you no ears? Ajax: You've said too much already. Further, portrayals of women in classical texts show an emotional side regarded as extreme by the men in these works You women are so passionate you must control yourself you must be crazy if you imagine you'll school my temper now, Ajax says, despite having just indulged in a shrill outburst of sorrow. The hypocrisy reflects the society where the men were masters, and the women were tedious.
What gives her this position within the play is Ajax's reputation as being the most muscular man in the army but also in the fact that she bore him a child to carry his name and legend, Eurysaces illegitimacy is not a significant concern like it is with Teucer because Ajax has no wife at home, no legitimate heirs. The luxuries Tecmessa has enjoyed, such as safety from a slaves lifestyle, because of these factors is why she begs Ajax to live on; without him, she is nothing The day you die and leave me all alone must be the day the Greeks seize hold of my arms and force me off to lead a slaves existence. Tecmessas's awareness of her fate leads her to desperation; she knows that she will be reduced to menial chores if he leaves her. The uncertainty in her future at the end of the play, where Teucer claims responsibility for their son but not explicably her, only leads her fate more susceptible to the whims of men. Sophocles reflects her loss of status almost immediately as Tecmessa does not have any more lines in the second half of the play.
Tecmessas' character is not only a manifestation of women in Greece but also of pathos. A key element of tragic plays is that of a tragic figure who brings about their demise. While Tecmessa does not meet those requirements, she is directly impacted by Ajax's actions and evokes a sense of empathy. There was no choice ...

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