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What is the literary definition of chorus?

The literary definition of chorus is a group of performers who either participate in the action of a play, or more often, summarize and provide commentary on recent action, using music, dance, and poetry.

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Chorus

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Last Updated May 25, 2023.

Chorus refers to a portion of a song that repeats at intervals or to an organized group of singers who sing together. 

In literary contexts, chorus refers to a group of performers who either participate in the action of a play, or more often, summarize and provide commentary on recent action, using music, dance, and poetry. Choruses allow playwrights to control the play's pacing and tension, foster a stronger emotional connection between the audience and the performance, and help audiences understand what is happening onstage.

Chorus derives from the Greek word choros, which is defined as "round dance, a band of dancers" and means the same as the English literary "chorus."

Choruses originated in ancient Greek dramas. In Aeschylus's play Prometheus Bound, the chorus is composed of sea nymphs called oceanids who engage directly with the play's main character, Prometheus. In Oedipus, the chorus offers advice.

Later Elizabethan playwrights also used the chorus but in a different manner than the Greeks. In Shakespeare's Henry V, a character named "The Chorus" explains to the audience, without interacting with the characters on stage. Eugene O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra, where a group of townspeople function like a traditional Greek chorus, provides commentary on the play's action.

see: tragedy

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