Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Odysseus abandons Philoctetes on the barren island of Lemnos after the warrior is bitten on the foot by a snake while preparing to make a sacrifice at the shrine on the island of Chrysa. The wound never heals, and the smell that comes from it and the groans of suffering of Philoctetes are the reasons Odysseus gives for making him an outcast. Philoctetes, however, with his invincible bow, once the property of Herakles, becomes indispensable to the Greeks in their war against Troy. Landing for the second time on Lemnos, Odysseus describes the cave in which Philoctetes lives. Neoptolemus identifies it by the stained bandages drying in the sun, the leaf-stuffed mattress, and the crude wooden cup he finds.
Instructed by Odysseus, Neoptolemus is to lure Philoctetes on board with his bow by declaring that he, too, hates Odysseus because the king deprived him of the weapons of his father, Achilles. Neoptolemus is disgusted by this deception, but wily Odysseus pleads necessity and promises him honor and glory. When Neoptolemus agrees to obey, Odysseus leaves him.
The chorus of sailors reports that they hear the painful approach of Philoctetes. He asks who they are and whether they, too, are Greeks. Imploring their pity, he tells them not to fear him, although he became a savage through solitude and great suffering. Neoptolemus answers Philoctetes, who asks Neoptolemus who he is and why he comes. The young warrior says that he is the son of Achilles and...
(The entire section is 1010 words.)
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