Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Philoctetes can help.
Themes and Colors
Disability and Discrimination Theme Icon
Deception, Ethics, and War Theme Icon
Suffering and Isolation Theme Icon
Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Philoctetes, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Disability and Discrimination

Sophocles’s tragic play Philoctetes examines the myth of Philoctetes, a celebrated Greek hero and archer. Philoctetes led seven ships to Troy to fight the Trojan War—a battle between the Greeks and Trojans sparked after the wife of the king of Sparta ran off with Paris, a Trojan prince—but after stopping on the island Chryse, Philoctetes was bitten on the foot by a poisonous snake. Philoctetes’s wound festered and refused to heal, resulting…

read analysis of Disability and Discrimination

Deception, Ethics, and War

At the center of Sophocles’s Philoctetes is Odysseus’s deceptive plan to trick Philoctetes into returning to Troy with the Greek army to sack the city and win the Trojan War. According to a prophet named Helenus, the war cannot be won without Philoctetes and his bow and arrows, which were gifted to him by the Greek god Heracles and never miss their mark. Philoctetes, however, despises Odysseus and the Greek army…

read analysis of Deception, Ethics, and War

Suffering and Isolation

Sophocles’s play Philoctetes focuses on the deep, endless pain that Philoctetes endures. Abandoned on the island Lemnos, Philoctetes is plagued by severe attacks of pain following a snake bite, but the physical discomfort of Philoctetes’s wound pales in comparison to the profound loneliness he feels on the deserted island. Sophocles wanted to draw attention to Philoctetes’s isolation, and this is reflected in the subtle changes Sophocles makes to the classic myth. During Sophocles’s day, contemporary…

read analysis of Suffering and Isolation
Get the entire Philoctetes LitChart as a printable PDF.
Philoctetes PDF

Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good

Throughout Sophocles’s Philoctetes, both Philoctetes and Neoptolemus are faced with difficult decisions and extreme consequences. After Philoctetes was bitten by a snake and a festering, putrid wound developed, Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, along with a fleet of Greek warriors, marooned Philoctetes on a deserted island. Now, Philoctetes is expected to help the same men who abandoned him by going with the Greek army to Troy to sack the city and finally win…

read analysis of Decisions, Obligation, and the Greater Good