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The Prologue is traditionally followed in Greek tragedy by the Parados, where the Chorus enters. As the "ideal spectator" of these events, this group of actors represents the community and speaks directly to the audience.
At first the Chorus moves slowly in one direction to recite its lines of verse (strophe). Then it abruptly turns and moves in another direction to recite another set of lines in the same poetic meter (antistrophe). The dramatic effect of this suggests that a decision has to be made. The Chorus is presenting several possible solutions to the dilemma expressed in the Prologue. The members speak in unison, but the "voice of the people" includes several viewpoints.
First the Chorus restates poetically that Thebes is dying because of the unexplained plague; that the gods must swiftly-but mercifully-intervene to save the city. The Chorus then prays to the gods, asking them to relieve the city from despair. The first antistrophe concludes with a direct plea for Athene and Artemis, goddesses of mercy, to save the city again.
Athene and Artemis once before intervened to save Thebes from destruction by barbarians. Notice that the Chorus unquestioningly turns to the gods to help solve the mystery raised by the oracles' message to Creon. This is important later on because both Oedipus and Iocaste will question the power of the gods and their holy prophets to solve such mysteries. When the Chorus hears that, it will begin to doubt Oedipus and his wife, and then they will have to win back the favor of the people.
The second strophe and antistrophe again offer prayers and praise to the gods if they will intercede to save Thebes and end the people's afflictions. This second and concluding strophe and antistrophe, however, ask the gods to be tender and compassionate. Already, a seed is planted in your mind-perhaps Thebes will have to pay a high price for relief.
The Chorus works itself up to a frenzied climax in the third strophe, forcefully recalling that the plague resulted from the shameful actions of a "besieger," the murderer of Laios. The Chorus calls for a violent revenger:
our enemy, lord of the thunder!
The final antistrophe rises to a note of religious ecstasy. The Chorus declares that when the plague ends, the faithful must be prepared to greet the moment with celebration. As the Chorus turns to exit, it leaves the audience a final warning. The gods will:
Whirl upon Death, that all the Undying
Traditionally, the Chorus was impartial and didn't participate in the action of the play. Sophocles, however, gives the Chorus a more active role in this play; later the Chorus will confront Oedipus and pass moral judgements on the reasons for his fate. Pay particular attention to the Chorus' choral songs and dialogue with Oedipus, and trace the change in its mood and its attitude toward him. After all, the Chorus (like the citizens it speaks for) is affected by the king's actions. This is the tragedy of Thebes, as well as of Thebes' king. It should also make you think about how any community-ancient Athens or your own city today-suffers when its leaders go wrong.Table of Contents | Oedipus the King Message Board | Oedipus at Colonus Message Board | Antigone Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version