Electra

by: Sophocles

Section four, lines 1467–1859

The Old Man's unwillingness to reveal to Orestes Clytemnestra's human response to the news of Orestes's death increases the Old Man's level of moral ambiguity. Recall that Clytemnestra did not display unbounded or unqualified joy at the news. Indeed, for a moment she was visibly affected by maternal feelings. That the Old Man is unforthcoming about Clytemnestra's response might be indicative of a fear of swaying Orestes's resolve to carry out the revenge in accordance with Apollo's oracle, or it might simply be a product of the Old Man's sense that time is of the essence. Indeed, he does say that he will tell all later. Regardless, his unwillingness to speak of the matter forces the audience to recall that which he will not reveal to Orestes, which is the human side of Clytemnestra's character. Her human side itself complicates the audience's moral response to the revenge, but so too does the Old Man's unwillingness to reveal that humanity.