In this version of her story, written just three years after his Trojan Women, Euripides' Helen is no wanton seductress, but rather a faithful wife and innocent victim of Olympian plots. By a trick of the gods, this Helen never travels to Troy at all, but is replaced by a phantom double before she can be kidnapped by the Trojan prince Paris. Magically transported by Hermes to Egypt for safekeeping, the real Queen Helen waits out the Trojan War in an ironic celibacy, far from the battle.
Euripides' play picks up Helen's story seventeen years later, as the now middle-aged queen--stranded on the banks of the Nile, oblivious of her infamy and ignorant of the War's outcome--wonders whether the gods, the world, and above all her husband have forgotten her forever. As the plot unfolds, an irreverent fantasy ensues, filled with mistaken identities, daredevil escapes, and the inevitable "deus ex machina."