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Philoctetes Paper

Philoctetes Paper - 1 Sophocles Philoctetes Sophocles...

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1 Sophocles’ Philoctetes Sophocles’ Philoctetes can be used as a useful example to see how Greek tragedies were once performed in the theatres such as the one at Dionysus. In modern times when we read the plays that were written in ancient times, we are somewhat unknowledgeable about how the plays were actually performed. We would expect to see stage directions and sometimes even a narration about what is going on during the play when we read it; however, the ancient Greeks did not know of these measures or, more exactly, they just did not use the same conventions as the modern playwrights of our times use. With this, when a Greek tragedy, as well as Greek comedies are read, we must remember that these were written to be performed, not to be read, as in today’s world, where we read them as literature. It is essential that when we read the plays, we must think how they were performed in the open wooden theatres of Greece in front of thousands of people and highly regarded guests. In the play Philoctetes, sometimes it is not sufficient enough to just read what is written on the pages. The moral issues and conflicts that arise during the performance of the play were only effective when there were more than just the words themselves to explain what was happening. Props were used sparingly, gestures made by the actors and chorus were needed in some cases and the presentation inside the theatre contributed greatly to the effectiveness of the play and when these three elements were used even as sparingly as they were, they helped immensely to portray what the playwright intended to show. In Homer’s time, this could not have been done with only the narrator being the actor and the story-teller by himself. In the lines preceding the action where Philoctetes is talking to the chorus, lines 1081 and above, he laments his words upon Odysseus. Philoctetes goes on about how Odysseus has taught Neoptolemus how to deceive and persuade in ruthless ways. He is also angry because of the fact
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2 that Odysseus, the one who was a part of the group of people who marooned Philoctetes on the island of Lemnos, has come back to retrieve this useful person, or useful object, the bow. Odysseus is fed up and he and Neoptolemus retreat towards their ship and tell Philoctetes to come when he is called. Meanwhile, Odysseus has the bow, not Philoctetes. After the two leave, Philoctetes, most likely sitting on the skene watching the two exit through the parodos, turns to the orchestra where the chorus, the army of men from Troy brought by Odysseus and Neoptolemus, awaits to speak with Philoctetes. Before the play can go on, there is something here that is very important concerning the present action. Imagine if Homer was telling us this story right now. He would not be able to show the separation of the chorus, standing on the lower orchestra, and Philoctetes, sitting on the slightly raised skene, which is essential in this scene. Even before words are exchanged between these two sides, there is a point that must be made.
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