The source for this play was the story of Aeneas from the third book of the “Aeneid” of Virgil. The action takes place in ancient times in Epirus, an area in the northwest of Greece. After the fall of Troy, the widow of the murdered Hector, Andromache, becomes a prisoner of Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, Pyrrhus is the king of Epirus, he preserves the life of Andromache and her son, against which other Greek kings – Menelaus, Odysseus, Agamemnon. In addition, Pyrrhus promised to marry the daughter of Menelaus Hermione, but draws with the wedding and renders signs of attention to Andromache. The kings send to the Pyrrhus the ambassador, the son of Agamemnon Orestes, with a request to fulfill their promises – to execute Andromache and her son and to take Hermione as a wife. Orestes is in love with Hermione and secretly hopes that Pyrrhus will give up his promise. When he met Pierre, he tells him that if Hector’s son remains alive, then in the future he will begin to take revenge on the Greeks for his father. Pyrrhus answers that it is not necessary to think so far ahead that the boy is his trophy, and only to him to decide the fate of the descendant of Hector, Pirre reproaches the kings with inconsistency and cruelty: if they are so afraid of this child, then why did not they kill him at once, during the plundering of Troy, when the war was going on and everyone was hacked. But during the world, “cruelties
Andromache appears, and Pyrrhus tells her that the Greeks demand the death of her son, but he is ready to refuse them and even start a war because of the child, if Andromache enters into marriage with him. However, she refuses – after the death of Hector, she does not need the shine or the glory of the queen, and once you can not save her son, she is ready to die with him.
Meanwhile, the offended Hermione tells her maid that she hates Pyrrhus and wants to destroy his alliance with Andromache, that their sorrows are “her best reward,” but she still hesitates and does not know what to do – whether to give preference to Orestes, or to hope for love of Pyrrhus.
Orestes appears and tells Hermione of her unquenchable and hopeless love for her. Hermione leads a double game and meets Orestes, who always remembers him and sometimes sighs. She demands that Orestes find out that Pirr decided to send her to his father or take him as his wife. Orestes hopes that Pyrrhus will give up Hermione.
Pyrrhus also plays a double game and, when meeting Orestes, declares that he has changed his mind and is ready to give the son of Hector to the Greeks and to marry Hermione. He instructs Orestes to inform her about this. He does not know what to think. Pyrrhus, however, tells his teacher Phoenix that he has been seeking Andromache’s favor for too long, and has risked too much for her and all is in vain, in response to reproaches alone. He can not decide what to do.
Orestes meanwhile in despair – he wants to kidnap Hermione and does not listen to the rational arguments of his friend Pilad, who advises him to flee Epirus. Orestes does not want to suffer alone – let Hermione suffer, too, having lost Pyrrhus and the throne. Hermione, forgetting Orestes, praises the virtues of Pyrrhus and already sees himself as his wife.
Andromache comes to her with a request to persuade Pirra to let her and her son go to the deserted island to hide from the people. Hermione responds that nothing depends on her – Andromache herself needs to ask Pierre, for she will not refuse.
Andromache comes to Pyrrhus and on his knees begs him not to give his son, but he answers that it’s her own fault, since she does not appreciate his love and patronage. At the last moment, Pyrrhus offers Andromache to choose: the crown or the death of his son. The wedding ceremony has already been scheduled.
Andromache Sephis’s friend tells her that the mother’s debt is above all and must be conceded. Andromache hesitates – after all, Pyrrhus destroyed her city of Troy, she decides to ask advice from Hector’s shadow.
Later, Andromache reveals his plan Sephis. Having learned the will of Hector, she decides to agree to become a Pyrrhic wife, but only until the wedding ceremony ends. As soon as the priest finishes the ceremony and Pirr before the altar will swear to become the father of her child, Andromache will be stabbed with a dagger. So she will remain true to her duty to her deceased husband and save her son’s life, for Pyrrhus will not be able to give up his oath in the temple. Sephisus will have to remind Pyrrhus that he swore to love his stepson and bring him up.
Hermione, learning that Pierre has changed his mind and marries a Trojan, demands that Orestes avenge her disgrace and kill Pyrrhus during the ceremony in the temple. This he deserves her love. Orest hesitates: he can not decide to kill the king, having stabbed him in the back, for no one in Greece will praise such an act. Orestes is ready to fight “in a straight and honest war.” Hermione, however, demands that Pyrrhus be killed in the temple even before the wedding-then her disgrace will not be publicized to all the people. If Orest refuses, she will go to the temple herself and kill Pyrrha with a dagger, and then herself – she’d rather die with him than live with the cowardly Orestes. Hearing this, Orestes agrees and goes to the temple to commit murder.
Hermione meets Pierre and listens to his excuses: he says that he deserves her reproach, but can not resist the passion – “weak-willed and in love”, he thirsts, reason in spite of, to call his wife one that does not only dislike him, but simply hates him. This is the main idea of the play Racine – “to prevent passions in vain, like a thunderstorm.” Heroes “Andromache”, like many plays playwright, can not act according to reason and duty, not because they do not want. They know what their duty is, but they are not free in their actions, because they can not overcome the passions that swept them.
Hermione replies to Pyrrhus that he came to flaunt her with his dishonesty, that he “only respects arbitrariness” and does not keep his word. It reminds Pyrrhus of how he killed the old Priam king in Troy and “strangled” his daughter Poliksen – that’s how heroes he “became famous”.
Pyrrhus remarks in reply that he was wrong before, believing that Hermione loved him. But now, after such words, she understands that she wanted to become his wife only for duty, not for love. The easier it will be for him to resign his refusal.
Hearing this, Hermione is furious – did not she love Pyrrha? How dare he say that! After all, she came to him “from the other side of the world,” where more than one hero was looking for her hand, and waited a long time for Pirr to announce her decision to her. Now she is threatening him with payment: the gods will avenge him for what they are doing,
Left alone, Hermione tries to figure out her feelings. She is torn between love and hate and yet decides that Pyrrhus must die, since he did not get it, for she sacrificed too much for him. If Orestes does not dare to kill, she will commit it, and then kill herself. She does not care who dies – Orestes or Pyrrhus, just to pour out her anger somehow.
Appears Orest and tells Hermione about how his unit entered the temple and after the rite was cut by Pierre. She, hearing this, is enraged and curses Orestes. Instead of rejoicing, she accuses him of the infamous murder of the hero. Orest reminds her that she did everything on her orders. She answers him that he believed the words of a woman in love, whose reason was darkened, that she did not want what she said, that she had “a heart and a mouth among themselves in a disorder.” Orestes had to give her a second thought and not rush with the vile revenge of Pyrrhus.
Orestes alone thinks about how he could, after forgetting the arguments of reason, commit a vile murder and – for whom? – for the one who, having imposed on him the infamous role of the murderer, for all repaid ingratitude! Orestes himself despises after all that has happened. Appears his friend Pilad and calls Orestes to flee Epirus, for a crowd of enemies wants to kill them. Hermione, it turns out, committed suicide over the corpse of Pyrrhus. At these words, Orestes understands that the gods decided to punish him that he was born unhappy and now he is left to drown in the blood of Pyrrus, Hermione and his own. He raves – it seems to him that this is Pyrrhus, not Pilad stands before him and he is kissed by Hermione. Then he sees Erynias, whose heads are twisted with snakes. They are the goddesses of vengeance, persecuting Orestes for killing her mother, Clytemnestra. According to the myth, Orestes took revenge on his mother for killing his father, Agamemnon. Since then, his life has been haunted by Erynias. At the end of the play, Oreste asks Erini to give way to Hermione – let her torment him.