The Use of the Chorus in Oedipus the King

Length: 6 Pages 1459 Words

Oedipus the King is a dynamic tale, expertly making use of all assets available to forge and shape a truly spellbinding play. As Sophocles weaves the plot throughout the tragedy, he manages to increase the tension and pace of the story through the development of all assets, particularly with regards to the role of the Chorus. In the beginning, the Chorus attempts to position itself in the audience’s mind as the population of Thebes, and functions largely as petitioners, relatively indecisive to the plot. The play moves on, though, and by the middle third, the Chorus begins to act as a moderator, providing a sober perspective on the heated arguments that rage throughout, attempting to infuse the arguing parties with the spirit of reconciliation, or at least keep the tempers from taking control of the characters’ actions. As the end approaches, the Chorus does indeed render judgment upon Oedipus, condemning him, in the eyes of the audience and himself as the cause of the plague of Thebes. The Chorus of Oedipus the King starts the play as mere petitioners, seemingly unimportant in the grand plot swirling about them, but gradually become more involved, taking active roles in the progress of the story, until the climax, where t Continue...

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The people of Thebes desperately do not want to see a dangerous, violent argument between the two titans of the city in Creon and Oedipus, and their mouthpiece, the Chorus, seeks throughout the middle third to bridge the gap between the feuding parties. Condemning him, the Chorus is filled with pity for the man they once respected and revered so. The Chorus certainly develops throughout the story from a body utterly dependent on Oedipus, to become a major part of the plot of Oedipus the King. Perhaps the final blow for Oedipus"tm case is in the defection of the Chorus to the side of truth. In the beginning, they have found themselves threatened by the plague that has descended on Thebes, and so open the play by petitioning for help. This is a perfect example of the initial timid nature of the Chorus, as they initially rely quite heavily upon Oedipus, Tiresias, and even the gods for guidance, accepting their words as the undisputable truth. As it becomes apparent that Oedipus is most likely in the wrong, the Chorus, seeing the potential ruin of their King, seeks to comfort him, telling him ""do not despair-you still have to hear the story from the eyewitness" (58). Let this matter lie where they left it" (48). Instead, the Chorus serves as an instrument to gauge the mood of the people of Thebes, a sort of testing grounds for various thoughts and hypotheses, necessarily important in the thoughts of the main characters in general and Oedipus in particular. Though suspicion rise, the Citizens of Thebes cannot turn their back on their champion until he is proven to be in the wrong. I have many questions to ask you, much I wish to know; my eyes are drawn towards you-but I cannot bear to look. To a certain extent, the Chorus does manage to accomplish this goal, keeping the parties from breaking into violent disagreement, though reconciliation proves to be beyond the powers of the Chorus. At the dawn of the play Oedipus, the Chorus shines not as a decisive character, but more as a collection of men voicing the concerns of the Citizens of Thebes.


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