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Greek chorus

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Sculpted stone theatre mask (2nd century AD) shows what a chorus mask might have looked like.
The Greek Theatre at Syracuse.
The Greek theatre at Delphi: in the most dramatic natural setting.

The Greek chorus was part of Ancient Greek theatre.[1] It was a group of masked performers who looked alike, and spoke in unison.[2] All the chorus wore identical masks, because they represented the same character or group of characters.[3] Worn by the chorus, the masks created a sense of unity and uniformity, a kind of single organism.[4]

The style was to comment on what was happening in the play, and help the audience know what a character was thinking. The chorus offered background information, summaries and comments. In many of these plays, the chorus told the audience what the main characters could not say, such as their hidden fears or secrets. Bear in mind that faces could not be seen, as performers wore masks, and the audience was at a distance. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. It made up for the fact that there were only one, two or three actors, who played several parts each (changing masks).

Before the introduction of several actors by Aeschylus, the Greek chorus was the main performer opposite a solitary actor.[5] The importance of the chorus declined after the 5th century BC, when the chorus began to be separated from the dramatic action. Later dramatists depended less on the chorus.

The chorus originally consisted of fifty members. This was later reduced to twelve by Sophocles, then increased to fifteen members by Euripides in tragedies.[6] There were twenty-four members in comedies, where the chorus sings, dances, narrates, and acts.[7]p22[1]p53 In Aeschylus' Agamemnon, the chorus are the elderly men of Argos, whereas in Euripides' The Bacchae, they are a group of female worshippers of the god Dionysus.[8]p26 In Sophocles' Electra, the chorus presents the role of 'the women of Argos'. However, as with all Ancient Greek drama, the chorus were men, as were the actors and the audience.[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Pavis, Patrice 1998. Dictionary of the theatre: terms, concepts, and analysis. Transl. by Christine Shantz. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0802081630.
  2. They spoke the same words at the same time, as if they were one person.
  3. Vovolis, Thanos and Giorgos Zamboulakis. 2005. The acoustical mask of Greek tragedy. Didaskalia 7.1
  4. Many references on ancient Greek masks and modern performance in Varakis, Angie 2004. “Research on the ancient mask,” Didaskalia, 6.1
  5. Haigh, Arthur Elam 1898. The Attic theatre: a description of the stage and theatre of the Athenians, and of the dramatic performances at Athens. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. p319
  6. Edwin Wilson and Alvin Goldfarb 1999. Theater, the lively art. McGraw-Hill, New York. ISBN 0-07-240718-2
  7. Brockett, Oscar G. and Franklin J. Hildy 2003. History of the theatre. 9th international edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 0205410502.
  8. Rehm, Rush 1992. Greek tragic theatre. Routledge, London. ISBN 0415118948
  9. Fonseca, Reuben Ancient Greek Theater. [1]

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