Oresteia 2 Essay, Research Paper
The chorus plays a central role in the development of The Oresteia. It is a group of actors who respond to and comment on the main action of the play with song, dance, and recitation. Bowra s interpretation of the use of the chorus is difficult to refute, since the basic roles of the chorus cannot be denied.
The first comment Bowra makes about the chorus is that is the mouthpiece of the inspired poet. This is the most significant purpose of the chorus because through it the author can express his views and opinions about any aspect of life he pleases; for example, morals, the nature of man, and the most crucial theme of religion. There are numerous instances in which the chorus simply makes a generalization about human nature. When Cassandra foresees her own destruction the leader along with the chorus feels pity for her. However, the chorus goes to the root of the source by stating that all this action is taking place because man s lust for power never dies. People cannot have enough of it (158 ll 1355-1356). In the beginning of The Libation Bearers there is dialogue between Electra and the chorus of slavewomen. After the chorus relays Electra s situation to the audience it states that Sorrow turns the secret heart to ice (180 l 82). This statement portrays the whole mood of the situation with Electra and Orestes grief over their father s death. The whole background to The Oresteia concerns the Greek religion. There is hardly a place in which Fate, and a prayer to the Gods is not mentioned. It is the Gods who control the lives of the characters and it is to them that the chorus prays for help and retribution of other characters. When the chorus sees Electra mourning, it prays for some man to come and take revenge for Agamemnon s death (184 ll 163-165).
Lessons also come from the chorus, as Bowra analyzes, lessons suggesting that individuals are responsible for their own destinies. As the chorus states in Agamemnon, a man s fate, held true on course can suddenly change. It is caution which can save people from the worst of situations (142 ll 1007-1010).
In the first two plays the chorus comments on the problems facing the characters, as Bowra mentions. In the third play however, the chorus changes; it becomes one composed of the Furies. The Furies are active members of the play whose position is dynamic. In this aspect the chorus is not simply commenting on other characters actions, but instead focusing on itself. Solutions to problems are presented in many parts of the plays. When Agamemnon is stabbed the chorus responds by suggesting heralds be sent out, and the guards mustered because they will save the house (159 ll 1373-1374). Yet another situation in which the chorus summons for help is when Electra is grieving her father s death and Orestes is taking on the responsibility to avenge it (198 ll 463-465). In these lines the chorus is also providing the characters with moral support to continue in their objective.
There are examples of the chorus function scattered throughout the plays. Although the chorus may be composed of different people in the three distinct plays the influence and affect of the chorus remains constant. The chorus is without doubt a unique aspect of Greek drama which causes the audience to become an active participant in the play through its ideal comments.