Ajax in Elizabethan Literature

Arthur Golding, “To the ryght Honorable and his singular good Lord, Robert Erle of Leycester,” in The. XV. bookes of P. Ouidius Naso, entytuled Metamorphosis (London: William Seres, 1567):

Ulysses dooth expresse
The image of discretion, wit, and great aduisednesse.
And Aiax on the other syde doth represent a man
Stout, headie, irefull, hault of mynd, and such a one as can
Abyde too suffer no repulse. And both of them declare
How couetous of glorie and reward mens natures are.
And finally it sheweth playne that wisdome dooth preuayle
In all attempts and purposes when strength of hand dooth fayle. (“Out of the xiij”)

Thomas Elyot, “Aiax,” in Eliotis Librarie (London: Thomae Bertheleti, 1542):

AIAX, the sonne of Thelamon by Hesione, daughter of Laomedon kynge of Troy, was the strongest man of al the Greekes nexte to Achilles. But after that Achilles was slayne, whan Aiax contended with Vlisses for the armoure of Achilles, and that Vlysses by force of his eloquence opteyned sentence on his parte of the iudges: Aiax becam mad, and in his fury slewe manye beastes, supposynge that they had ben Vlysses and his company. There was also an other prynce called Aiax, sonne of Oileus, and kynge of the Locrensis in Grece, who was wonderfull swyfte and expert in handiynge a speare: This man whan Troy was sacked, dydde violate the noble virgin Cassandra in the Temple of Pallas. wherfore as he returned homewarde, on the sea, he and his shippes were burned with lightnynge. he was before the incarnation. 1190. yeres.

Richard Huloet, “Aiax,” in Huloets Dictionarie (London: Thomas Marsh, 1572):

he fought with Hector for the victory, and had obtayned it: had not night ended the combat, for whiche cause he retourned with a sworde gyuen hym by Hector, and he likewyse gaue Hector a sworde gyrdle, whiche giftes (as the ende declared) were both their destructions. For Achilles drewe the body of Hector with that gyrdle rou~d about the walles of Troye at a horses tayle, and after slewe him in the sight of his father Priam{us}. And Aiax when Achilles was slayne, striuinge with Vlysses for his armoure, and beinge ouercome by the eloquence of his aduersary, fell mad and slewe brute beastes, thynkynge theim to be Vlysses and Atridas, but when he came to him self agayne, and perceaued howe he was deluded, & fayled in his purpose, being stroken with great doloure and griefe, he slewe him selfe in a desert place: with that same sworde which Hector gaue hym.

Philip Sidney, An Apologie for Poetrie (London: James Roberts for Henry Olney, 1595):

Anger the Stoicks say, was a short maddesse, let but Sophocles bring you Aiax on a stage, killing and whipping Sheepe & Oxen, thinking them the Army of Greeks, with theyr Chieftaines Agamemnon and Menelaus, and tell me if you haue not a more familiar insight into anger, then finding in the Schoolemen his Genius and difference.

William Shakespeare, 2 Henry VI (1590-91), in The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd ed., ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997):

  York.  Scarce can I speak, my choler is so great.
O, I could hew up rocks and fight with flint,
I am so angry at these abject terms;
And now, like Ajax Telamonius,
On sheep or oxen could I spend my fury. (5.1.23-27)

William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus (1593-94), in The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd ed., ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997):

Thou art a Roman, be not barbarous:
The Greeks upon advice did bury Ajax
That slew himself; and wise Laertes' son
Did graciously plead for his funerals. (1.1.378-381)

William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece (1593-94), in The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd ed., ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997):

In AIAX and VLYSSES, Ù what Art
Of Phisiognomy might one behold!
The face of eyther cypher'd eythers heart,
Their face, their manners most expreslie told,
In AIAX eyes blunt rage and rigour rold,
But the mild glance that slie VLYSSES lent,
Shewed deepe regard and smiling gouernment. (1394-1400)

William Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost (1594-95), in The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd ed., ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997):

[Ber.]  By the Lord, this love is mad as Ajax. (4.3.6)

  Cost.  O sir, you have overthrown Alisander the conqueror! You will be scrap’d out of the painted cloth for thise. Your lion, that holds his poll-axe sitting on a close-stool, will be given to Ajax; he will be the ninth Worthy. (5.2.574-78)

John Harrington, The Metamorphosis of Aiax (London: Richard Field and Eliot's Court Press, 1596):

What became of his body is vnknowen, some say that wolues and beares did eate it, and that makes them yet such enemies to sheepe and cattell. But his bloud as testifieth Pouidius the excellent Historiographer, was turnd into a Hiacint, which is a verie notable kinde of grasse or flower.

Further I read that now of late yeares, a French Gentleman son to one Monsieur Gargasier....This yong gentleman hauing taken some three or foure score pils to purge melancholy, euery one as big as a Pome Citterne, commanded his man to mowe an halfe acre of grasse, to vse at the priuy, and notwithstanding that the owners (to saue their hay perhaps) sware to him it was of that ancient house of AIAX....But suddenly (whether it were the curse of the people, or the nature of the grasse I know not (he was striken in his posteriorus with S. Anthonies fier....On his comming home, he built a sumptuous priuy, and in the most conspicuous place thereof, namely iust ouer the doore; he erected a statue of AIAX, with so grim a countenance, that the aspect of it being full of terror, was halfe as good as a suppositor: and further to honour him, he changed the name of the house, & called it after the name of this noble Captaine of the greasie ones (the Grecians I should say) AIAX: though since, by ill pronunciation, and by a figure called Cacophonia, the accent is changed, and it is called a Iakes.

To keepe your houses sweet, cleanse priuy vaults,

To keepe your soules as sweet, mend priuie faults.

William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida (1603), in The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd ed., ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997):

  Cres.  What was his cause of anger?
  Alex.  The noise goes, this: there is among the Greeks
A lord of Trojan blood, nephew to Hector;
They call him Ajax.
  Cres.  Good; and what of him?
  Alex.  They say he is a very man per se,
And stands alone.
  Cres.  So do all men, unless they are drunk, sick, or have no legs.

  Alex.  This man, lady, hath robbed many beasts of their particular additions; he is as valiant as the lion, churlish as the bear, slow as the elephant: a man into whom nature hath so crowded humours that his valour is crushed into folly, his folly sauced with discretion: there is no man hath a virtue that he hath not a glimpse of, nor any man an attaint but he carries some stain of it: he is melancholy without cause, and merry against the hair: he hath the joints of every thing, but everything so out of joint that he is a gouty Briareus, many hands and no use, or purblind Argus, all eyes and no sight. (1.2)