Describe the importance of Chorus as depicted in Sophocles’ plays.

Oedipus RexAnswer: Chorus, in drama and music, those who perform vocally in a group as opposed to those who perform singly. The chorus in Classical Greek drama was a group of actors who described and commented upon the main action of a play with song, dance, and recitation. Greek tragedy had its beginnings in choral performances, in which a group of 50 men danced and sang parathyroids—lyric hymns in praise of the god Dionysus. In the middle of the 6th century bc, the poet Thespis reputedly became the first true actor when he engaged in dialogue with the chorus leader. Choral performances continued to dominate the early plays until the time of Aeschylus (5th century bc), who added a second actor and reduced the chorus from 50 to 12 performers. Sophocles, who added a third actor, increased the chorus to 15 but reduced it to a mainly commercial role in most of his plays (for an example of this role as shown in the play Oedipus the King).

The distinction between the passivity of the chorus and the activity of the actors is central to the artistry of the Greek tragedies. While the tragic protagonists act out their defiance of the limits subscribed by the gods for man, the chorus expresses the fears, hopes, and judgment of the polity, the average citizens. Their judgment is the verdict of history.

The Chorus is roughly like the peanut-gallery (it’s even occasionally told to shut up). Sophocles uses this group of The bans to comment on the play’s action and to foreshadow future events. He also uses it to comment on the larger impact of the characters’ actions and to expound upon the play’s central themes. In Oedipus the King we get choral odes on everything from tyranny to the dangers of blasphemy.

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Sophocles also uses the Chorus at the beginning of the play to help tell the audience the given circumstances of the play. We hear all about the terrible havoc that the plague is wreaking on Thebes. By describing the devastation in such gruesome detail, Sophocles raises the stakes for his protagonist, Oedipus. The people of Thebes are in serious trouble; Oedipus has to figure out who killed Laius fast, or he won’t have any subjects left to rule.
importance of Chorus King Oedipus

Unlike his contemporary Euripides, Sophocles was known to integrate his choruses into the action of the play. In Oedipus the King we see the Chorus constantly advising Oedipus to keep his cool. Most of the time in ancient tragedies choruses do a lot of lamenting of terrible events, but do little to stop them. Amazingly, though, the Chorus in Oedipus the King manages to convince Oedipus not to banish or execute Creon. Just imagine how much worse Oedipus would have felt if he’d killed his uncle/brother-in-law on top of his other atrocities.

The Chorus in Oedipus the King goes through a distinct character arc. They begin by being supportive of Oedipus, believing, based on his past successes, that he’s the right man to fix their woes. As Oedipus’s behavior becomes more erratic, they become uncertain and question his motives. The fact Oedipus doesn’t start lopping off heads at this point is pretty good evidence that he’s not a tyrant. In the end, the Chorus is on Oedipus’s side again and laments his horrific fate.

In musicals, the chorus, a group of players whose song and dance routines usually reflect and enhance the development of the plot, became increasingly more prominent during the 20th century. During the late Victorian era, musical comedy was characterized by thin plot, characters, and setting, the main attraction being the song and dance routines, comedy, and a line of scantily clad chorus girls. Their performances provided an extravagant bonus at the beginnings and ends of songs or special dance numbers, and they were considered the flashy sex symbols of the day. As musicals developed, however, more attention was given to integrating their various elements. In the mid-1920s, song and dance numbers began to stem more naturally from the plot, and the chorus danced more than it sang. The dancing itself soon developed from the lines of synchronized leg kicking of the early 1900s into highly sophisticated ballet and modern dance.

Like most all ancient Greek tragedians, Sophocles divides his choral odes into strophe and anti strophe. Both sections had the same number of lines and metrical pattern. In Greek, strophe means “turn,” and anti strophe means “turn back.” This makes sense when you consider the fact that, during the strophe choruses danced from right to left and during the anti strophe they did the opposite. Sophocles may have split them into two groups, so that it was as if one part of the Chorus was conversing with the other. Perhaps the qualities created by strophe and anti strophe, represent the endless, resolvable debates for which Greek tragedy is famous.

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