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Philoctetes Essay, Research Paper

Philoctetes

Ten years before the play’s action begins, the leaders of the Greek crusade had abandoned the play’s main character, Philoctetes, when his screams due to a foot ulcer become bothersome to them. But the Greeks discover that they cannot win victory over Troy without Philoctetes and the priceless bow of Heracles. The crafty Odysseus is given the task of fetching Philoctetes by any means possible. Therefore Odysseus determines to use Achilles’ son, Neoptolemus as his agent to mislead Philoctetes. Through devious manipulations, Odysseus is able to persuade Neoptolemus to deceive and trick Philoctetes.

In the beginning of the play, Neoptolemus is no more than a pawn in Odysseus’ hands. His own experience has been limited and so he easily surrenders to the older man’s request. Odysseus warns Neoptolemus that if he “will not do this,” he “will bring sorrow on all the Greeks” (198) and that he “shall be called a wise and a good” (200) if he does. Odysseus’ reminder of Neoptolemus’ obligation to his people and the temptation of personal glory initially motivate the young man in his quest to capture the bow from its rightful owner.

The actual face-to-face encounter with Philoctetes proved harder than Neoptolemus expected, however. His own inherent openness and generosity, which he first suppressed, reveal themselves as his sympathy increases for Philoctetes. Even as Neoptolemus manipulates Philoctetes into trusting him, Philoctetes has made Neoptolemus feel guilty of deceiving him. For much of the play Neoptolemus follows Odysseus’ plan, in spite of his good nature. Eventually Neoptolemus renounces duplicity to join in friendship with Philoctetes and returns the bow to its rightful owner.


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