What Is the Function of the Chorus in a Greek Drama?

The chorus in a Greek drama would perform in groups of three to 50, and they often underscore the play’s themes. Choruses would heighten the emotions of the play, comment on the actors’ actions and praise Greek gods.

The Greek chorus was made of three to 50 men, who would introduce the play and sing at different intervals to pass comment on it. While commenting on the play’s actors, the chorus would give judgments that represented society’s views. If the play was religious, they would offer praise to the gods. Much like modern movies, they would also produce music designed to increase emotions.

As Greek plays featured few actors and took place in large theaters, the chorus would use singing, acting, narrating and dancing to make events clear. This often meant performing in an exaggerated manner and in unison so that the audience knew what was happening.

The chorus began to decline in size as it became less important. While earlier playwrights used as many as 50 men, later ones like Sophocles reduced this to 15. As writers began placing more emphasis on the actors’ actions, narratives and characterization, the chorus’ role was gradually phased out. However, some believe it evolved into a different role, such as the use of theatrical narrators in modern plays.