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Medea: Discuss The Role Of The Chorus Essay, Research Paper

?Discuss the importance of the role that the Chorus plays in Euripedes? Medea.?

The Chorus is very much an important part of Euripedes? Medea, and indeed many other works written in the ancient Greek style. In this play, it follows the journey Medea makes, and not only narrates, but commentates on what is happening. Euripedes uses the Chorus as a literary device to raise certain issues, and to influence where the sympathies of the audience lie.

In the list of characters at the beginning of the play, the Chorus is stated to be a chorus of Corinthian Women. This draws the first link between them and Medea. The Chorus follows Medea on her journey through this play. They act as narrators on important occurrences in the play; however, they also act as a device Euripedes uses to influence the opinion of the audience. He does this by presenting to the audience a moral voice in the Chorus. The audience can relate to them, because the Chorus is in a neutral position in the play. They are definitely an integral part of the play, but their role is not so much to influence the actual plot of the play, but more to echo what has happened in the plot and the thoughts of the protagonists, and to suggest moral solutions the audience. The Chorus uses language which almost makes it seem that they are speaking from the perspective of the audience, and in doing this they are guiding the audience responses to what Euripedes wants it to be:

?Medea, poor Medea! Your grief touches our hearts.?

Through this relationship between the Chorus and the audience, Euripedes is able to influence the audience to sympathise with Medea. In their first stasimon, a mutual suffering is shown between Medea and the Chorus:

?And my own heart suffers too.?

The Chorus is used as an instrument to help the audience to understand and feel Medea?s suffering, and so from this early point in the play, a sympathy is established for Medea because of her tragic circumstances.

This mutual suffering between Medea and the Chorus raises issues such as the treatment of women at the time when this play was written. When Medea married Jason, she married herself to him for life. She was expected to be totally obedient and to accept whatever her husband willed. For her to look upon another man other than her husband would have been totally unacceptable. Whereas Jason marries another woman while he is still married, and then it is Medea who is banished from Corinth. However, the audience?s response to this type of situation would most likely have been different in Euripedes? time, to today. Obviously one can?t know this for sure, but one can deduce it from what we know of that era. Although some wouldn?t have condoned Jason?s actions, many would have seen it as normal because it would have been a much more common occurrence then than today. Nonetheless, in presenting these sort of issues in a moralistic play to the audience of the day was a brave and controversial thing to do. Obviously, the views on the these issues have come along way since the time when this play was written, so today?s audience adapts the messages in this play to their own morality. The treatment of women, and of Medea, and the circumstances that Medea is faced with, help the audience to, not condone, but understand the reasons for Medea?s actions at the end of the play.

The opinion of the audience on characters other than Medea is also influenced by the Chorus. After the audience hears what Jason has done to Medea in the way of marrying another woman, the Chorus says:

?To punish Jason would be just.?

If this is not already the audience?s opinion, then Euripedes enforces it so that it is.

Apart from narrating, and commentating, the Chorus also takes on the role of advising Medea. Throughout the play they are on the side of Medea, but even they do not agree with the course of action that Medea wishes to take. Where their sympathies lie has changed, and this is indicative of the desired response of the audience. When they hear of her plans they try to persuade her otherwise:

?May the course of evil be checked now, go no further.?

However the audience always knows that Medea will go through with this course of evil, because this inevitability is part of the nature of tragedies.

The language that is used during the Chorus? stasima is also important. They are very poetic and their dialogue often contains powerful imagery. The way the Chorus? parts are written would make the performance of their lines on stage, very dramatic. This distinction in the language and writing style, helps to distinguish the Chorus as a voice of reason, which makes them the characters that the audience can most relate to. Also, dramatically, as a mass on stage, they would have been convincing to an audience simply for the reason of there being multiple voices saying the same thing.

The audience?s response to the outcome of the play is greatly influenced by the Chorus. In the beginning of the play, their sympathies lie with Medea, and the audience is lead to share this sympathy, but at the end of the play the Chorus is condemning Medea:

?O miserable mother, to destroy your own increase, Murder the babes of your body! Stone and iron you are, as you resolved to be.?

This leaves the audience with the feeling that they don?t condone what Medea has done, and like the Chorus, they condemn her for it, but, they can see and understand the reasons behind why Medea did what she did. For this reason at the end of the play the audience still has some sympathy for Medea, although severely diminished from that at the beginning of the play.

The Chorus, in this play, guides the audience. In the end, it is up to the individual as to what reaction they have to the play, but the Chorus is there to, in a way makes this reaction more complicated. One could leave the play totally condemning Medea, but the Chorus display?s Medea in a way that makes the audience sympathise with her, and so the moral conclusions that need to be come to side, become more complex. The audience has to base their reaction to Medea on what crimes they have seen her commit, and on what they have heard of her through the Chorus. Their integral part in the play acts in many ways, to follow, revise, and extend the plot of the play, and to influence the opinions and sympathies of the audience. It is a literary, and dramatic device that Euripedes uses, and uses well, to help portray a tragedy, and also a moralistic play, in which the Chorus is the voice that provides the morals.

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