Oedipus Rex or Oedipus the King

For the Greater Good of the Community: The Chorus and the Importance of the “City-State” in Oedipus Rex

As a kind of collective character onto itself, the Chorus in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex assumes multiple functions and qualities that, together, effectively blur the lines between the private and public spheres of the drama. Evidenced in the text by their roles as observers and instigators, as well as social commentators, and then in the film-version of the play by their strong physical omnipresence and claustrophobic-like staging, the members of the Chorus represent the proverbial “village” (or Thebes, the “city-state”), privileging not the sanctity of the self, but the interest of the greater good. Ultimately, by pointing to the religious-ritual roots of the drama, it is this village/city-state role that legitimates Oedipus’ eventual exile, casting it as a good sacrifice vital to the preservation of the community.

One of the ways in which the members of the Chorus in Oedipus Rex assert the supremacy of the community over the self, thereby embodying the notion of the “city-state,” is by acting as both attentive bystanders and active promoters of the events in the play. As the eyes, ears, and voice of the citizenry, the Chorus-as-city-state is a keen observing-body that main characters depend upon to summarize recent plot...

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