Philoctetes

by

Sophocles

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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; however, the chorus also serves to underscore Philoctetes’s isolation. Sophocles’s contemporaries, Aeschylus and Euripides, both wrote plays about the myth of Philoctetes, but the chorus in their plays consisted of native Lemnians, not Greek sailors. With his chorus of Greek sailors, Sophocles is able to portray the island Lemnos as completely deserted and Philoctetes as utterly alone.

Chorus Quotes in Philoctetes

The Philoctetes quotes below are all either spoken by Chorus or refer to Chorus. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Philoctetes published in 2008.
Entry of the Chorus (Lines 135 – 218) Quotes

His dreadful fate’s no wonder to me.
If I have an inkling, his sufferings first
Were sent by the gods, when he entered the shrine
Of cruel Chryse, who dealt him his wound.
So what he endures now, far from his friends.
Must also be due to the will of some god:
He may not aim those god-given shafts,
Which none can resist, at the towers of Troy,
Till the time has come when the prophet declares
Those arrows will prove her destruction.

Related Characters: Neoptolemus (speaker), Philoctetes, Chorus, Chryse
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:
Lament (Lines 1081 – 1218) Quotes

You only have yourself to blame, unhappy man.
Nothing has struck you with force irresistible.
Where was your better judgement?
Fate would have been kinder, but you
Chose to accept a worse life.

Related Characters: Chorus (speaker), Philoctetes
Page Number: 242
Explanation and Analysis:

True men always will plead their causes justly.
Yet once they’ve spoken, they say no more.
Curb their spite and withdraw their sting.
Our young master was chosen.
Under Odysseus’ orders he came.
Helping friends and doing his public duty.

Related Characters: Chorus (speaker), Philoctetes, Neoptolemus, Odysseus
Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chorus Character Timeline in Philoctetes

The timeline below shows where the character Chorus appears in Philoctetes. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Entry of the Chorus (Lines 135 – 218)
Suffering and Isolation Theme Icon
The chorus, a group of Greek sailors, arrives and asks Neoptolemus for their orders. He tells the... (full context)
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
The chorus laments Philoctetes’s miserable plight. Philoctetes is all alone without anyone to care for him, and... (full context)
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
Suffering and Isolation Theme Icon
Neoptolemus informs the chorus that Philoctetes’s suffering has been ordered by the gods. Philoctetes was bitten by a poisonous... (full context)
Scene 2 (Lines 219 – 675)
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
Suffering and Isolation Theme Icon
 Philoctetes approaches his cave and the strange sailors, and he immediately asks the chorus and Neoptolemus who they are and why they are there. Lemnos doesn’t have a harbor,... (full context)
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
Neoptolemus confirms that he and the chorus are indeed Greeks, and Philoctetes, excited to hear this, asks them why they have come... (full context)
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
Philoctetes is distraught. The gods must despise him, Philoctetes says to Neoptolemus and the chorus, if no word or rumors of him have reached the Greeks. Philoctetes tells the men... (full context)
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
Suffering and Isolation Theme Icon
 When Philoctetes woke and found himself alone on Lemnos, he tells Neoptolemus and the chorus, he was devastated. He had cried when he saw the Greek ship sailing away toward... (full context)
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
No one comes to Lemnos because they want to, Philoctetes tells Neoptolemus and the chorus. Only if they are “forced,” he says. There have been a few people over the... (full context)
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
The chorus implores Neoptolemus to agree to take Philoctetes and not leave him alone on Lemnos. Neoptolemus... (full context)
Suffering and Isolation Theme Icon
Neoptolemus tells Philoctetes and the chorus that they must sail at once, and Philoctetes goes to his cave to fetch his... (full context)
Choral Song (Lines 676 – 728)
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
The chorus continues to lament Philoctetes’s plight. He has never hurt a soul and has always lived... (full context)
Scene 3 (Lines 730 – 1080)
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good Theme Icon
...river of infected blood has begun to drain from Philoctetes’s wound, and he tells the chorus to leave him to sleep. As Philoctetes sleeps, the chorus asks Neoptolemus what their next... (full context)
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good Theme Icon
The chorus again tries to convince Neoptolemus to leave Philoctetes. He refuses and tells the men to... (full context)
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good Theme Icon
...returns to his cave without the bow and arrows, resolved to die on Lemnos. The chorus looks to Neoptolemus and again asks what they should do, but Neoptolemus doesn’t know. He... (full context)
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good Theme Icon
...about it. Philoctetes again refuses and tries to throw himself from a cliff, but the chorus stops him and holds him down. (full context)
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good Theme Icon
...that he likes winning, but he is happy lose in this case. He tells the chorus to let go of Philoctetes and allow him to stay on Lemnos. There are plenty... (full context)
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good Theme Icon
The chorus tells Philoctetes that Odysseus is their superior and they must obey him, but Neoptolemus orders... (full context)
Lament (Lines 1081 – 1218)
Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good Theme Icon
...animals will now witness his death. Philoctetes has no one to blame but himself, the chorus tells him. It is his own bad decision that is keeping him here, they say,... (full context)
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
Suffering and Isolation Theme Icon
Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good Theme Icon
Philoctetes imagines Neoptolemus mocking him as he holds the bow and arrows, but the chorus says that Neoptolemus was merely following orders. The chorus is only trying to help Philoctetes,... (full context)
Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good Theme Icon
Philoctetes again apologizes to the chorus, but he can never agree to go to Troy and help the same men who... (full context)
Closing Scene (Lines 1408 – 1472)
Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good Theme Icon
...agree to go. Heracles disappears, and Philoctetes bids the island of Lemnos farewell as the chorus prays for their safe passage to Troy. (full context)