AJAX – Monologue (Tecmessa)

A monologue from the play by Sophocles

NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Dramas. Sophocles. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1906.


You shall hear all that passed,
Being sharers in the event. At dead of night,
When the evening campfires no longer blazed,
He grasped his two-edged weapon, and seemed bent
To sally upon some errand, objectless.
I, in surprise, said to him “What dost thou, Ajax?
Why thus unsummoned either by the voice
Of messengers, or any trumpet-call,
Goest thou forth? Now the whole host is sleeping!”
But briefly he replied and in cant phrase;
“Woman, a woman should be seen, not heard.”
I held my tongue, and he rushed forth alone.
What there befell him truly I cannot say;
But he came in and brought, bound all together,
Bulls, herdmen’s dogs and fleecy spoil of sheep.
Some he beheaded; of some, their heads bent upward,
He cut the throats and clave the chins in twain,
And some he bound and tortured, as if human,
(Though it was cattle he fell on;) and at last
Rushing out through the door he hurled up words
To a phantom, some against Atridae, some
About Ulysses, laughing loud and long
At all the outrage he had wreaked on them;
Then darting back into the hut, once more
Hardly and by degrees he comes to reason;
When looking on the chamber filled with havock
He shrieked, and smote his head. Then he sat down,
Flinging himself among the weltering wrack
Of sheep that he had butchered, and clutched hold
Upon his hair with his clenched fists. Since then,
Most of the time he sat, uttering no sound;
After, he threatened me–’twas terrible!
If I disclosed not all that had befallen,
And questioned me, what could have come to him.
O friends, in fear, I told him the whole story,
So far as I well knew it. Instantly
He burst out crying lamentably–cries
Such as I never heard from him before.
For clamour of the kind, he ever taught,
Belonged to base and pusillanimous spirits;
Rather, suppressing all shrill outcries, he
Would groan, low, like the rumbling of a bull.
Now, prostrate under such adversity,
He, without meat or drink, sits on the ground
Among the beasts his edge has dealt on, dumb.
And plain it is he meditates no good;
That way, at least, his words and wailings tend.
But O dear friends–for therefore was my errand-
Come in and help us, if by any means
You have the power; for such men as he
Are conquered by the counsels of a friend.

Read the play here

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