Nashville Great Books Discussion Group

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Discussion questions for Philoctetes:

1. Has justice been done in this play?

2. Who is responsible for Philoctetes’ situation?

3. Is Neoptolemus a good man?


Blogger SMJ said...

Quotations from Philoctetus:

Neoptolemus: "Everything goes against the grain, once one acts against one's character." (139)

Philoctetus: "What will you not invent? Using gods as a screen and making them liars." (143)

Chorus: "It is you yourself, you poor fate-entangled man. Who have chosen this; from nobody else has come the power to enslave yourself, for when You could have been wise enough to choose the better, You chose the worse." (147)

Chorus: "It was not I that lent a treacherous hand against you. It was a destiny sent from heaven." (147)

Neo: "But telling lies is shameful, don't you think?" (114)

Odysseus: "Not if the lie brings salvation." (114)

Chorus: "He was under orders to do a service to all." (148)

Neo: "We mortals have to accept the fortunes the gods allot us but self-imposed ordeals, like yours, are inexcusable and deserve no pity." (154)

Philo: "How can I ignore this man's advice when he counsels me for my own good?" ...
once evil incubates in men's minds
it spawns more evil." (156)

1/27/2006 1:40 PM  
Blogger SMJ said...

A Few More Questions for Philoctetus:

1. Should this play be regarded as a tragedy?

2. Would it be fair to regard Philoctetus as the architect of his own fate?

3. Was Odysseus justified in using trickery to obtain the bow from Philoctetus?

4. Should Philoctetus have agreed to go with Odysseus and Neoptolemus?

5. Why does Neoptolemus change his mind and return the bow to Philoctetus? And why does he prevent Philoctetus from killing Odysseus?

6. What kind of man is Odysseus?

7. What role does prophecy play in this drama?

8. Why do the Greeks believe the Trojan seer Helenus?

9. How did Neoptolemus come by his wound? Was it his fault?

10. Do the gods approve or disapprove of lying and trickery? Would Achilles resort to lying and trickery to gain an advantage?

1/27/2006 1:48 PM  
Blogger SMJ said...

As we discovered in reading Plato's REPUBLIC, the claims of justice are often in conflict with expediency. In truth, to live a just life requires a standard of morality that does not bend to the whims of the multitude. Justice must be unwavering, and incorruptible, even when confronted with the superior power of its enemy. This play by Sophocles poses a fundamental moral question: when a nation goes to war, is it ever justified suspending all other considerations in the interest of victory? This is one of the central concerns in PHILOCTETUS. Should truth, honor and justice be sacrificed in order to obtain victory? Odysseus seems to be arguing that nothing is as important as the Greek victory over the Trojans. But other Greeks do not agree. Achilles, for one, would never exchange his honor for the prospect of victory on the battlefield. Even at the cost of survival, some beliefs are sacred and must be upheld, otherwise the virtues upon which society is based will be corrupted. Then, not only will the nation suffer, but the immortal souls of men will carry the stains of injustice forever.

1/30/2006 10:12 AM  

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