Libation Bearers

Old Argives, Enslaved Ingénues, and Grotesque Goddesses: The Chorus in The Oresteia

The Greek chorus is a group of individuals who form a single entity that expresses the ideas, thoughts, and histories of a larger group. Often, it represents the consensus of the audience or of society as a whole, for example the chorus of Agamemnon. Aeschylus utilizes this common form of the chorus in his plays, but the true distinctness of his style comes from his other unconventional uses for the chorus. In the Oresteia, Aeschylus also uses the chorus not only as a tool to explain background information and express the opinions of a larger group, but also to develop and accentuate themes as well as advancing the plot. Aeschylus consistently uses the chorus in traditional and unique ways but as the story progresses from Agamemnon to The Libation Bearers to The Eumenides, the chorus takes an increasingly more active role in the story, and this change as well as Aeschylus’ superb use of the chorus has profound effects on the style and themes of the three plays in The Oresteia.

In the first play of The Oresteia, Agamemnon, the chorus is standard and conventional. It is comprised of the old men of Argos, who were not fit for war when the Argives left to fight the Trojans in the Trojan War. In the text, they serve as consultants...

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