Oedipus the King, translated by Robert Fagles, is one of the famous plays among other Sophocles’ plays. In the Oedipus the king, the whole story is about who have gotten the terrible fate from God Apollo, trying to avoid the fate and finally falling into the deep frustration after realizing his own identity. Here, Chorus had the role to represent the people of Thebes.
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Even if Chorus is not one of the main characters in this story, he held the great power to lead the story by evaluating the main characters, developing the plot through the use of foreshadowing and manipulating the story’s mood and atmosphere.
Chorus evaluates the main characters in Oedipus. When Creon and Oedipus were arguing highly, Chorus, standing on Creon’s side, discouraged Oedipus to lead Creon to death. One of the best examples that shows Chorus considered Creon as an reasonable man is Respect himhe’s been no fool in the past(line 728). Chorus, as an old citizen in Thebes, he could know that what Creon did in the past and all the things that he had been done were not out of his satisfaction and that is the reason why Chorus tried to convince Oedipus that Creon is a trustful man. At the same time, while Creon is given a character who possess a mature and sensible attitude, Oedipus is considered as a king who became irrational and senseless. I’d be insane, you know it, senseless, ever to turn my back on you(line 763). This shows that for Chorus, the Oedipus’s attitude toward Creon is unbearable and irresponsible; however, at the end of the story, Chorus evaluates Oedipus’s not only weakness but also greatness by giving a0 brief summary of the story and showed a deep grief to Oedipus’s inevitable destiny.
Chorus also develops the whole plot through the use of foreshadowing. Oedipus and Jocasta, his wife, somehow already realized the fact that the one whom Oedipus killed was the king Lauis. I think I’ve just called down a dreadful curse upon myself(line 820). This shows that Oedipus’s mind was filled with fear that the one he killed would be Lauis, but Jocasta tried to convince Oedipus by telling that the thing that he was thinking could not be possible. Chorus, however, warned the dangers of excessive pride that Jocasta and Oedipus have now. Pride breeds the tyrant, headlong pride crashes down the abyss-sheer doom!(line 965). This is a huge warning that Chorus gave to them to show their excessive pride can finally fall into their own downfall. let a rough doom tear him down, repay his pride, breakneck, ruinous pride(line 975) This is what Chorus told Gods by expressing his anger toward Oedipus’s hubris. It made audience predict what is going to happen to Oedipus and that will be terrible result.
Chorus has ability to manipulate the mood and atmosphere of the story. During intense argument between Oedipus and Creon, when Oedipus accuses Creon for being a betrayer, audience might have confused who to believe between Oedipus and Creon because there was no specific evidence tells who was right or wrong. However, Chorus stands on Creon’s side not Oedipus. He defended Creon and discouraged Oedipus to banish him. Respect him-he’s been no fool in the past and now he’s strong with the oath he swears to god. This shows that Creon is fair and reasonable for Chorus since he had been doing well from the past. At the same time Chorus revealed Oedipus’s personality to audience by telling that Oedipus is not reasonable and not insensible. Believe it, be sensible give way, my king, I beg you!(line 725).
By revealing both characters’ personalities, audiences could decide who is more reasonable to believe. However, at the end of the story, when Oedipus lost his sight, Chorus showed deep grief to Oedipus’s physical blindness. What god, what dark power leapt beyond all bounds, beyond belief, to crush your wretched life?-godforsaken, cursed by the gods! I pity you but I can’t bear to look(line 1435). Furthermore, Oedipus’s reaction toward Chorus’s grief over his physical blindness pressed audiences’ heart more. What goods were eyes to me? Nothing I could see could bring me joy(line 1470).
For those reasons above, Chorus played a vital role in Oedipus such as guiding the audience to realize characters’ personality that they couldn’t show by themselves, to infer what’s going to happen later, and to feel the sympathy for Oedipus given a terrible fate. It’s not only interacting with audiences but also making them to think and question what is doubtful through reading the story. Without Chorus, the whole plot couldn’t get reach perfectly and effectively to the audiences.
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