Composers and their stage works 


(Orestes, 408 B.C.).



Tragedy that takes place just six days after the closing incidents of Electra, when Orestes has murdered his mother Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus to avenge the murder of his father Agamemnon.

Orestes, haunted by the Furies, and his sister Electra are at the royal palace of Argos, where they expect to be sentenced to death by the citizens; Helen, also afraid of the people's anger because she was the cause of the Trojan War, in which so many Argive warriors died, is with them, as is her daughter Hermione. They all eagerly await the arrival of Menelaus, Helen's husband and Orestes' uncle, who they believe will save them. But when Menelaus arrives, his sympathy for Orestes cannot prevail over the popular opinion against him and the arguments of Tyndareus, Clytemnestra's father, who points out that Orestes should have brought a charge against his mother instead of taking the law into his own hands.

Orestes and his friend Pylades plead before the Council but to no avail, and they return to Electra to confirm that she and her brother must die. Resolving to die with them, Pylades suggests that they take revenge on Menelaus by murdering Helen. Electra persuades Orestes and Pylades also to take Hermione as a hostage and use the threat of her death to force Menelaus to help them. Helen is brutally attacked, as planned. Orestes takes Hermione captive and threatens to murder her in full sight of Menelaus and to burn the palace. As the flames start, the god Apollo, the deus ex machina, appears, rather improbably, to resolve the impasse. He announces that Helen is not dead but has been rescued at the command of Zeus, to become a goddess. Apollo foretells that after a year of exile Orestes will be tried in Athens for his mother's murder and will be acquitted. He will then marry Hermione, and Pylades will marry Electra. The startled characters accept their happy futures, and the play comes to its ironical end.