A Comparison of the Influential Role of the Chorus in Sophocles’ Antigone and Euripides’ Medea

A comparison of the influential role of the chorus in Sophocles’ Antigone and Euripides’ Medea It has been said by Napoleon Hill, “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another”. This has been put to use in the plays Antigone by Sophocles and Medea by Euripides. The chorus which was an integral part of ancient Greek drama was used in the dramas to play an influential role.

However, the group they mainly influenced contrasted and thus will be explored in the essay.

The chorus in Antigone is composed of Theban men who were summoned by the newly crowned king Creon. Its interaction was mainly with Creon. Sophocles has shown a relation between the chorus and Creon, both being old and wise men of Thebes. They are introduced rejoicing the victory of Thebes over Argos. As the play develops they get actively involved commenting on every action and decision of the main actors. Its support wavers from Creon to Antigone during the course of the play. The women of Corinth formed the chorus in Eurpides Medea. They chiefly served as a commentator to the play.

Euripides has shown a relation between the chorus and the character they interact the most, Medea, as both belonged to the group of women living in the male-dominated society. The involvement of chorus has been minimized after Medea asks them not to interfere in her action of revenge towards Jason. The chorus feeling sympathetic towards Medea gives her their consent on the future happenings in the play, “I will. You are right to take revenge on your husband. ” Being women and able to understand Medea’s miseries, the chorus was moved to such an extent that they supported Medea, a foreigner to their land in killing the daughter of their ruler.

This shows them primarily as women before good subject of Creon. Both Sophocles and Euripides have used the chorus to influence the audience. They have conveyed emotions the writer wants the audience to feel for the proceedings of the play. The chorus has also been used to influence the minds of the actors. The chorus in Antigone has little role in influencing the emotions of the audience. They enter the play and introduce Creon to the audience also creating a doubt in the mind of the viewers of his immediate plans which made him call the old Theban men.

The chorus is also given the responsibility of informing the viewers of the status of Ismene over her sister being caught denying the law. They introduce Ismene as, “Here comes Ismene from the palace, Shedding a fond sister’s tears. Her face is flushed” This is different from what was observed in the opening scene where Ismene besides refusing to help Antigone with the burial also warned her of the consequences of her act leading to Antigone telling her, “you will earn my hatred” .

While Creon and Haemon are fighting over Creon’s decision of executing Antigone, Haemon’s fiancee, the chorus justifies both their points for the audience. The play ends with chorus’ last words with the message the writer has tried to convey through the drama. The chorus takes its responsibility of burying the dead while propagating the importance of wisdom. They also criticize Creon’s pride and arrogance associating with Zeus’ hatred towards ‘boasts of a proud tongue’ . The chorus in Medea in the first scene provokes the feeling of sympathy towards Medea from the audience when they say, “I don’t like the family suffering.

I sympathise with them. ” This conveys the thought to the audience that the society is sympathetic towards Medea thus she indeed has been done great wrong by Jason. Further in the play when Creon banishes Medea and her sons from the kingdom and gives them only one day in Corinth, the chorus enlightens the audience of the troubles she faces after being banished from the land which gave her refuge. This increases the sense of sympathy from the audience towards Medea. The chorus emphasizes, “What an impassable sea of troubles, Medea, God has launched on you! Later in the play when Medea confides about her plan of killing Jason’s new wife, the chorus accepts her decision and supports her completely in taking her revenge. But when Medea tells them that she is also planning to kill her sons to punish Jason, the Chorus reacts in a way the audience should have as only it, the chorus and the audience know about her plans, “Since you have confided this to us… We want to help you, but we can’t reject The laws of human life. We say, Don’t do this! ” The chorus also shows curiosity when Medea goes inside her house to kill her sons.

The same feeling would have developed among the audience to know whether she is actually committing the sin. The chorus in Antigone also plays the major role of influencing the decisions of Creon and making Antigone realize her mistake. After listening to the sentry about the burial of Polyneices, the chorus, superstitious in nature proclaim suggest Creon, “Lord, all this time my thoughts have been saying that this might be the work of the gods” This was the first attempt of the chorus to influence Creon to take back his decision of not giving Polyneices a respectful burial.

However, this was only responded with anger by Creon who warned the chorus that they might prove it insane and senile as the Gods will not give an honorable burial to the person who came to burn their temples and pillars. Creon had decided to prosecute Ismene along with Antigone; they was then the chorus who questioned him about Ismene who was not involved in the burial leading to a change in mind and Ismene being set free. The chorus and Antigone have a long conversation after Antigone is declared to be hanged. The chorus informs her that she departs from the world with a glorious death.

When Antigone compares herself to the Gods, the chorus informs her that she has not resembled the goddess Niobe in her life but they is honorable for her to die like gods. The chorus press on her that she is at fault as she defied the royal orders and make Antigone reflect on the curse on her family regarding marriages. First, her mother married her son, followed by her death just before her marriage. The prophecy by Teiresias leaves a doubt in Creon’s mind and they are the chorus who give her the advice to “Go and free the girl from her cell of rock, and set up a tomb for him who lies unburied. Creon takes this advice and he rushes to the place of Antigone’s assassination. Hence, a strong influence of the Theban men can be seen on the main characters of the play Antigone. The influence of the chorus in Medea over the characters is negligible as the women only serve as commentators over every action and decision. The chorus attempts to influence Medea not to kill her sons when she confides her plan to them. However, Medea turns down their advice without much consideration. This shows the negligible impact of the chorus on the character.

Both the plays were written in ancient Greek times when the society was dominated by men. As the chorus of Antigone consisted of men, they had an active role in the play, their advice was sought, their opinions were heard and they were respected. On the other hand, the chorus of Medea consisting women played a passive role talking to itself and the audience most of the times. Their interruptions in conversations were ignored by the other characters. They also portrays the feministic views of Euripides.

They sympathized with Medea and supported her in her decision to avenge Jason for betraying her. They condemned men, who are unfaithful to the wives, a thought common in most women. Therefore, while in Antigone, the chorus has a major influence on the actors, the chorus of Medea mainly influences the audience. Sources referred http://ancienthistory. about. com/od/greekliterature/a/GreekTheater_4. htm http://www. sparknotes. com/drama/antigone/characters. html http://www. shmoop. com/medea/themes. html http://www. shmoop. com/antigone-sophocles/themes. html