Question: What role does the chorus play in Medea? Role of Chorus in Medea.
“Medea” (431 BC) is a tragedy written by the classic tragedian Euripides (480 – 406 BC). The chorus has been shown here as an active character. The main purpose of the chorus of a classical tragedy is not seen here. Let us discuss the role of the chorus in the tragedy.
The key concept of the chorus
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defined chorus in this manner: “(in ancient Greek drama) a group of performers who comment together on the events of the play.” Actually, the chorus is one of the parts of ancient Greek tragedies. Chorus is a group of performers by whom the audience can know the off-stage incidents.
The slightly non-traditional role
The chorus, a group of fifteen Corinthian women is seen in a slightly non-traditional role than other ancient Greek tragedies. There is a purpose in providing entertainment in the role of the chorus. But in this tragedy, we do not find any entertainment element in the role of the chorus.
The role of the chorus is sympathetic in the tragedy. We get more than one dialogue from the chorus which is enough to prove their sympathetic heart. When Medea tells the chorus about the death of her own children, they get shocked. This expression proves their sympathetic heart:
“By your knees, we beg you,
in every way we know,
do not butcher your own children.”
As the critics
The chorus is seen as the critic in the tragedy. In more than one dialogue, we find their critical remarks. When Medea and Jason talk to each other, they start to stand their own logic on their current situation. They do not want to make any concessions to each other. At that time, the chorus says:
“When members of a family fight like this,
rage pushes them beyond all compromise.”
Relating off-stage incidents
The chorus relates the off-stage incidents in the tragedy by long dialogues with present incidents. This role shortens the tragedy from lengthy. It helps the audience to understand past incidents of the presented incidents. In the long dialogue of the chorus, we come to know the story of the god and goddess of ancient Greek mythology. The chorus relates the story of god and goddess with the characters of the tragedy.
As a feminist
The chorus plays a role as a feminist in the play. Their dialogue tells us about feminism. They talk about their slavery in their society. They prevent their current situation. They say:
“Their name will no longer be foul.”
The chorus has been shown here as a prophetic adviser of Medea. We come to know that the chorus is the friend of Medea. Medea exposes all the plans to them. They advise and support her. In the beginning, when Medea tells her plan to give pain to Jason, the chorus supports her. Their dialogue is:
“For you are right
to pay back your husband. And, Medea,
I’m not surprised you grieve at these events.”
The chorus provides a moral message to the audience. As this is an ancient mythological story, they believe in mythological gods and goddesses. The chorus provides the message of the tragedy in the following manner:
“Our Olympian Zeus is most wise!
The deeds of the gods seem in several forms.
And gods typically perform deeds even on the far side our hopes.”
From the light of the above discussion, it is clear that the role of the chorus is very much important in the tragedy. This function helps the audience to understand the tragedy. They treat like a character in the play.