The Plan of Odysseus and the Plot of the Philoctetes

"The Plan of Odysseus and the Plot of Philoctetes," Epoche 7, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 133-150. Reprinted in The Archaeology of the Soul, 2012.


Odysseus is the Cinna of tragedy, with a “head to contrive, and a tongue to persuade, and a hand to execute any mischief” In Philoctetes Odysseus presents himself as being as resourceful as he is adaptable: he can become whomever he wants and devise whatever he needs. Long before we see him and hear him, he seems to have solved the riddle of the oracles that Helenus delivered to the Greeks. The riddle consists in the need to persuade Philoctetes by speech¬† to fulfill his destiny, and Odysseus claims to know that neither force nor persuasion can budge him.