Betrayed, Berserk, and Abandoned: War Trauma in Sophocles' Ajax and Philoctetes




Binus, Joshua Robert

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Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes can be read as allegories of warriors who experience war trauma. The ancient Greeks already knew of the effects of war trauma through prior literature, and the plays were produced during a period of great violence and upheaval. Ajax shows how a shame-inducing betrayal causes a warrior to go berserk, and consequently withdraw from his community and commit suicide. Philoctetes shows that a betrayal, combined with the loss of a comrade, can cause the warrior to become isolated and emotionally vulnerable. His only means of being reintegrated into society is through mutual understanding with members of that society, and closure with his dead comrade. These plays were produced for therapeutic benefit, as shown by the comparative evidence found in psychodrama, dramatherapy, and the Theater of War productions of the two plays.



PTSD, Trauma, Sophocles, Ajax, Philoctetes, Athens, dramatherapy, psychodrama