translated by Kenneth McLeish
Iphigeneia, sister of the troubled Orestes, was the daughter of Agamemnon. No ideal father, Agamemnon had aimed to sacrifice Iphigeneia before the Trojan War in the hopes of guaranteeing victory, a sacrifice that was only undone by the intervention of Artemis.
Now Iphigeneia lives in forced religious servitude, in a haze of dreams and blood sacrifice at a temple to Artemis on the Crimean coast. As a result of one of these dreams, she comes to believe that Orestes is dead; the play opens with her lamentations.
Instead, Orestes is on his way to the very temple at which she serves, in the hopes of stealing an icon, a task demanded of him by the god Apollo. When Orestes is caught, Iphigeneia, not recognising her brother, must offer his life to Artemis as one of the regular Hellenic sacrifices. It is only after Orestes reveals his identity that Iphigeneia will plot against the gods to help her brother, and herself, escape from the temple with their lives.
In his introduction, J. Michael Walton writes: 'The play is comic in tone . . . [and] comes as something of a relief after Elektra and Orestes . . . This is Euripides in one of his least bilious moods, rehabilitating the murderous and demented siblings of Elektra and Orestes and awarding them the kind of operetta status of Offenbach's La Belle Hélène or his own Helen.'