This article aims to show that Sophocles anticipates questions about the autonomous subject and “ownership” of the self that are central to contemporary discourse. It suggests that Sophoclean self-killing, often considered quintessentially individualistic, in fact reflects a preoccupation with the autocheir, a less definite figure than our “suicide,” since s/he may also be (actually or potentially) a kin-killer. Also, that where Sophocles attempts to distinguish self-killing from kin-killing, it is to isolate and explore the nature and (not inevitably negative) implications of autocheiria. Close readings of scenes from Antigone, Ajax, and Trachiniae demonstrate that this is achieved through the elision or obscuring of the moment of self-destruction, and the posthumous analysis of self-killing in the “verbal post-mortem.” A strand of metacriticism suggests that editors committed to a model of suicide as unequivocal act intentionally performed by a single agent have sometimes oversimplified the complexity evidenced by the transmitted text.

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