The Chorus

In Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone, the Chorus consists of Theban old men, the council of elders, and is represented in the play by the Chorus leader. The number of members in the Chorus is fifteen in Sophocles’ play, an increase from the usual number of twelve in ancient tragedies.

The Chorus has various functions. For example, it provides background information on details that have only been briefly touched upon in conversation. Therefore, following Antigone and Ismene’s conversation, in its first appearance, the Chorus describes in detail Polynices’ military campaign against his own city, the two brothers killing each other, and Creon’s rise as the new ruler of Thebes (Prologue, Scene 1, ll. 100-161). It also asks the following question: “Why has he summoned us— / The council of elders— / By public announcement?” (Prologue, Scene 1, ll. 159-161), and at the same time it shares its position as the king’s advisor, which is why Creon consults the Chorus. A bit later the Chorus receives the answer: it must not show indulgence to anyone who disobeys the law (Act 1, Scene 2, ll. 219).

Furthermore, the Chorus is characterized by its complex and metaphorical language, which above all, requires a great knowledge of the faith in the gods and the history of ancient Greece. Many phrases, which today may seem archaic, make understanding difficult. This is a stylistic choice that characterizes the entire work. Examples are “Trophies for Zeus the protector” (Prologue, Scene 1, l. 143) or “foul winds from Thrace” (Act 2, Scene 7, l. 587).

Moreover, until after Tiresias’ appearance, the Chorus comments objectively, rationally, and impartially on the e...

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