What is the function of the Chorus in Jean Anouilh's Antigone? How, for example, does it relate to the players and to the spectacle as a whole?

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In the Antigone of Sophocles, written about 441 BC, the Chorus functions as an integral part of the play. The Chorus serves as a link between the play and the audience and provides counsel and guidance to the characters in the play and to the audience regarding moral and ethical...

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In the Antigone of Sophocles, written about 441 BC, the Chorus functions as an integral part of the play. The Chorus serves as a link between the play and the audience and provides counsel and guidance to the characters in the play and to the audience regarding moral and ethical principles. It supports and enhances the reason for the play's existence: to teach.

In Jean Anouilh's Antigone, written in 1944 during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II, the Chorus is an adjunct to the play and seems to function as a conceit, serving as the playwright's alter-ego.

The Chorus provides nearly the entirety of the exposition of the play and defines the characters' actions and motivations based solely on its own values. It also attempts to influence, if not directly control, the action of the play and the audience's reactions to the events of the play.

In some ways, the Chorus functions to distance the audience from the play, particularly in its second appearance midway through the play with its discussion about the nature of tragedy.

The Chorus doesn't simply counsel the characters on moral and ethical issues; it interferes in the action of the play and dictates the characters' behavior to them:

CHORUS. [to Creon] You are out of your mind, Creon. What have you done? ... You must not let Antigone die. ... LOCK HER UP. SAY THAT SHE HAS GONE OUT OF HER MIND. ... AND GET HER OUT OF THEBES.

At times, it's difficult to know if the Chorus in Anouilh's Antigone serves the play or if the play serves the Chorus—and Anouilh's manipulation of the characters and plot serves as a platform for his philosophical discourses.

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Jean Anouilh’s modern interpretation of the classic Greek theme includes both a Prologue and a Chorus. Usually one actor performs both roles. Their purposes are to comment on various dimensions of the play’s action, emphasizing such factors as psychological motivation and moral implications. They also react to the ethical aspects of both Creon’s and Antigone’s apparently opposite purposes, as Creon causes others to suffer by abusing power, while Antigone is willing to sacrifice for family honor.

The Chorus provides a frame for the stylistically different theatrical action. At the outset, the Prologue introduces the play’s characters. The action of direct address to the audience seems both modern and classical, but clearly not realist, in deliberately challenging the illusion of reality appearing onstage. The Chorus also represents the playwright, who may be considered a character or the actual playwright. In terms of content, the Chorus also speaks against Aristotelian catharsis, instead opining that tragedy does not stir up emotion because the audience already knows the outcome. Re-entering at the play’s end, the Chorus provides final commentary criticizing Creon’s treatment of his niece.

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Jean Anouilh's handing of the chorus in his Antigone is much different than the way that Sophocles managed the chorus of his Antigone some 2000 years earlier.

Anouilh has his chorus open the play with a lengthy explanation of the the various characters in the play and the background to the events of the play. Unlike Sophocles' audience, who would have known the background of the story and the characters involved in the story, Anouilh doesn't seem to think his audience is familiar with the story. Indeed, Anouilh spends almost one tenth of the play with this expository prologue by the chorus.

After this lengthy choral prologue, the chorus does not appear very much. They do not appear again until about the middle of the play, where they provide about two pages worth of commentary. In some ways, their speech here functions like an intermission as they note that now the stage is set for what will happen next in the play. On another level, their speech here recalls a quasi-Aristophanic parabasis, in which Anouilh has the chorus explain the difference between tragedy and melodrama.

Only in the last sixth of the play, does Anouilh's chorus have any real interaction with the other characters on stage. Here, they function almost exclusively as advisors to Creon, telling him not to kill Antigone and warning him about Haemon's deeply troubled state of mind.

The chorus also have the final words of the play as they spending a paragraph reflecting on Creon's tyranny and Antigone's actions.

Thus, unlike the chorus of a Sophoclean play, in which the chorus is integrated more organically into the fabric of the play, the chorus of Anouilh's play serves to provide the audience with background information on the play's characters and background; they also provide commentary on the play's genre and major themes. Rarely, however, does interaction with the other characters onstage occur. Unlike Sophocles' chorus, who are clearly identified as elderly Theban males, the identity of Anouilh's chorus seems unclear. For much of the play, especially their definition of tragedy and melodrama, they almost function like the stage presence of Anouilh.

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