The sea nymph Thetis is trying to prevent her mortal son Achille from participating in the Trojan war. She sends him to the court of the king of Skyros because the oracle had once prophesied that Achille would fall near Troy. At the court in Skyros he begins a love affair with the king’s daughter, Deidamia.
A Greek ship puts in at the harbour and the Greek envoys demand that the King allow Achille to leave so that he can go to war with them against Troy. Achille is living with the young ladies-in-waiting in the palace, disguised in women’s clothes and going by the name of Pirra. But the Greeks have watched “Pirra” and saw how she killed game with an unerring shot while out hunting and are convinced that she is really Achille.
The tale of Achilles in women’s clothes was a popular theme ever since opera first began. During the last stage of his time spent writing opera in London, Handel experimented with a number of different musical and dramatic concepts. But Deidamia was not a success and was performed only three times. With this work, Handel ended his career as an operatic composer and devoted himself henceforth to the new genre of oratorio.