Show how Sophocles uses the Chorus to express the thematic effectiveness of Oedipus Rex.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The fact that the Chorus is not endowed with any profound life altering messages that immediately strike of moral clarity reflects how challenging Oedipus' plight is in finding resolution.  Sophocles uses the Chorus of Theban Elders to speak to the challenges in Oedipus.  In one of the clearest displays of Ancient tragedy, there is little clear in Oedipus' tale.  He does wrong, but what he does is fairly human in allowing hubris to dictate his actions.  In believing he can outpace his fate, Oedipus is "only human."  It is here where Sophocles uses the Chorus, who do not necessarily speak of anything that is outside the action being displayed.  The Chorus regrets Oedipus' condition and fall from grace in Act IV, and reminds all that the judgment of the life of a man is a complex issue at the end of the play.  I think that in not giving the Chorus some profound message to speak about consciousness, Sophocles might be suggesting that the challenges present in the play are those that extend to the realm of being human, no more and no less.  The Chorus, like the audience, is torn between their affinity for a good ruler as Oedipus is and the loyalty towards the Gods.  In seeing this predicament play itself out, the Chorus is akin to the audience, in that we can only see ourselves in such a horrible predicament.  We really lack clear judgment and definitive sides because while we watch Oedipus endure something that no one would wish on their own enemy, there is a hidden statement that this is something that had we been placed in that situation would lack the clarity on how to exactly act.  It is here where the Chorus is situation and where Sophocles places them in trying to increase the effectiveness of the drama.