chorus

chorus, in the drama of ancient Greece. Originally the chorus seems to have arisen from the singing of the dithyramb, and the dithyrambic chorus allegedly became a true dramatic chorus when Thespis in the 6th cent. B.C. introduced the actor. First the chorus as a participating actor tied the histrionic interludes together; later, as a narrator, it commented on the action and divided it, creating acts. And as tragedy developed the chorus shrank in size and actors increased in number. Aeschylus began with a chorus of 50, but the number was soon decreased to 12. Sophocles used a chorus of 15. In the 3d cent. B.C. the comic chorus contained only seven persons and in the 2d cent. B.C. only four, the tragic chorus having disappeared altogether. The chorus had ceased to play a vital part in the drama; Euripides assigned to it lyrics not necessarily integrated with the action. Ultimately it was dispensed with in comedy as well.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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