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...
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... 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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