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Lansky, M.R. (1996). Shame And Suicide In Sophocles' Ajax. Psychoanal Q., 65:761-786.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 65:761-786

Shame And Suicide In Sophocles' Ajax

Melvin R. Lansky, M.D.

This paper explores the vicissitudes of shame and its relation to narcissistic rage and escalation of conflict in Sophocles' Ajax. The plot is set in motion by Ajax's shame over losing the competition with Odysseus for Achilles' armor. His shame leads to narcissistic rage and propels him to vengeance against the social order. Misidentification, an aspect of narcissistic rage, compounds his disgrace by escalating his shame to suicidal proportions when his madness leaves him. His defenses all fail, and his suicide becomes inevitable. Forces that bind him to the social order lose out to those that make of him a humiliated outcast and drive him to kill himself.

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