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Orestes arrives with his friend Pylades, son of Strophius, and a tutor. Their plan is to have the tutor announce that Orestes has died in a chariot accident, and that two men (really Orestes and Pylades) are arriving shortly to deliver an urn with his remains. Meanwhile, Electra continues to mourn the death of her father Agamemnon, holding her mother Clytemnestra responsible for his murder. When Electra is told of the death of Orestes her grief is doubled, but is to be short-lived.
Ajax is enraged because Achilles' armor was awarded to Odysseus, rather than to him. He vows to kill the Greek leaders who disgraced him. Before he can enact his extraordinary revenge, though, he is tricked by the goddess Athena into believing that the sheep and cattle that were taken by the Achaeans as spoil are the Greek leaders. He slaughters some of them, and takes the others back to his home to torture, including a ram which he believes to be his main rival, Odysseus.
Two brothers leading opposite sides in Thebes' civil war died fighting each other for the throne. Creon, the new ruler of Thebes, has decided that Eteocles will be honored and Polyneices will be in public shame. The rebel brother's body will not be sanctified by holy rites, and will lie unburied on the battlefield, prey for carrion animals like worms and vultures, the harshest punishment at the time. Antigone and Ismene are the sisters of the dead Polyneices and Eteocles.
Oedipus enters the village of Colonus and sits down on a stone. They are approached by a villager, who demands that they leave, because that ground is sacred to the Furies, or Erinyes. Oedipus recognizes this as a sign, for when he received the prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother, Apollo also revealed to him that at the end of his life he would die at a place sacred to the Furies, and be a blessing for the land in which he is buried.
A priest and the chorus of Thebans arrive at the palace to call upon their King, Oedipus, to aid them with the plague. Oedipus had sent his brother-in-law Creon to ask help of the oracle at Delphi, and he returns at that moment. Creon says the plague is the result of religious pollution, caused because the murderer of their former King, Laius, had never been caught. Oedipus vows to find the murderer and curses him for the plague that he has caused.
Sophocles' Philoctetes begins with their arrival on the island. Odysseus explains to Neoptolemus that he must perform a shameful action in order to garner future glory - to take Philoctetes by tricking him with a false story while Odysseus hides. Neoptolemus is portrayed as an honorable boy, and so it takes some persuading to get him to play this part. To gain Philoctetes's trust, Neoptolemus tricks Philoctetes into thinking he hates Odysseus as well. Neoptolemus does this by telling Philoctetes that Odysseus has his father's (Achilles) armor. He tells Philoctetes that this armor was his right by birth, and Odysseus would not give it up to him. After gaining Philoctetes' trust and offering him a ride home, Neoptolemus is allowed to look at the bow of Heracles.
The story begins with Deianeira, the wife of Heracles, relating the story of her early life and her plight adjusting to married life. She is now distraught over her husband's neglect of her family. Often involved in some adventure, he rarely visits them. She sends their son Hyllus to find him, as she is concerned over prophecies about Heracles and the land he is currently in. After Hyllus sets off, a messenger arrives with word that Heracles, victorious in his recent battle, is making offerings on Cape Cenaeum and coming home soon to Trachis.