chapter  2
13 Pages

The Chorus

It has been argued that the chorus was the natural and perfect frame for the Aeschylean quasi-religious tragedy. The atmosphere

of vengeance and retribution into which Agamemnon emerges, the background ofdoom and battle against which Eteocles plays out his lonely drama, are created by the chorus. In the Sophoclean conception the background is tragic human relationships and the complicated web ofcircumstance, and these are matters for the actors to present. Thebes is a threatened city in the Tyrannus, as well as in the Septem, and a curse is there too, but neither of these is the 1110st important theme in Sophocles' play. In his Electra) again, the primitive law ofvengeance is an important motif: as it is in the Choephori, but in Aeschylus' play it conditions everything, and is kept before our minds by the enveloping chorus; in the Electra it is part of the mind of the protagonist. When Eteocles is killed the logical close is the funeral hymn of the chorus; when Oedipus finds his doom the chorus sings'16J yEvEaL {3pOTWV, but this is not enough. The actor has superseded the chorus, and the logical ending is that we should see Oedipus in his ruin. It is not an easy task for Oedipus to follow and complete that tragic ode, but he has to do it, and he does.