The history of the Greek Chorus can be traced back to a relatively small time period; from the original Dithyrambs, to Thespis' small, but revolutionizing changes to the system, to Aeschylus' triple entente of tragedies The Oresteia, which included the infamous Agamemnon. To truly understand the Greek Chorus, and what role it was meant to play when it was created and thereafter altered, one has to go back to the beginning of time which in this case happens to be somewhere around the seventh century, B.C. During this time, the festival of Dionysus was held annually in Athens to celebrate and honor the god for which it was named. Dionysus, being the Greek (and Roman) god of wine and of an orgiastic religion celebrating the power and fertility of nature, was a god mainly devoted to pleasure. (As it turns out, Dionysus generally had an accompaniment of nymphs and satyrs; this fits in quite well with his sexually promiscuous personage.) ("Dionysus" 391) These festivals consisted of somewhere in the area of fifty men (occasionally dressed up as non-human entities such as birds, clouds, frogs, etc ) who sang ceremonial songs and danced throughout the festivities. The effort of dancing and singing for such long periods of time has often been compared to competing in the Olympic Games. (Greek Tragedy and Chorus)
After over one hundred years of this, a man named Thespis got the chance to direct the festive dances. In 534 B.C. Thespis separated one man from the group, and coordinated the dance to be a call-and-response-type arrangement. The dancers sang and danced mostly as usual, while the separated man called out to, commented on, and talked with the rest of the group, usually in verse. After several years, this slowly evolved into the Greek chorus, mostly as it is known today. The dancers eventually became actors in a play, and the chorus became larger until their number reached at least a dozen or more, depending... [continues]
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