Fallibility of the Chorus? In Oedipus, the Chorus repeatedly gives us moral lessons, often condemning “pride”—especially O’s pride.Are we to take the proclamations of the Chorus as...

Fallibility of the Chorus?

 In Oedipus, the Chorus repeatedly gives us moral lessons, often condemning “pride”—especially O’s pride.Are we to take the proclamations of the Chorus as absolute truth, or is the Chorus just as fallible as the other characters? To what extent is PRIDE the characteristic that causes all of O’s trouble?

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ophelia35 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Traditionally, the chorus in a Greek tragedy represents the community as a whole; consequently, we see the chorus acting and reacting in ways that the playwright would see as logical given the context of the play.  Sometimes, the chorus is the audience's persona in the play itself, responding in ways that would be logical for the audience viewing the play.  Therefore, the chorus and its comments, proclamations, and observations are just as fallible as any other human character.  However, the chorus often has an advantage over the other characters in that they are more "distant" from the central conflicts and often see the implications and potential consequences for the main characters before they do. 

Oedipus' pride is most often identified as the source of his downfall; however, many tragic heroes find themselves in situations where their desires to be virtuous and just outweigh their personal sense of self-preservation or loyalty to others.  One could look at Oedipus and say that his sincere wish to alleviate his kingdom's suffering and remain true to his vow to find Laios' murderer led him to his tragic downfall.  Is this a flaw or true leadership?  We wouldn't see it as a flaw unless we can say that this excessive virtue springs from his excessive pride.   If you can make that connection, then, yes, pride is the most prevalent factor in causing his downfall.


mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Chorus of Sophocles's Oedipus Rex establishes itself as the population of Thebes.  Initially, they perform the role of peitioners of Oedipus, then they move to being moderators by the middle third of the play, injecting the spirit of reconciliation and control over tempers.  However, at the play's end, the Chorus does, indeed, pass judgment upon Oedipus by condemning him as the cause of the plague in Thebes. In the Exodos, the following lines indicate the hubris of Oedipus as his downfall:

The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves.
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Chorus is probably responsible for Oedipus' truth being revealed, but they are not responsible for that truth or the consequences which happen because of it.  They literally cry out and beg for relief from their woes and the evident curse which has been placed on them.  Without that, and Oedipus' sincere concern for their valid problems, all may have lived in ignorant bliss.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
The chorus is not infallible, but we do have to rely on thier information and to a certain extent trust their judgement. I like to think that what they tell us is not just a commentary on events, but a chance for us as the audience to ponder our own thoughts on the issue.
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Oedipus Rex

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