The role of the Chorus in Oedipus Rex
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What are the roles/functions of the Chorus in Oedipus the King? The chorus in Sophocles' Oedipus the King consisted of 2 sub-choral groups and a koryphaios, the leader of the chorus. The two hemichoria were made up of inexperienced Athenians, whilst the koryphaios was either talented or more experienced. The chorus had 2 main functions; lyrical and mechanical. Thus these functions provided the chorus with many roles, although only a few will be mentioned in this essay. One of them was to introduce the characters and offer important background information. Another one was to summarize the episode in the form of a choral ode. They also had to clarify and narrate the play, voice the opinion of the audience and engage the main actors in dialogue. One of the functions of the chorus is the lyrical function. The lyrical function helps Sophocles, the playwright to result with Freytag's pyramid by regulating the development of the plot. The chorus has the role to voice the opinions of the audience and other characters, such as the Thebans.
This mechanical function allowed the spectators to follow the play's plot easily. Sophocles used this role frequently, "look, they bring him on at last, the seer [Tiresias]" and "Put your requests to Creon, here he is" shows this. "Thebes [is] like a great army dying" further evidences how Sophocles uses the chorus to describe the condition of the city. This role is like a technical helper that allows the playwright id est to give information to the audience with out muddling up the credibility of the plot. The next role is to clarify and narrate the story. Through the above mentioned technical helper (the chorus), Sophocles could also narrate parts of the story that did not take place on stage. Exempli gratia: "I saw it all, and with all the memory that's in me you will learn what that poor woman suffered", through the questions of the chorus, the audience acquires the information. Another one of mechanical function roles of the chorus was to separate the episodes through the choral odes.
The chorus, in this case teaches the spectators about the importance of obeying and believing in the gods. The tone of the chorus, in various parts suggests that the only reason that Oedipus suffered so much is because he tried to evade destiny, thus, undermining the power of the Greek gods. In Oedipus the King, the chorus is the 'perfect' audience. It reacts to the action on stage as one is expected to, and the chorus also helps structure the play with the stasimones. The koryphaios often engages in kommos with Oedipus, also the hemichoria narrate the play and gives the spectators background information. The chorus has a vital role in the play, as it structures it and gives the actors a break. It also is a technical helper to both the actors and the playwright, no matter its amateurism. To summarize, without the chorus Oedipus the King would not have been the masterpiece that it is now. Word Count: 885 Mr. L. Thompson Page 1 of 2 English A1 SL Rm. 139 Stephanie Shao 11D Created on 08/12/2006 8:38 PM Vienna International School
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