Aeschylus' famed plays Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides comprise the Oresteia, which uses the dark and convoluted story of a family curse, and a long history of murder and revenge, to raise haunting questions about the nature and the price of justice. In Agamemnon , the Argive king reaches home following his victory in the Trojan War, only to meet his death at the hand of his wife, Clytemnestra. Horrible as this deed is shown to be, we also come to understand in the course of the play how justice has been satisfied by Agamemnon's murder. The second play in the trilogy, The Libation Bearers (Choephoroe), portrays the vengeance of Agamemnon's son Orestes, who returns from exile to exact the price of his father's murder. With the aid of his sister Electra, Orestes kills Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthus. By spilling his mother's blood, however, he invites the wrath of the ancient Erinyes, or Furies, and they begin to pursue him. The Eumenides shows the Furies' pursuit of Orestes, who is protected by the younger god Apollo.
Orestes is ultimately tried for his crime in Athens, and Athena, goddess of wisdom, casts the deciding vote on his behalf, and releases him from the ancient familial blood-guilt. Athena persuades the Furies to accept the new legal justice and a new role in the polis, as Kindly Ones, who will bless the city of Athens and its land. In this exciting new translation, at once faithful to the original and as fully alive as a poem in English, Alan Shapiro and Peter Burian showcase the complexity and intricate imagery of this great work of Athenian tragic poetry.