A chorus in a Greek tragedy is fundamental however in modern plays it is no longer a crucial element. The chorus consists of a small group of people, usually between twelve and fifteen, who account the events of the play, and foreshadow its development. They are meant to act as a character but are positioned away from the main action. As a character, the chorus has many functions; it interacts with other characters, and gives its opinion on the situations without regard to the chance of their opinion being wrong or correct.
In the play Antigone by Sophocles, the chorus is composed of many male lders that represent the views of the townspeople. The chorus plays a large role in Antigone by giving insight on opposing characters as well as guiding them. By using Greek mythology, the chorus is able to introduce new themes, motifs and symbols to help give the audience a better understanding of the play and the characters. This is mainly present in the Parados, Ode 2 and Ode 4. The chorus were once soldiers themselves, however with age they are limited to demonstrating their skills in words. From the beginning of the play, the chorus takes on the role of advisers to King Creon.
Throughout the play, they can be seen responding to Creon’s actions whilst saying what he wants to hear and what he needs to hear. When the Chorus Leader says, “No fool is fool to the point of loving death” (p. 199 I. 220) he explains to Creon that no human would disobey his edict because they know that they would have to die as well. No one is that irrational, thus the act of burying must have been the God’s will. The audience becomes aware that the Chorus leader is trying to tell Creon that his edict is wrong and that the God’s are more powerful han any human even a king.
When the chorus says, “When he honours the laws of the land and the god’s sworn right high indeed his city; but cityless the man who dares to dwell with dishonour” (p. 204, I. 369-370) they are showing the audience that Creon shows hubris; an overweening pride that will result in his downfall according to the God’s words. Gods are mythological figures that the chorus used to introduce motifs and themes throughout the play. The Parados is the first time the chorus is present in the play; this is when the audience learns the back story of the war that appened between Polynecius and Eteocles; the nephews of King Creon.
The theme of hubris; an overweening pride, was first introduced in the Parados when the chorus says, “the boasts of a proud tongue are for Zeus to hate” (p. 196, I. 128) Zeus is the God of all God’s and by using his name the chorus is showing the audience that all Gods hate hubris. In Greek mythology Hubris is punished by Nemesis a Goddess, this shows again that all Gods and Goddesses hate hubris and it will be punished. The chorus later says, “So seeing them streaming on in insolent clangor of gold, he struck with hurling fire him who ushed for the high wall’s top, hoping to yell out “victory” (p. 96, I. 129-133), this shows the audience that God’s don’t have patience when you commit hubris and that Zeus will punish you by throwing lightning bolts if you have committed hubris.
This is foreshadowing that one of the protagonists in the play will show hubris and that the God’s will punish them. Throughout the development of the play, we know that Creon is the one with overweening pride and that he was punished. The Parados is a warning to the audience that no one not even a king is exempt rom the God’s laws. The chorus then speaks about the curse on Antigone’s family.
Ode 2 gives the audience a reason as to why terrible events are happening to Antigone and her family. The chorus introduces the theme of Fate Vs. Free will; by talking about the founder of Thebes’s grandson, an ancestor of Antigone. Labdacus grandson of Cadmus had a son Laius who married Jocasta and had no children for many years, he consulted the oracle of Delphi and learns that if he had a child with Jocasta than the child would kill him. He believed this however Jocasta got annoyed and got Laius drunk and conceived a child; Oedipus which was given up to another kingdom.
Laius’s fate came true no matter how hard he tried to escape it and because of this Oedipus killed his father and married his father’s wife; his mother without anyone knowing. This sin cursed the coming generations because “the sins of the father are visited on the son” which means that because of what Oedipus and Jocasta have done any generation to come will be punished and there is no escape from fate. The chorus says, “Ancient the sorrow of Labdacus’ house, I know. No eneration can free the next. One of the gods will strike.
There is no escape. ” (p. 215, I. 94-596) They say because of the terrible events that occurred in Labdacus’ house, more known as Cadmus house any generation to come would be punished one way or the other. No matter how hard you try you cannot escape your fate. This tells the audience that your fate is sealed from before you are born and you can’t change it no matter how hard you try because it is the God’s choice. The chorus speaks again using references of gods to talk about Antigone’s entombment. Ode 4 is full of mythological references that the chorus used to introduce the symbol of entombment.
Later on Creon found out that Antigone was the one who buried Polynecius he condemned her to death. However, he realized that if he committed a sin then the gods would punish him, his family and his city; he then decided that he would trick the gods. He put Antigone in a grave with enough food and water to last her a week so that the gods don’t realize that he is killing her. After she was entombed the chorus came on stage and gave references to many Greek gods and goddesses that were similar o Antigone.
The Chorus says, “Danae suffered too. She went from the light to the brass-built room, bedchamber and tomb together. Like you, poor child, she was of great descent, and more, she held and kept the seed of the golden rain which was Zeus” (p. 225-226 I. 944-950) this compares Antigone to the Danae a Greek goddess. The chorus is saying that Danae was also entombed and that she followed Zeus’s wishes and not the Kings. In both these situations, the King entombed someone for following a God’s wishes. In Antistrophe 2 the chorus talks about Cleopatra “Cleopatra, unhappy queen.
She was a princess too, of the ancient Erechthids, but was reared in the cave of the wild north wind” (p. 226, I. 983-985) she was entombed by her husband the king. The chorus uses both of these women as examples because they both suffered an unjust entombment just like Antigone. The Chorus used Cleopatra as an example because after she was imprisoned her husband married another woman; the sister of Cadmus. Cadmus is an Ancestor of Antigone and because of his great great-grandson’s sin all of his descendants will be punished.
Through Greek mythology, the horus helped the audience understand the play in more detail. Through the usage of mythological references the chorus is able to introduce new themes, motifs and symbols to aid the audience in a better understanding of the play and it’s characters. The references are more prevalent in the Parados, as well as Choral Odes 2 and 4. The chorus introduces the motifs of hubris, entombment and the theme of Fate Vs. Free will through the use of Greek mythology. The chorus is prevalent throughout the entire play and aids the audience to grasp the entirety of the play.