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Name : Muhammad Shahzaib

Class: Bs-English (4th semester)

Assignment topic: Role of Chorus in Oedipus Rex

Submitted to : Miss Samira Mumtaz

What is Chorus?
Chorus is a group of Thebans that comment on the play.

Introduction to Oedipus Rex

Oedipus Rex, also known by its Greek title, Oedipus Tyrannus (Ancient Greek) or Oedipus the King, is an
Athenian tragedy by Sophocles that was first performed around 429 BC.Originally, to the ancient Greeks,
the title was simply Oedipus as it is referred to by Aristotle in the Poetics. It is thought to have been
renamed Oedipus Tyrannus to distinguish it from another of Sophocles' plays, Oedipus at Colonus. In
antiquity, the term “tyrant” referred to a ruler, but it did not necessarily have a negative connotation.

Role of Chorus:
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.

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:

"CHORUS Why, Oedipus, why stung with passionate grief Hath the queen thus departed? Much I fear
From this dead calm will burst a storm of woes. (1091)"

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'
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' side again and laments his horrific fate.

Like most all ancient Greek tragedians, Sophocles divides his choral odes into strophe and antistrophe.
Both sections had the same number of lines and metrical pattern. In Greek, strophe means "turn," and
antistrophe means "turn back." This makes sense when you consider the fact that, during the strophe
choruses danced from right to left and during the antistrophe 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 dualities created by strophe and antistrophe, represent the endless, irresolvable debates for
which Greek tragedy is famous.

Some important analysis:

Although they pipe up only once in a while, the Chorus is present throughout the play as an observer.
At the start of Oedipus the King, the Chorus, using the Strophe-Antistrophe dichotomy, recounts the
multiple problems the city faces under the curse including infertility, plague, and famine. They beg for

The Chorus informs Oedipus that they know nothing and suggests that Oedipus ask the blind prophet
Teiresias for his knowledge.

The Chorus tells Oedipus and Creon to stop arguing.

After Oedipus and Creon leave, the Chorus talks about their fight.

Jocasta and the Chorus urge Oedipus to listen to Creon when he says he did not frame Oedipus for the
murder of Laius.

The Chorus pleads with the Gods for mercy as Oedipus’s identity unfolds.

After Oedipus pieces things together and realizes what he’s done, the Chorus laments the tragedy.

Oedipus asks the Chorus to help send him out of Thebes or kill him.

From another point of view:

Like the chorus in many Greek tragedies, the chorus in Oedipus Rex represents the voice of the greater
society. The elders of the chorus are considered to represent men of Thebes who honor and respect the
king and the gods. Their odes show both knowledge of religious culture as well as strong loyalty to the
king. The chorus' role is to provide a broader context for the action of the play as a whole: the chorus has
the ability to pass judgment on the actions of the other characters, & comment on the morality of such.

The Greek chorus originated from the ritualistic and ceremonial origins of Greek tragedy. Sophocles
added three members of the chorus to Aeschylus's twelve.The Chorus' odes themselves are quite
complicated songs, consisting of 3 parts. These are called, respectively, the strophe, the antistrophe, and
the epode. In traditional productions, a dance would accompany the ode. If the strophe established the
dance pattern, in the antistrophe the dancers trace backwards the same steps, ending the ode in a
different way with the epode.

The content of the choral odes reflect a broader perspective & can be conservative and traditional at
times, to demonstrate the views of its society rather than the protagonist. Lyrics about Apollo's oracle
and the ruined landscape of Thebes, the timeliness of Teiresias's report all show a deeper understanding
of "the big picture", more so than any individual character could portray. The chorus reiterates some of
the action, expressing varying emotions throughout. Thus it stands as the voice of the community
commenting on the behavior of the characters.

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