The audience knows that Orestes is alive and that the slave is tricking the Queen and manipulating her into believing that Orestes is dead. So why, oh why, does Sophocles give him nearly 100 lines to tell a drawn-out tale of Orestes's supposed chariot-related death?
Despite being a lie, this story itself is thrilling. Just read a few of these heart-thumping lines and you'll get caught up in the drama, we promise. Many critics have pointed out that this story is in keeping with the Homeric tradition – it reads like a passage out of the Odyssey.
The story also gives us more information about the characters who listen to it. Consider Clytemnestra's reaction. She laments the death of her son for about two seconds, and admittedly out of a sense of maternal obligation rather than out of any genuine feeling. Her primary reaction is a selfish one: now she doesn't have to worry anymore about Orestes killing her. If we were on the fence in the Electra-Clytemnestra debate, we'd probably be tipped by this scene.