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Philoctetes by Sophocles

Two important themes were brilliantly explored by 7 Theta this morning in their interpretation of Sophocles’ play Philoctetes set in the ninth year of the Trojan war where Philoctetes is recalled to Troy from his exile on Lemnos. This tragic Greek drama examines the effects of disability and suffering in the wounded warrior and its effects on the social fabric. Philoctetes, the greatest of the Greek archers, played superbly by Christopher R., articulates in several of his monologues, the physical, psychological and social disruption caused by his suffering; what today we would call post traumatic stress disorder. Secondly, it explores how an essentially moral person, Neoptolemus, Achilles son, played with a commanding alertness by Tomaso R. is persuaded to engage in unethical behavior by a powerful superior, Odysseus, played confidently by Matthew McC.—and what then moves him to return to his new moral framework, enlarged by his almost complete betrayal of Philoctetes.

I enjoyed the correlation that the boys drew in their narration of the play with the effects of war today and the post traumatic stress often experienced by returning soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq. The PowerPoint presentation documented this correlation, giving the play a meaningful contemporary message. The boys also explored the stigma so often associated with illness and disability.

Sophocles' intent to show the negative side of Odysseus’ shrewdness is what makes this play so interesting.  Instead of seeing Odysseus as the hero (as in the Iliad and the Odyssey), we see him in Philoctetes as an opportunistic man who rationalizes his deceptions and abandonment of Philoctetes with a pragmatic argument—the moral core of the “hero” is missing.

Painting of Philoctetes by Jean-Germain Drouais


  1. Thank you for the wonderful review and accolades. It was a very sophisticated and challenging undertaking for the boys of Grade 7. Bravo to all the boys in Theta, Mr. Barbieri and Saint David's!


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