Philoctetes, Sophocles
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Philoctetes is a play by Sophocles (Aeschylus and Euripides also each wrote a Philoctetes but theirs have not survived). The play was written during the Peloponnesian War. It is one of the seven extant tragedies by Sophocles. It was first performed at the City Dionysia in 409 BC, where it won first prize. The story takes place during the Trojan War (after the majority of the events of the Iliad, but before the Trojan Horse). It describes the attempt by Neoptolemus and Odysseus to bring the disabled Philoctetes, the master archer, back to Troy from the island of Lemnos.



Dramatis Personae

Ulysses, King of Ithaca
Neoptolemus, son of Achilles
Philoctetes, son of Poeas and Companion of Hercules
Chorus, composed of the companions of Ulysses and Neoptolemus

Scene: A Lonely Region on the Shore of Lemnos, before a Steep Cliff in Which Is the Entrance to Philoctetes’ Cave. Ulysses, Neoptolemus and an Attendant Enter

At length, my noble friend, thou bravest son
Of a brave father — father of us all,
The great Achilles — we have reached the shore
Of sea-girt Lemnos, desert and forlorn,
Where never tread of human step is seen,
Or voice of mortal heard, save his alone,
Poor Philoctetes, Poeas’ wretched son,
Whom here I left; for such were my commands
From Grecia’s chiefs, when by his fatal wound
Oppressed, his groans and execrations dreadful
Alarmed our hosts, our sacred rites profaned,
And interrupted holy sacrifice.
But why should I repeat the tale? The time
Admits not of delay. We must not linger,
Lest he discover our arrival here,
And all our purposed fraud to draw him hence
Be ineffectual. Lend me then thy aid.
Surveying round thee, canst thou see a rock
With double entrance — to the sun’s warm rays
In winter open, and in summer’s heat
Giving free passage to the welcome breeze?
A little to the left there is a fountain
Of living water, where, if yet he breathes,
He slakes his thirst. If aught thou seest of this
Inform me; so shall each to each impart
Counsel most fit, and serve our common cause.

NEOPTOLEMUS (leaving ULYSSES a little behind him)
If I mistake not,I behold a cave,
E’en such as thou describst.

Dost thou? which way?

Yonder it is; but no path leading thither,
Or trace of human footstep.

In his cell
A chance but he hath lain down to rest:
Look if he hath not.

NEOPTOLEMUS (advancing to the cave)
Not a creature there.

Nor food, nor mark of household preparation?

A rustic bed of scattered leaves.

What more?

A wooden bowl, the work of some rude hand,
With a few sticks for fuel.

This is all
His little treasure here.

Unhappy man!
Some linen for his wounds.

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