Philoctetes

Sophocles

Sophocles, creator; Sophocles the plays and fragments with critical notes, commentary, and translation in English prose Part 4 The Philoctetes; Jebb, Richard Claverhouse, Sir, 1841-1905, editor, translator. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1898.

  1. Son of Achilles, you must be loyal to the goals of your mission—and not with your body alone. Should you hear some new plan unknown to you till now, you must serve it, since it is to serve that you are here.
Neoptolemus
  1. Then what are your orders?
Odysseus
  1. You must cheat the mind of Philoctetes by means of a story
  2. told as you converse with him. When he asks you who and from where you are, say that you are the son of Achilles—it is not in that detail that you will cheat him. But tell him you are sailing homeward, and have left the fleet of the Achaean warriors, after coming to hate them with unbounded hatred.
  3. Give him this reason: when, with no other hope of taking Ilium, they had summoned you by their prayers to come from home, they judged you not worthy of the arms of Achilles, not worthy to receive them—even though you had come and were claiming them by right—but instead handed them over to Odysseus. Say what you
  4. will of me—even the vilest of vile insults. You will not harm me at all by that. But if you fail to do as I say, you will inflict pain on all the Argives, for if that man’s bow is not seized, you can never sack the realm of Dardanus.
  5. And learn why your intercourse with him may be free from mistrust and danger, while mine cannot. You have sailed to Troy under no oath to any man, nor under any constraint. Neither did you have any part in the earlier expedition. I, however, can deny none of these things. Accordingly, if he
  6. perceives me while he is still master of his bow, I am dead, and you, as my comrade, will share my doom. No, the thing for which we must devise a ruse is just this: how you may steal his invincible weapons. Well I know, my son, that by nature you are not apt
  7. to utter or contrive such treachery. Yet knowing that victory is a sweet prize to gain, steel yourself to do it. Our honesty shall be displayed another time. Now, however, give yourself to me for one brief, shameless day, and then for the rest of time
  8. may you be called the most righteous of all humankind.
Neoptolemus
  1. I abhor acting on advice, son of Laertes, which causes pain in the hearing. It is not in my nature to achieve anything by means of evil cunning, nor was it, as I hear, in my father’s.
  2. But I am ready to take the man by force and without treachery, since with the use of one foot only, he will not overcome so many of us in a struggle. And yet I was sent to assist you and am reluctant to be called traitor. Still I prefer, my king,
  3. to fail when doing what is honorable than to be victorious in a dishonorable manner.
Odysseus
  1. Son of a father so noble, I, too, in my youth once had a slow tongue and an active hand. But now that I have come forth to the test, I see that the tongue, not action, is what masters everything among men.
Neoptolemus
  1. What, then, are your orders—apart from my lying?
Odysseus
  1. I command you to take Philoctetes by deceit.
Neoptolemus
  1. And why by deceit rather than by persuasion?
Odysseus
  1. He will never listen; and by force you cannot take him.
Neoptolemus
  1. Has he strength so terrific to make him bold?
Odysseus
  1. Yes, shafts inevitable, escorts of death.