Philoctetes

by

Sophocles

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Philoctetes

Philoctetes is a famous Greek archer, Poeas’s son, and the protagonist of Sophocles’s Philoctetes. According to myth, Philoctetes led seven ships to Troy on the first expedition to fight in the Trojan Warread analysis of Philoctetes

Neoptolemus

Neoptolemus is Achilles’s son and the one who accompanies Odysseus to Lemnos to retrieve Philoctetes and bring him to Troy. After the prophet Helenus prophesizes that the Trojan War cannot be won without both… read analysis of Neoptolemus

Odysseus

Odysseus is the king of Ithaca, a leader of the Greek army, and the antagonist of Sophocles’s Philoctetes. Odysseus is portrayed as a despicable man who abandoned Philoctetes on the island Lemnos simply because… read analysis of Odysseus

Heracles

Heracles is the Greek god of strength and heroes. According to Greek myth, Heracles was a mortal Greek hero before he was deified. Heracles wanted to be placed on a funeral pyre while he was… read analysis of Heracles

Chorus

The chorus is a group of Greek sailors under the command of Odysseus. The chorus largely functions to advance and enrich the plot, and they are exceedingly sympathetic to Philoctetes’s pain and suffering… read analysis of Chorus
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Merchant/Sailor

This character is a Greek sailor and a member of Odysseus’s crew. The sailor disguises himself as a wine merchant on his way back from Troy, in order to further Odysseus’s deceptive plan to… read analysis of Merchant/Sailor

Achilles

Achilles is a respected Greek warrior, a hero of the Trojan War, and Neoptolemus’s father. Achilles is killed during the Trojan War by Paris, and Odysseus concocts a false story in which Atreus’sread analysis of Achilles

Poeas

Poeas is a Thessalonian king and Philoctetes’s father. While Philoctetes is marooned on Lemnos, he tries to get word to Poeas to come and pick him up, but the Greeks who happen upon the… read analysis of Poeas

Chryse

Chryse is a minor Greek goddess with an island of the same name. During the initial Greek expedition to Troy to fight the Trojan War, the Greek fleet, which was led by Odysseus and… read analysis of Chryse

Atreus’s Sons/The Atridae

The sons of Atreus (sometimes called the Atridae) are Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae, and Menelaus, the king of Sparta. Both Agamemnon and Menelaus played special parts in the Trojan War, as it began… read analysis of Atreus’s Sons/The Atridae

Diomedes

Diomedes is the king of Argos and a Greek hero of the Trojan War. In some versions of the myth of Philoctetes, Diomedes (rather than Neoptolemus) accompanies Odysseus to Lemnos to retrieve… read analysis of Diomedes

Sisyphus

Sisyphus is the king of Ephyra and, according to Philoctetes, the biological father of Odysseus. Per some versions of the myth of Odysseus, Sisyphus seduced Anticlea, Odysseus’s mother, before she married Laertesread analysis of Sisyphus

Laertes

Laertes is Odysseus’s recognized father; however, Philoctetes implies that Sisyphus is Odysseus’s real father. According to some versions of the myth of Odysseus, Odysseus’s mother, Anticlea, was already pregnant with Odysseus by Sisyphus when… read analysis of Laertes

Helenus

Helenus is a famous Trojan prophet and the son of Priam, the king of Troy. Helenus is captured by the Greeks during the Trojan War, and he tells them that the war cannot… read analysis of Helenus

Paris

Paris is Priam’s son and the prince of Troy. According to Greek myth, the Trojan War began after Paris ran off with Helen, the wife of Menelaus, who was one of Atreus’s sons and… read analysis of Paris
Minor Characters
Zeus
Zeus is the supreme deity in Greek mythology and the king of the gods of Olympus. Zeus is referenced several times in Philoctetes, and when Heracles appears at the end of the play to convince Philoctetes and Neoptolemus to go to Troy, Heracles speaks the word of Zeus.
Asclepius
Asclepius is the Greek god of medicine and healing. According the prophet Helenus, Asclepius is the only one who can cure Philoctetes’s wound, and he will only do so if Philoctetes goes to Troy.
Ajax
Ajax is a Greek hero killed during the Trojan War. Philoctetes refers to Ajax as a good man and friend of Achilles, and Philoctetes is sad to hear of Ajax’s death in Troy. Sophocles’s play Ajax focuses on the death of Ajax during the Trojan War.
Hermes
Hermes is the Greek messenger of the gods and son of Zeus. Hermes is also known as the Greek god of deceit, and Odysseus prays to him to bless his deceitful plan to trick Philoctetes.
Athena
Athena is the Greek goddess of war. Athena is closely associated with Odysseus in Greek mythology, and he indeed prays to her in Philoctetes.
Priam
Priam is the king of Troy and the father of Paris and Helenus.