Chorus In Antigone

What is the function of chorus in play "Antigone"?


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Before thinking about the chorus in Antigone specifically, it is important to realize that the Greek chorus was a common theatrical element that many playwrights of the time used, so the purpose of the chorus in Antigone will have its own specific purposes, but also serve the purposes of the theater in general.

In Antigone the chorus is filled with the people of Thebes—again, very common to the era. The chorus acts as a commentator on the play's action, and it sometimes offers advice to the leads, Antigone and Creon. For instance, the chorus provides some foreshadowing of the terrible consequences of Creon's actions, but Creon doesn't take this to heart until much too late in the play, and by then, Antigone and his son's fates are already sealed. The chorus in this play, as in others, sometimes provides hints at what is to come and suggestions on what can be done to change the course of events. In some ways, this is much like an audience screaming out at the stage, "No! Creon, stop!" And what does Creon do with this? He doesn't listen to the audience. Thus, he doesn't listen to the chorus either.

So, the comments are meant to guide the characters IN the play, but the chorus in any play is meant to provide a sort of emotional and/or response roadmap for the audience. If the chorus explains something to the audience, it might be because the crowd may need more context than the actions or dialogue of the characters provides. If the chorus is upset, it is meant to excite and rile up the audience. If the chorus is laughing, this could indicate the audience should be laughing, too, or that what the characters are doing is laughable (the chorus may even mock the characters, for instance).

As you can see, the chorus in Antigone, as with all Greek plays, serves several purposes; most importantly, they comment on the play as the play is happening, providing guidance to both the characters and the audience watching them.

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The Chorus acts as a narrator and as a body that suggests how the audience should react to the events of the play. The Chorus can also interact directly with the characters of the play and in doing so, influence how the events transpire.

In Antigone they act as the observers or townspeople of Thebes. They also provide the prologue and epilogue which set up the boundaries of the actions about to unfold for the viewer of the play.

One slight comparison I would make is to that of Bottom the Weaver in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Just as Bottom is betwixt and between the realm of reality and that of the land of the fairies and the mystical, so is the Chorus. The Chorus is betwixt and between the realm of the play, and that of spectator. Bottom and the Chorus serve as a guide through the written word of the author.


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The chorus is the voice of the people, it warns of impending evil, it rejoices in an good; it wails aloud in grief. It sees mankind as the puppets of the Gods. The chorus represents the 'crowd' the 'judges' of the characters on stage, commentators and passers of opinion. Its role is to comment on the themes and react as perhaps the audience should, guiding the audience toward understanding. Through the chorus Creon comes to understand that he is wrong and God is superior to himself, that he is merely a human in a world far greater than the walls of his kingdom.One role of the play is to comment on the human condition and this is provided by the chorus. At first the chorus may appear weak, it accommodates itself to the tyranny of Creon, it does not intervene on the side of Antigone; it is initially a submissive chorus. However this makes Antigone stand alone, necessary for the play and showing the irresistible nature of the king's command. 

 In Greek theatre the chorus would often dress like the chief actor, unless that was a woman. But in 'Antigone' the chorus would be men to show the isolation of Antigone against a background of grief.

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