Guide to Literary Terms

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Chorus

Chorus - a group of singers distinct from the principal performers in a dramatic or musical performance and, also, the song or refrain that they sing.

The word comes from the Greek choros, meaning “a company of dancers or singers,” or “a group of persons singing in unison.”

In ancient Greece, a chorus was a group of male singers and dancers who participated in religious festivals and dramatic performances as actors, commenting on the deeds of the characters and interpreting the significance of events within the play for the audience.

In Aeschylus’s works, the chorus takes part in the action of the play, while in Sophocles’s, the chorus comments on the action. In Euripides’s works, the chorus is lyrical. During the Elizabethan era, a single actor recited both the prologue and the epilogue, and sometimes commented in-between acts to interpret the significance of events, as in Shakespeare’s Henry V, in which The Chorus is a character. Contemporarily, the playwrights T. S. Eliot and Brecht used choruses in their Murder in the Cathedral (1935) and The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1948), respectively.