Dissertation Consulting Company | The proper role of the Chorus


 

The Oresteia: Resolving the Role of the Chorus
The Oresteia, a trilogy consisting of Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and Eumenides, can be seen as a Gesamtkunstwerk, a total work of theater art that requires all three plays to fulfill its vision. One of the central “problems” explored in the trilogy is the proper role of the Chorus. Eumenides, the final play, brings resolution to this problem. This essay will argue that Eumenides, through an examination of the complications, tensions, paradoxes, and complexities featured in Agamemnon and Libation Bearers, resolves the issue of the Chorus’s role by transforming it into a symbol of societal conscience and guiding moral force.

To understand how Eumenides resolves the problem of the Chorus’s role, we must first examine the context and complexities presented in Agamemnon and Libation Bearers. In Agamemnon, the Chorus serves as a group of elders representing Argive citizens. They provide commentary on the events unfolding, offer moral guidance, and act as a collective voice of the community. However, their role is not without ambiguity and limitations.

The Chorus in Agamemnon struggles with their inability to prevent or intervene in the tragic events taking place. They are torn between their loyalty to the king and their allegiance to justice. Their lack of agency raises questions about their effectiveness and their true purpose within the play’s narrative.

In Libation Bearers, the Chorus takes on a different role, embodying the Furies or Erinyes. They become avengers of bloodshed and agents of retribution. This transformation highlights the Chorus’s capacity to shift and adapt their function within the trilogy.

Eumenides brings resolution to this problem by transforming the Chorus into the symbol of societal conscience and a guiding moral force. In this play, they become the Furies themselves, representing ancient forces of vengeance. However, through Athena’s intervention and persuasion, their role evolves to become protectors of justice rather than enforcers of personal vendettas.

Athena’s dialogue with the Furies in Eumenides demonstrates this transformation. She appeals to their sense of duty and redirects their energy towards a new purpose:

“You have a proper function in this city/ To protect all rights that are concerned with murder” (Eumenides, 323-324).

Here, Athena assigns them a new responsibility – safeguarding justice within society. By channeling their power towards communal justice rather than personal revenge, Athena empowers the Chorus to become a force for maintaining order and upholding moral principles.

Through this transformation, Eumenides culminates in a new configuration where the Chorus plays a vital role in establishing and preserving justice. The Chorus serves as the embodiment of societal conscience, reminding individuals of their responsibilities and guiding them towards righteous actions.

To fully grasp the significance of this resolution, we must analyze the context provided by Agamemnon and Libation Bearers. In Agamemnon, the Chorus’s lack of agency and their inability to prevent tragedy create a sense of helplessness. This limitation underscores the need for a transformed role that can actively shape events.

In Libation Bearers, the Chorus’s embodiment of vengeance highlights their capacity for transformation and adaptation. This prepares them for their new purpose in Eumenides – guardians and enforcers of justice.

In conclusion, Eumenides resolves the problem of the Chorus’s role by transforming them into a symbol of societal conscience and a guiding moral force. Through an examination of the complications, tensions, paradoxes, and complexities featured in Agamemnon and Libation Bearers, we witness the evolution of the Chorus from passive observers to active participants in shaping justice. The Oresteia as a Gesamtkunstwerk showcases how theater art can explore complex issues such as the role of the Chorus and provide resolutions that transcend traditional expectations. The trilogy’s transformative journey illustrates the power of theater to challenge and redefine societal norms.

 

 

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