The Chorus plays a vital role in Greek literature, whether it by read or seen in a play. The Chorus is described as accompany of actors who commented (by speaking or singing in unison) on the action of the play. They tell of what we may not see or grasp thoroughly from the story. They come in many forms of attitudes foreshadowing of events and the dangers as in Aeschylus, Agamemnon, a persuasive character and teacher in Sophocles Oedipus the King and a friendly companion taking the side of the betrayed in Medea by Euripides.
As with any work of literature the writing is greatly influenced on the times. The stories or poems demonstrate the struggles or changes coming to Athens at the time of authorization. But what is the importance or use of the Chorus if they are not an actual character or what can not be said by an existing one?
Aeschylus wrote Agamemnon in 458 B.C.E, during this time the shift from a tyrannical government to a political democracy was taking place in the city of Athens.
The Chorus in the play is made up of the older men of Argos who were too old to fight in the Trojan War. They served as advisors to Clytaemnenstra during the husbands, Agamemnon absence. The Chorus speeches provide the main commentary of action throughout the play. Foreshadowing becomes an important part of the chorus in the play because most of the play takes place in a destination in the near past. The Chorus provides the audience with what has happened during Agamemnon’s trip and the history of the Trojan War that we would have otherwise not have known. The Chorus also gives the reader the opportunity to answer any questions that we might have had concerning the action of the characters or expressing a fear without knowing why. This unknown emotions cause the reader to believe that there more to the story that may happen. Such as when they question Cassandra about why she cries or when Agamemnon comes into the palace. In Sophocles’, Oedipus the King the time of Athens was struck by the plague that affected the entire city. As in Agamemnon, the Chorus plays the role communication the history of the story or time period. The chorus in the beginning uses the real life scenario of the plague striking the city. The chorus expands and even becomes very melodramatic at most times. When the question rises about Laius death the chorus seems to make a bigger scene thus causing a more feverish outcome.
The men of the Thebans, the chorus, describes the brutal event in such detail that places so much pressure on Oedipus. What is different about the Chorus in the play is that they play as a character versus a narrator. This chorus communicates and befriends Oedipus by calming him and talking him through difficult situations advising him throughout the entire play. Euripides, Medea is an example of how controversial his work was at this point in time. He wanted to show how people are realistically rather than portray how people should behave, act and live. He was not afraid to put what might make others uncomfortable in the fore front as a lesson of the greediness and absurdities that occurred during this time period. The chorus in Medea is comprised of Corinthian women. The main difference of the chorus in this play than in Agamemnon and Oedipus the King is that the chorus plays more of a companion to Medea than an outside mass. At the beginning of the play they try to comfort Medea in her distress and fear the worst of what she may do to those involved but are soon persuaded to vocalize the rights and sorrows of women.
They choose to take her side and with that her sympathies becomes their own. These women do not even try to intervene with Medeas decision to murder the royal family thus furthering the notion of the mistreatment and unfairness of women. The only objection that the chorus finds is of Medea murdering her own children. As much as they may pray to Zeus to stop this ludicrous act no action occurs and the murder takes place as planned. Agamemnon, Oedipus the King and Medea all show why the Chorus is so important to the story. Not only do they guide the reader to understand the history, to be aware of unforeseen events but have a greater influence on the audience than just a narrator may have. They Chorus does become a collected character even if most times they are seen as ghosts speaking in the corner while all happens around them. The three plays show how diverse they can be and how effectual they are to the play as well as the audience.
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