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Eumenides | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Eumenides begins in front of Apollo's temple in Delphi, Greece, as the Priestess of Apollo prepares to prophesy. She enters the temple and is shocked to see Orestes there, surrounded by the sleeping Furies. Orestes, "a man the gods despise," murdered his mother Clytaemnestra and his uncle and stepfather Aegisthus. Despite Orestes's crimes Apollo offers him his support. Apollo sends Orestes to Athens for his safety, with the protection of the god Hermes.

Once Orestes leaves, the ghost of Clytaemnestra arrives in the temple. She summons the sleeping Chorus of Furies to wake, find Orestes, and avenge her death. The Chorus members vow to find Orestes. Apollo returns and kicks the Chorus out of the temple. The Chorus Leader argues Apollo is supporting a murderer. Apollo says Clytaemnestra herself is a murderer—she killed her husband, Agamemnon. The Chorus Leader says Orestes killed a blood relative and Clytaemnestra did not, so Orestes alone should face punishment.

In Athens, in front of the temple of Athena, Orestes begs for Athena's protection. But the Chorus of Furies has followed him to Athens. They surround him, proclaiming their power and calling for Orestes's death.

Athena arrives from Troy. She asks Orestes and the Chorus members who they are and what they want. The Chorus Leader and Orestes both tell Athena their side of the story. Athena decides to set up a tribunal and put Orestes on trial for his crimes. If the trial proves Orestes's murder of his mother was justified, he'll go free; if not he's sentenced to death. The Chorus hopes for his conviction.

The trial begins in the Areopagus, the high court of Athens. The Chorus Leader speaks first and questions Orestes. Apollo then defends Orestes to the Chorus. Athena asks the jury of 10 Athenian citizens to vote. She casts her own vote in favor of Orestes's acquittal since she considers Orestes and Clytaemnestra's crimes to be equal.

The 10 jury votes are split evenly, making Athena's the tie-breaking vote. Orestes is acquitted. He is overjoyed and returns to his home in Argos. The outraged Chorus vows to destroy Athens. Athena reasons with the Chorus, offering the Furies positions of power in Athenian government if they end their feud and act as honorable leaders for the city. The Chorus Leader sees Athena's sincerity, and the Furies accept her offer. Together Athena and the Chorus promise to lead Athens to prosperity. The Furies are given places in the government, and the women of Athens sing their praises.

Eumenides Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 The Priestess discovers the Furies in Apollo's temple.

Rising Action

2 Orestes flees to Athens for sanctuary.

3 The Furies pursue Orestes to Athens.

4 Athena decides to judge Orestes by trial.

5 Apollo defends Orestes.

6 Athena establishes the court permanently.


7 The court votes to acquit Orestes.

Falling Action

8 The Furies vow revenge.


9 Athena offers the Furies honored jobs in Athens.

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