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Old Slave Character Analysis

The unnamed old slave is Orestes’s tutor, and the man to whom Electra gave infant Orestes after Agamemnon was murdered by Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. Electra had feared that Clytemnestra and Aegisthus would kill Orestes as a baby because he would probably grow up to avenge his father’s death, and the old slave indeed raises Orestes to avenge Agamemnon. Throughout much of Electra, the old slave urges Orestes and the others to stop talking and instead act, which reflects Sophocles’s central argument that words are often deceptive and that actions, usually, are more indicative of truth.

Old Slave Quotes in Electra

The Electra quotes below are all either spoken by Old Slave or refer to Old Slave. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Electra published in 2008.
Lines 1-85 Quotes

To the left the famous temple of Hera. The place
We have reached you may call Mycenae, rich in gold,
And here the palace of Atreus, rich in blood.
From here, some years ago, when your father was murdered,
Your sister Electra handed you into my care.
I carried you off, I saved your life, and then
I brought you up as my own, until you reached
Your prime of manhood, to avenge your father’s murder.

Related Characters: Old Slave (speaker), Electra, Orestes, Clytemnestra, Aegisthus, Agamemnon, Atreus, Pelops, Zeus
Page Number: 7-14
Explanation and Analysis:

Our crafty tale will bring them the glad tidings
That my body has been cremated and now consists
Of nothing but charred remains. What harm does it do me
To say I’m dead? None, if the outcome proves
My real salvation and wins me a glorious prize.
In my opinion, no word can be a bad omen
If it leads to gain. A false report of death
Is a trick I’ve often seen used by clever philosophers.

Related Characters: Orestes (speaker), Clytemnestra, Agamemnon, Old Slave, Pylades, The Furies
Page Number: 56-63
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Electra LitChart as a printable PDF.
Electra PDF

Old Slave Character Timeline in Electra

The timeline below shows where the character Old Slave appears in Electra. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1-85
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
Orestes, Pylades, and an old slave enter and look toward the palace of Mycenae. The old slave points out that this... (full context)
Deception, Falsehood, and Trust Theme Icon
The old slave encourages Orestes and his friend Pylades to put their plan into action now that a... (full context)
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...he would be victorious in revenge through using deceit and trickery. Accordingly, Orestes orders the old slave to enter the palace, because the way his appearance has changed with age will keep... (full context)
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...successful, claiming that he’s doing it in the name of justice. He turns to the old slave and tells him to be on his way to the palace. Suddenly, they hear a... (full context)
Lines 516-822
Gender and Society Theme Icon
Deception, Falsehood, and Trust Theme Icon
...in luxury with those among her children who do not wish her harm. Suddenly, the old slave enters the palace.  (full context)
Deception, Falsehood, and Trust Theme Icon
The old slave whether the palace belongs to Aegisthus. When the chorus confirms that it does, the old... (full context)
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...cries, but Clytemnestra says that Nemesis has done the right thing in this case. The old slave begins to leave, but Clytemnestra insists that he come inside the palace. Electra sarcastically remarks... (full context)
Lines 1098-1383
Deception, Falsehood, and Trust Theme Icon
...at home, she tells her brother, and Clytemnestra is in the palace alone. Suddenly, the old slave exits the palace doors and exclaims that they have to be more cautious. (full context)
Deception, Falsehood, and Trust Theme Icon
The old slave tells Orestes and Electra that their cries of joy are sure to be heard inside... (full context)
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
The old slave again orders them to stop talking, saying that it’s time to take action instead. Clytemnestra... (full context)