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  • The Chorus

    Oedipus Rex logo

    ..... There is always a Chorus in Greek tragedy; in fact, tragedy began with choral songs to which actors were added. Almost always present, the Chorus fulfills a number of functions. The splendid poetry of many of the odes or songs contribute to the spectacle of performance, the continuity of theme and the emotional effects of the play. It is like another actor, showing us the communal background of the action. Greek tragedy assumed that no life is entirely private and that the community's fortunes are linked with the individual and vice versa. Because Greek tragedy is a public art form, the chorus reflects on such issues as the nature of authority, justice, the worship of the gods and the pull between civic responsibility and individual desires.

    ..... Although the major divisions of the plays are not indicated in most English translations, the choral odes are set apart. The Chorus was usually divided into two groups, giving a balanced visual effect on stage. The first lyric they sing is called the "strophe" (movement) and the second the "antistrophe" countermovement). The afterpiece is called the "epode" and an exchange or lamentation between the chorus and an actor is called a "kommos".

    ..... In Oedipus Rex the chorus assumes the role of wealthy, prominent men of Thebes. They have been living there since Laius' day, so they know the past, but are not necessarily old. Their first impression is one of uncertainty and a desire for truth about the plague that is wasting them. The sufferings they face are not just personal, but affect the whole city. Thus, they are portrayed as responsible leaders and representatives of the citizens of Thebes and their songs use military metaphors. The exchanges with Oedipus are like a consultation between a concerned ruler and his counselors, a cooperative effort in a search for answers. Following the confrontation between Creon and Oedipus, the chorus continues to express their concern for the city and display their reliance on reason, evidence and common sense.

    ..... As advisor to the king, the chorus assists in the progression of the drama, but Sophocles also uses it to establish a contrast with the king. He seems to compare the chorus' plodding common sense with Oedipus' brilliant intuition, its caution with the king's bold passion. Members of the chorus are loyal to the king, but when Oedipus begins to veer from his civic responsibility to his personal fate, it is their duty to remind him - and the audience - of the consequences. As representatives of the body politic, they say at the end of their final ode, "from you I drew breath [of life] and through you I have closed my eyes [in death]".

    OEDIPUS REX by Sophocles
    April 1-10, 2005

      Special lecture
      "Open house" lecture about Sophocles, Oedipus, Greek mythology and more.
      Featuring the Stage Director of Oedipus Rex Anatoly Anohin, Set Designer Timaree McCormick, Lillian Corti "Blindness, Sight, and Psycoanalysis in Oedipus" of the UAF English Department and Dr. Joseph Thompson "Oedipus Rex and the Oracle at Delphi" of the UAF Philosophy & Humanities Department.
      Monday, March 28, 5:30pm in the Lee H. Salisbury Theatre

      Free Admission & will be available on-line via streaming audio and video! Check back here for details.

      OEDIPUS REX in the Lee H. Salsibury Theatre
    • Friday, April 1 @ 8:15pm
    • Saturday, April 2 @ 8:15pm
    • Sunday, April 3 @ 2:00pm followed by a Q&A with the director and cast!
    • Friday, April 8 @ 8:15pm
    • Saturday, April 9 @ 8:15pm
    • Sunday, April 10 @ 2:00pm


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