A Choral Tragedy Essay, Research Paper
In the drama Oedipus Rex, the chorus portrays the most complicated roles of the play. The chorus interprets the sympathy that the audience feels for the tragic character of Oedipus into melodic prose and dramatic emotion. The chorus in the tragedy is also responsible for increasing the dramatic irony. The audience is aware of Oedipus’s guilt through the omniscience of the chorus, and the chorus is successful in increasing the effect of the tragedy through this. The tragedy speaks through the chorus. In many ways, Tragedy is personified through the chorus. Without the chorus’s involvement in the drama, the effect of the tragedy would be decreased or lost all together, in a sense changing the drama into a Hitchcock style mystery with only undertones of tragedy, rather than a tragedy all together. The chorus plays many roles throughout the entire play. They begin as announcers for the gods; introducing them to the audience as ever-present and observant of all action and intent. Displaying the public’s humbleness to the gods and each of their unique abilities. ” Great welcome voice of Zeus I am racked with terror -terror shakes my heart,” (993). Exaggerating every emotion, the chorus effects the audience with their poetry and odes to the gods, “wails for mercy rise,” (994) “the worst terror that have ever met my eyes,” (1022). Oedipus, as king of the Thebes and the chorus portraying the people of Thebes, feels his power as king grants him able to grant their prayers to the gods. His arrogant actions and gregarious pride set up the foreshadowing of his guilt. Dramatic irony develops the tragedy by creating sympathy for Oedipus. The chorus increases the sympathy through exaggerating the obliviousness of the people of thebes, and the all knowing power of the gods. The audience is put into the position of the gods; sitting above the people with full knowledge of Oedipus’s dark secret of which he is oblivious. ” Zeus and Apollo know, they know, the great masters of all the dark and depth of human life,” (1002). Dramatic irony creates both tension and sympathy for King Oedipus. He is portrayed to have this direct connection with the gods as the great leader of the people; a direct connection to the gods who know that Oedipus is responsible for the death of his father. At the same time, the Chorus is portrayed as an audience to the drama of the city of Thebes as the people of Thebes. The Chorus personifies the loyalty of the people; standing behind their great leader until he is proven guilty, “No, not till I see these charges proved will I side with his accusers,” (1002). By portraying an audience to the audience, the Chorus creates more sympathy, and the drama of the story is doubled through the effect it produces. “The audience is the most revered member of the theater. Without an audience there is no drama,” Viola Spolin, Theatrical director.
The Chorus’s involvement with the drama has a direct effect on the tragic impact of the performance. The chorus personifies tragedy in the drama through increasing the dramatic irony in communication with the audience and their portrayal as characters involved in the tragedy. In effect, the chorus separates the audience as helpless observant. Helpless observant left with the desire to help Oedipus in his tragic journey. If the chorus were to be eliminated from the drama the tragic impact would be lost. In their benediction to both audiences, the Chorus finalizes the tragedy; “He rose to power, a man beyond all power .count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last,” (1029). Without this final address, the tragedy is left without meaning. It becomes a fairly tale; another story without a happy ending. In conclusion, the chorus’s involvement in the drama is needed in order for Oedipus to have true tragic effect. Through complicated roles, the chorus takes the hand of the audience and takes them on a tragic journey. Sophocles intended for Oedipus to directly effect the audience. The realism of the tragedy is brought out by the downfall of the most powerful man; “a man beyond all power” (1029). What fate has destiny put on those less powerful? The chorus leaves the tragedy at this and the full effect is experienced. “Tragedy delights by affording a shadow of the pleasure which exists in pain,” Percy Bysshe Shelley, English poet.