2021: XXIII

Leggere un senso nel nome di Filottete: dai tragici greci a Derek Walcott

Maria Serena Mirto
University of Pisa

Pubblicato 2022-01-25

Parole chiave

  • Philoctetes’ name,
  • Euripides’ Philoctetes,
  • Sophocles’ Philoctetes,
  • Walcott’s Omeros


The name ‘Philoctetes’, combining philos and ktêma, has been traditionally interpreted to mean ‘fond of a possession’ or ‘fond of gain’. Euripides and Sophocles, in the plays dedicated to the story of the hero’s forced return from Lemnos, use the traditional etymology in a different way; the former, as an ironic background to the attempted bribery of the hero, the latter as a polemical pun that seemingly denies its meaning. In Derek Walcott’s Omeros, the name ‘Philoctete’ borne by a black fisherman whose ancestors were slaves symbolizes the imposition of the masters’ culture, and together with the wound in his shin signifies inherited colonial injury. Hence the Caribbean descendant of the Greek hero experiences his alien name as a festering wound he wishes he could cut from his body.