Although the historical origins the Greek drama space unclear it might be stated it had relevance to religion, art and also to the love the expression and perceptive storytelling in general. The beginnings of the chorus in particular may have stemmed the end of old rites and rituals with facets of song and also dance, and also most importantly – the gathering of people.

You are watching: What functions does the chorus serve in a typical ancient greek play?

In order to know the function of the chorus one need to remember the at the beginnings of Greek drama over there was just one actor; and even at later days no more than three actors occupied the stage, every of who may have actually played several roles. As there to be this clear must distract the audience if the gibbs went off-stage to adjust clothes and costumes, and perhaps prepare because that their following role, the role of the chorus may have had an ext to carry out with practicality, 보다 with artistic or thoughtful considerations.

Aside indigenous the handy the chorus would have had countless functions in offering a considerable and continuous artistic unit. Firstly, follow to a view embraced by plenty of scholars, the chorus would administer commentary on actions and events the were taking place before the audience. By law this the chorus would produce a depth and an ext meaningful connection between the characters and also the audience. Secondly, the chorus would enable the playwright to develop a type of literary complexity only achievable by a literary an equipment controlling the atmosphere and expectations the the audience. Thirdly, the chorus would permit the playwright come prepare the audience for certain key moments in the storyline, build up momentum or slow-moving down the tempo; he could underline specific elements and also downplay others. Such usage of the choral structure-making functions may be it was observed throughout many classic plays however may be more obvious in some than in others.

In Aeschylus’ “Prometheus Bound”, the chorus is written of Oceanids (nymphs indigenous the ocean, the children of the sea god Oceanus and his wife Tethys). Aeschylus readjusted the duty of the chorus which brought criticisms indigenous Aristotle who his Poetics suggested that “he diminished the prominence of the Chorus” (Aristotle 5), and by more modern-day writers such as H. D. F. Kitto that in his Greek Tragedy: A Literary research writes “Aeschylus arranges things differently. He renders the chorus do what Greek choruses are an alleged never to do: to take it a part in the action.” (Kitto 85) nonetheless such rearrangements might have do the chorus much more convincing because it can remain on the stage with Prometheus for the whole play as witness and commentator. Below the chorus could express it’s sympathy because that the lead character:

“I mourn because that thee, Prometheus, minished and also brought low, Watering my virgin cheeks v these sad drops, that flow From sorrow"s merganser fount, to to fill soft-lidded eyes With pure libations for thy fortune"s obsequies.” (Aeschylus)

In the functions of Nietzsche the chorus takes on a completely new and profound thoughtful meaning. In his The birth of Tragedy Nietzsche gift a view of a distinctive dissonance in between what he calls the Apollonian and the Dionysian paradigms, referencing come the dramatic and also choral features of Greek drama respectively. In a metaphysical framework the chorus is the essence of the play and embodies a specific Dionysian awareness which faces the primal worlds of the human condition. Nietzsche goes to the too much of saying that the “tragic myth deserve to only be construed as a symbolic snapshot of Dionysian wisdom by way of Apollonian art.” (Nietzsche 261)

These primal forces would be in ~ the command the the playwright through the an option of character and also composition of the chorus. It might well covers sea nymphs, together in Prometheus Bound, or 15 Theban elders together in Oedipus Rex, or of any kind of other type of human being who would represent the unison the people. It might be said that the thing that linked the chorus to be their mode of interaction – much more often than no the chorus would certainly elevate its an interpretation in song. Moreover, and perhaps partially for handy reasons (for the may have been difficult to see the characters from afar since of the relatively large size that the theatre) the chorus would certainly emphasize specific elements that the story with the usage of characteristics such together masks and weapons.

The chorus may have distinguished itself by fancy use the language or style, varying the voice of reason or the of emotion depending upon occasion and also the on purpose of the playwright. Much more importantly though, the chorus might have represented the prevalent views the the contemporary society holding up particular moral and social standards – lot like the media walk for modern-day people transparent their everyday lives

In case of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex the audience might have currently been familiar – and in many instances probably was - v the outcome of the play. This made the job of engaging the viewer ever an ext difficult. Hence the chorus would create interest through presenting an alternate or additional viewpoint. That may have actually negotiated sympathies because that one or one more character, or perhaps depending on the sophistication that the particular character, it might have also guided the characters through problematic situations. This is exemplified by just how Oedipus’ (who is all however blind to his fate) and Teiresias’ conversation is affected by the chorus.

“To us it sounds together if Teiresias has spoken in anger, and, Oedipus, you have done so, too. That’s not what us need. Rather we need to be looking into this: How can we best carry out the oh my gosh decree?” (Sophocles 485)

Both in the works of Aeschylus and also Sophocles and also in ancient Greek drama in general, the duty of the chorus may have been important because of structural and practical reasons. In ~ the very same one might praise generally as one enhancer and also amplifier that impression, and also sometimes the voice the a moderator, or the moral voice the the people. Absolutely it additionally had a similar role to music in contemporary drama underlining vital events and also downplaying the less important ones. Possibly most generally though, the chorus would offer the ancient playwright a multifunctional literary machine for the development of an award-winning pat on the Dionysian festival.


Aeschylus. The television series of Aeschylus. New York: forgotten Books, 2007.

Aristotle. Poetics. Brand-new York: forget Books, 2007.

See more: How Long Can Pork Chops Be Frozen Pork Chops Last? How Long Can You Freeze Pork

Kitto, H. D. F. Greek Tragedy: A literary Study. New York: Routledge Press, 1990.