Summary and Analysis
Second Episode (Lines 179-243)
Apollo enters again and orders the Furies to leave his temple at once lest he set loose the power of his sacred arrows against them. He warns that his temple is too holy a place for them to defile by their presence and says that their rightful place is wherever blood is being shed and people are suffering.
The chorus demand that Apollo acknowledge his own guilt in this crime, for it was he who ordered Orestes to commit matricide. Apollo defends himself by saying he ordered Orestes to avenge the murder of Agamemnon. In response, the Furies accuse Apollo of having given sanctuary to Orestes despite his bloodguilt, and of having abused them, the divinely ordained avengers of Clytaemestra, in the pursuit of their duty. Apollo points out that the Furies made no effort to punish Clytaemestra for killing Agamemnon. They reply that Agamemnon was not a blood relation of his wife and his murder did not come within their province. Apollo says that marriage is the most sacred of all bonds. If the Furies ignored the murder of a husband by a wife, they have no right to hound Orestes for bringing his father's murderer to justice. The Furies answer defiantly that they will pursue Orestes without mercy and will see him punished for his crime. Apollo says that he will continue to assist the fugitive. The chorus and Apollo exit.
The scene changes to Athens, outside the Temple of Athene on the Acropolis. A lapse of several years has taken place. Orestes enters and clings to the feet of Athene's statue as a suppliant. He tells the goddess that he has come in accordance with the advice of Apollo. Long wandering has purged him of his bloodguilt. Now he awaits his trial and her judgment.
This is one of the few Greek plays in which there is an exit and re-entrance of the chorus and a complete change of scene. There may also have been a short interval in the production here to allow for the removal and introduction of various pieces of scenery; for example, there is now a statue of Athene on stage that was not present during the first part of the drama.