Abstract

Abstract:

While the burial at the end of Sophocles' Ajax is often interpreted as offering a form of ritual closure, this paper argues that the burial equally undermines closure. I use van Gennep's rite of passage model and Aristotle's Poetics to establish that both ritual and tragedy follow analogous, predictable tripartite progressions. On this foundation, I show that, as the Ajax's plot progresses from beginning to middle to end, the three principal ritual scenes in the play together depict a reverse ritual progression from end to middle to beginning or, in van Gennep's terms, from postliminal to liminal to preliminary. This clearly defined chiastic structure offers one explanation for the ambiguity of the play's exodos.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1935-0228
Print ISSN
0160-0923
Pages
pp. 75-93
Launched on MUSE
2019-09-28
Open Access
No
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