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Cheiron's WayYouthful Education in Homer and Tragedy$
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Justina Gregory

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190857882

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190857882.001.0001

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(p.165) 6 Philoctetes
Cheiron's Way

Justina Gregory

Oxford University Press

Although Neoptolemus’ trajectory in Philoctetes is often described as a rite of passage, this chapter argues that it is better understood in terms of a different topos, the Biou Hairesis, or Choice of Life. Having received a conventional heroic upbringing, Neoptolemus comes under the influence of two additional instructors, Odysseus and Philoctetes. Odysseus urges the young man to join him in duping and victimizing Philoctetes, while Philoctetes appeals to the noble nature Neoptolemus presumably inherited from his father Achilles. At first repelled but then persuaded by Odysseus’ sophistic argumentation, Neoptolemus ultimately defies the older man and refuses him his cooperation. While empathy for Philoctetes plays a role in his change of mind, his decisive concern is for his own reputation. The end of the play, however, raises the disquieting possibility that Neoptolemus has not made a lasting ethical choice.

Keywords:   Biou Hairesis, crisis of disillusionment, crisis of empathy, Neoptolemus, Odysseus, Philoctetes, rite of passage, Sophocles

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