Discuss the function of chorus in King Oedipus.
Ans. The history of chorus goes back to: the ancient Greeks. In the beginning it was a group of dancers and singers who, wearing masks, sang and chanted verse at religious festivals. Lateron, the chorus was used in Greek tragedies where it served mainly as a. commentator on the action. It represented traditional moral, religious,: and social attitudes. Beginning with Euripides the chcus assumed primarily a lyrical function. The other Greek dramatists, Aeschylus and Sophocles, used lt successfully in their dramas. The chorus plays an important role in King Oedzpus. The chorus enters after the prologue, and represents the point of view and the faith of the Thebans, and therefore, of the audience. The chorus acts as one of the dramatis personae. After the entry of the chorus the list of the essential characters: in the drama is’ complete, and the main action of the play begins. It marks the stages of the action of the drama.
The opening song of the chorus has two themes: the raging plague in Thebes, and the message from Delphi. The prologue has given these themes already, but the song of the chorus does not give a sense of repetition; rather it makes the themes more immediate, and creates a mood of fear and apprehension. The second ode or song of the chorus comes after the denunciation of Oedipus by Teiresias. It expresses its feeling of perplexity in view of the accusations; it can neither disbelieve the prophet, nor believe him due to its respect for Oedipus. The conflict in the mind of the, chorus represents the conflict in the mind of the audience. The third song of the chorus expresses the reverence it has for the laws of the gods, and denounces the pride of Oedipus and Jocasta. The fourth song speculates about the royal origin of Oedipus. It is full of tragic irony. The last song expresses that happiness is short-lived, as is the fate of Oedipus. The chorus is not just a spectator but a commentator which takes notice of the changing situations and developments and expresses its reaction to them. Its songs express different themes at different-times during the progress of the action of the drama. As an upholder of religious piety. the chorus sings of the sanctity of religion, drawing upon the moral lessons from the various happenings in the drama. Nol only does the chorus exwess .its reactions to the changing and developing plot, but it also takes part in the dialogue, and for that matter, in the action, even though it is unable to influence the course of events to – any appreciable degree. For example, when Oedipus proclaims his purpose- of tracing Laius’ killer- and utters a curse upon the criminal, the chorus says that the oracle should have indicated the identity of the murderer. In this way, the chorus participates in the dialogue throughout the drama. Sometimes the chorus provides a change of the scene which the audience can imagine. When Oedipus and Teiresias are angrily arguing with each other, the chorus focuses attention upon their conflict, and the scene becomes lively, close and immediate. ,When they depart from each other, the song of the chorus focuses on a wider aspect, and the audience becomes aware of the concern of the whole city about the matter. Sophocles has thus used the chorus for various purposes in the drama. His handling of the chorus for dramatic purposes has been very effective throughout the drama King Oedzpus. He has not only followed the Greek tradition of chorus, but has founded it on a more solid basis.