In Oedipus Rex, explain the relationship of the choral odes to the play’s actions.


Oedipus Rex

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The function of the Chorus, as is the case in many Greek dramas, seems to be to provide a wider receptacle to view the central action of the play. The Chorus in this play consists of Theban elders who comment on what is happening at each stage of the play and show how what is happening in the play reflects on wider Theban society. In this sense, they take a very personal tragedy and show the impact on wider society and, indeed, on mankind itself. For example, note what the Chorus says after the truth about the identity of Oedipus has been revealed:

What god,

what dark power leapt beyond all bounds,

beyond belief, to crush your wretched life?--

godforsaken, cursed by the gods?

The Chorus here both show the response of wider Theban society to the discovery of the true identity of Oedipus but also reflect on the wider implications by commenting on his downfall. The message of the play is clearly established through such quotes, as no person, however rich or whatever their station in society, is completely safe and invulnerable from tragedy. Even Oedipus who has lived such a charmed existence for so long is not immune to the power of the gods to bring man down. Humans therefore should constantly be aware of the sudden reversal of fate that could lie just around the corner, and not suffer from the same tragic flaw of Oedipus, who was too confident in his power and ability to solve the problem of Thebes.


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