Last Reviewed on February 25, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 325
Set in the Greek kingdom of Epirus, Andromache presents the complex interactions of Greeks and Trojans who are affected by the Trojan War, which ended one year prior to the play's opening. Fearing future reprisals, the Greeks are concerned that Astyanax, the son of Andromache and her deceased husband, Hector (the famed hero of Troy), will grow up to seek vengeance for his father’s death and the fall of Troy. They send Oreste to Epirus to kill Astyanax. Andromache and Astyanax are living there, enslaved by Pyrrhus, the king of Epirus and the son of the Greek warrior Achilles. Pyrrhus is engaged to Hermione, whose parents were Helen of Troy and Menelaus. Oreste, however, also loves Hermione, while Pyrrhus is besotted with Andromache.
Pyrrhus first argues against the killing of an innocent child—then he threatens Andromache with doing so unless she agrees to marry him. Hermione, disturbed by her fiancé’s attraction to the other woman, wants Andromache killed along with her Astyanax. Planning to enact her own vengeance if necessary, Hermione makes Oreste promise to kill Pyrrhus if Pyrrhus throws her over for Andromache. Unrest begins to stir among the people of Epirus, who resent the elite’s absorption in their personal lives at the expense of the general population's well-being.
Andromache is tortured by nightmares of her dead husband and worries over losing her son. She decides that she will break her vow of continued fidelity to the late Hector and marry Pyrrhus in order to save Astyanax’s life. After the wedding, she will kill herself. Hermione promises herself to Oreste in exchange for killing Pyrrhus. Andromache is saved from her fate when Oreste has his men kill Pyrrhus. Hermione, however, has changed her mind and decided she loves Pyrrhus. She rejects Oreste, who, before escaping from Epirus, loses his mind. Hermione, overcome with remorse for her actions, takes her own life. Andromache will now reign as Queen of Epirus.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 895
Orestes, son of the Greek leader Agamemnon, journeys to Epirus to tell Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, that the Greeks are fearful of Astyanax, the young son of Hector and Andromache. It is believed that Astyanax might someday try to avenge the fall of Troy. Because of the Greeks’ fear, Orestes had been sent to Epirus to request that Pyrrhus put Astyanax to death.
Pyrrhus has fallen in love with Andromache, however, and, at first, afraid of losing her love, he refuses to grant the request. To Orestes, who has long loved Hermione, betrothed of Pyrrhus, the news of Pyrrhus’s love for Andromache is welcome. Orestes thinks he sees in the situation a chance for him to win Hermione for his wife. Orestes’ friend Pylades is amazed, for Orestes had previously sworn that his love for Hermione had degenerated into hate because she had spurned him.
Pyrrhus refuses to kill Astyanax or turn the child over to the Greeks, so Orestes threatens him. Pyrrhus swears that he will make Epirus a second Troy before he permits the death of Astyanax. Pyrrhus, hoping that his decision will lead her to forget her dead husband, tells Andromache what he has done, but she makes no response to his overtures. Angered, Pyrrhus tells her that unless she marries him the child will die.
Meanwhile, Hermione, spurned by Pyrrhus, is trying to decide whether she loves or hates the king, and whether she wants to flee with Orestes. When Pyrrhus, rebuffed by Andromache, goes to her, they decide that they are still in love. Reconciled to Hermione, Pyrrhus promises to love only her and to give Astyanax to the Greeks.
Hermione, however, changing her mind, prepares to flee with Orestes to inflict punishment on Pyrrhus, after Orestes tells her that Pyrrhus has renewed his suit of Andromache. Pyrrhus returns while they are speaking and announces that he is ready to give the boy to the Greeks because Andromache has again spurned his love and aid.
Convinced that Pyrrhus has decided to marry Hermione only to keep her from her Greek lover, Orestes plots to flee with the girl. Pylades, his friend, agrees to help in the abduction. When Hermione meets Orestes, she speaks only of her approaching marriage to Pyrrhus, whom she still loves. While they talk, Andromache enters the room and begs Hermione to protect Astyanax, whom Pyrrhus has determined to kill. Andromache reminds Hermione that Hector had championed Helen, Hermione’s mother, when the Trojans wished to murder her. Hermione refuses to listen and scorns Andromache’s request.
Andromache then pleads with Pyrrhus, but Pyrrhus tells her that her plea comes too late. At last, when Andromache vows to kill herself, her vow and tears move the vacillating Pyrrhus, who once again tells her that he will marry her instead of Hermione and champion the boy against the Greeks. Andromache, however, refuses to save her son by marrying her captor and former enemy. After a conference with her waiting-woman, she decides to consult her husband’s ghost. The result of that conference is a decision to marry Pyrrhus, thus bringing Astyanax under Pyrrhus’s protection, and then to kill herself.
Hermione, furious when she learns that on the following day Pyrrhus intends to marry Andromache, sends for Orestes and tells him that she wants his help in avenging herself on the king. Without promising herself to Orestes, she asks him to kill Pyrrhus during the wedding ceremony.
At first Orestes demurs. Not wishing to become an assassin, he wants to declare war on Pyrrhus and earn glory on the battlefield. At Hermione’s urging, however, he finally agrees to the murder. She tells him that it will be easy to commit the crime because the king’s guards have been sent to watch over Astyanax and none has been ordered to guard the nuptial ceremonies. She finally adds that after the murder she will become Orestes’ bride.
After Orestes leaves, Pyrrhus visits Hermione once more. Hermione, hoping that the king has changed his mind again, sends her serving-woman to tell Orestes not to act until he has further word from her. Pyrrhus, however, has come to tell her only that he intends to marry Andromache, come what will. Hermione vows she will have revenge. (This is her message to Orestes.) Finally, Orestes arrives to inform her that the deed had been done; Pyrrhus died at the hands of Orestes’ soldiers.
Hermione, turning on Orestes, declares that she disowns such savagery and will have no more to do with him because he has killed the man she loves. When Orestes argues with her that she persuaded him to commit the murder for her sake, her only defense is that she was distraught at having her love spurned by Pyrrhus and that Orestes should not have listened to her. She rushes out of the room.
Pylades arrives with the Greek warriors to warn Orestes that if they are to escape the wrath of Pyrrhus’s subjects, they must take ship and sail away from Epirus at once. The people, they say, are obeying Andromache as their queen. Hermione, too, is dead; she ran into the temple and threw herself on Pyrrhus’s body, after stabbing herself. Hearing that news, Orestes turns mad and faints in his agony. His men quickly take him away and make their escape from Epirus.
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