Apollo promises that he will never forsake Orestes. He says that the Furies are creatures from the deepest bowels of the earth, hated as much by the gods as they are by humans. They will pursue Orestes wherever he goes, but he must endure their torments. Eventually he will arrive at Athens, the holy city of Athene. There he will find sanctuary and his afflictions will come to an end. Apollo absolves Orestes of responsibility for the murder of Clytaemestra by saying, “It was I who made you strike your mother down.” He tells Orestes not to lose heart and orders Hermes to watch over him during his wanderings. Apollo goes out, followed by Orestes and Hermes.
A moment later, the ghost of Clytaemestra enters. She is enraged by the discovery that the Furies have fallen asleep and allowed Orestes, her murderer, to escape. She reviles the chorus for their failure and reminds them of the many offerings she made to them while she was still alive. The Furies awaken and angrily realize that Orestes has eluded them. Clytaemestra urges them to hunt down the culprit and torment him until his death. She goes out.
Apollo’s acknowledgement of responsibility and prediction that Orestes will be acquitted indicate that the theme of this play is not the personal fate of Orestes. Orestes’ trial does not come until later in the play, but its outcome has already been announced and dramatic interest has been shifted to the impending clash between Apollo and the Furies, a conflict between new and old conceptions of justice and different views of how to establish and maintain justice on earth.
The appearance of Clytaemestra binds this play to The Choephori and suggests the full magnitude of Orestes’ deed. Her speech to the Furies emphasizes their role as enforcers of the ancient law of blood revenge and opponents of the more progressive moral attitude represented by Apollo.