The Fate of Greek Choruses

February 13, 2017



The Fates Three are our narrators to this journey. They guide us through the narrative and help the audience out. Their role in the piece resembles that of the chorus in a Greek tragedy.


D.J. Conacher writes that there are two purposes of the Greek chorus.


The first purpose “is concerned with theme, with intimations of the meaning, the tragic significance of the action which is taking place or is about to take place before our eyes.” The Chorus is able to make the meaning of the action more clear from their interjections into the play.


Specifically, the Chorus is able to use song and dance to portray information to the audience in more effective manner, because the audience is more apt to listen if there is spectacle involved. This way, the Chorus is ensured to have a rapt audience for all of the important exposition that they have to provide. As Conacher writes, “Freed from the need to be rational, to spell things out, choral lyric can be evocative in technique and immediate in effect.”


The second purpose that is cited for the purpose of the Chorus is that “the Chorus can make us aware (in a way that a character cannot without sermonizing intolerably) of certain and inevitable patterns in human destiny.”


The Chorus does this by setting the tone for a scene or a piece or action before it happens. In Greek tragedies, if a protagonist was going to triumph in a certain scene, the Chorus would use their interlude to set up a triumphant tone, already revealing the action that is to lie ahead. Essentially, the chorus tells the audience to feel at any given time before they are met with the action that would cause it.


Conacher explains this through Agammemnon, “And so the opening chant ends in gloom, with reminders of the helpless household, ruled by a man-souled woman, to which the King will return. Already the tragic rhythm is established.” By doing this, the Chorus can be interpreted as knowing the fate of the characters without the action having occurred yet.


Another purpose that the Chorus fulfills, as Lambrupoulous explains, “The ancient chorus represented the citizens of the polis.” These Chorus that is represented is establishing for the audience what the community of the world of the play is like. The Chorus fulfills the function of establishing the national identity and spirit.


Read Bonnie Raingruber’s poem, A Greek Chorus, about her life with a sort of Greek chorus in tow. Notice the relationship between the protagonist, the action, and the chorus.


You live beneath my skin

Company to a Greek Chorus

--  those many minds replaying

And dissecting life, singing prelude,

Helping me see what it is.


I was sitting, sipping coffee last

Tuesday when I first heard you speak.

Other voices, friends from the past oft

Tutor me. They are cheerleaders

When I play alone, battling world.


In less than three months, Minstrel,

Your essence has become influence,

Living inside and out,

Advocate always,

Composing tomorrow.


Guardians all, my voices stand

Company to knowing.

Choruses meter support.

I hear them only in the silence

Experience brings to word.


I have ample affairs with the men of my mind.

Threads of influence move me,

Pinocchio proud, dancing on sultry,

Summer days when humidity hangs

Breathless and an adagio waits to sound.


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