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The role of the Chorus of Theban elders has been likened to that of a character who provides a broader context for the action of the play as a whole. At times the Chorus is perceptive, melodramatic, fickle, and even crass. In the PARODUS, the Chorus of Oedipus Rex entreats Athena, Artemis, and Apollo to descend and quell the "fires of darkness" that plague Thebes--namely pestilence, death, and lamentation. They tell the gods that "the noble plowland bears no grain" and women cannot bear their children. In the ANTITROPHE 2 the Chorus describes the situation, then begs for help in STROPHE 3:
Unable to count their number,
the city is destroyed, and unpitied,
their generations lie upon the ground,(190)
spreading death, finding no mourners.
While brides and white-haired mothers come together
and groan as suppliants over their mournful labors,
the hymn for healing and the lament ring loud together.
Because of these, o golden daughter of Zeus,(195)
send bright-eyed Strength.
Str 3Furious Ares, now without bronze shields,
yet still surrounded by cries, confronts me and burns me;
let him, in hurried running, turn his back
on our fatherland, either borne by a wind(200)
into the great chamber of Amphitrite
or rushing to the inhospitable Thracian wave.
For, if night ever leaves something undone,
day comes along to complete it.
This one, o reverend lightning-bearer,(205)
father Zeus, make him perish with your thunderbolt.
Ant 3And you, lord of light, from your golden bow
I would have your unconquered arrows fly
as a guard set in front of me before my enemy,
and those of shining, fire-bringing Artemis,(210)
with which she darts across the hills of Lycia.
And I call upon the one with the golden headband,
eponym of this land, wine-faced Bacchus,
hailed companion of the Maenads’ throng,
to approach with a torch of shining pine,(215)
against this god dishonored by the gods.
In this Strophe 3, the Theban elders ask the gods to fight fire with fireby fighting the plague with the thunderbolts of Zeus, the flashing arrows of Apollo and Artemis, and the torches of Dionysiius. Then, the Chorus entreats Apollo himself to shoot his arrows before them as they fight Ares, the god of war, who is alluded to as widespread destruction in general.
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