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Objective for this Page: To summarize the parados and consider the function and staging of the chorus.


A new day dawns on Thebes on the day after the city was unsuccessfully attacked by Polynices, Creon's nephew, who, having been denied his turn on the throne by his brother, Eteocles, raised an army in Argos.  It's almost as if the rising sun throws the enemy back.

The enemy in whitened bronze armor had descended on Thebes like an eagle--but Thebes is an unbeatable dragon!  It seems like Zeus blasted the golden-armored enemy with lightning bolts as the army assailed the walls of Thebes.  It seems like Ares, god of war, came to the aid of Thebes and went down the ranks of the enemy army dealing death.

Seven captains of the army from Argos attacked the seven gates of Thebes and lost; finally, the brothers attacked each other with spears and both ended up dead.  Now the goddess Victory flies to Thebes [instead of the eagle mentioned earlier].  Dionysus, god of dance [and wine, whose festival hosted play competitions where this play would have been performed in Athens] is called upon to lead the celebration.

Creon's approach is noted: "New man for a new day."  Why, the elders wonder, have they been summoned here by Creon?


In ODU production, chorus emerges from below in Parados.The Function of the Chorus: Think of the chorus as the elders of the Thebes, sort of like a town council, acting only as advisors to the king.  Mostly they talk among themselves, since they are usually alone on stage for their choral odes.  So they provide commentary and reflection on the condition of the city, the relationships of humans to gods, and the reflections of old men on the action of the play.  These elders are generally conservative, motivated by religious piety, conditioned to fear the gods, and always desirous of order in the city--and therefore usually shocked at the forces that upset the normal order of things in this patriarchal society.  When the leader of the chorus speaks, it is always as a trusted advisor, a respected elder among respected elders, motivated by his perception of what's good for the city.

Study Questions

bulletDialogue? The choral odes, like this opening one, the "Parados," were alternating verses of poetry.  Perhaps half of the chorus on one side of the state would sing the first verse ("strophe") and the other half of the chorus would respond with the next verse ("antistrophe").  Turn-taking would continue throughout the (in this case) eight verses.  To what extent does this ode seem like a dialogue, a conversation? 
bulletBloody Montage: As commentators on recent events, the chorus--elders of Thebes--were elated that the city had been saved.  The claims to the throne of both Eteocles and Polynices died with them in the battle for the city.  Design a "montage" of battle scenes that shows what the chorus reports about the fighting armies that could be shown on a screen above the chorus in a theater or with the chorus as voiceover in a movie. 
bulletHow do you convey the high casualty rate that arises when the gate of a walled fortress is attacked?  How do you multiply that by 7? 
bulletHow would you stage the direct clash between the two brothers? 
bulletWould you try to show an eagle fighting a dragon, or would you put these symbols on the shields and armor of the opposing armies? 
bulletWhat parts of the bronze armor worn by Polynices and the soldiers of Argos be white and which parts golden?  What color of armor would Eteocles and the Theban army wear? Why?
bulletHow would you depict the presence of the gods--Zeus, Ares, Victory, Dionysus--as the ode was being spoken or chanted?
bulletThe fifth verse is especially dramatic and emphatic with its repetition of "down" in the Fagles translation (lines 147-155).  Would you use background music or reverb on the voices to increase the intensity of this verse?  Or what other audio method would you use to enhance this verse in staging it?
bullet The Old Dominion University production of Antigone has the chorus enter from the floor up to the stage and act out much of what they describe in their odes.  See the bottom few stills on their web page for the production.  (It looks as if the choral leader, or choragos, is clad in black and wears a mask as one of the three actors who could be on stage at one time.)  Instead of balanced chant from opposite sides of the stage, then, this production has the chorus move in other ways.  Which seems "better" to you--the strophe-antistrophe dialog or the choreographed dancing and acting out of their descriptions?  Why?  You, of course, have to define in what sense you mean "better."

Assessment: Choose a study question and respond in a paragraph, citing evidence from the prologue to support your point(s).

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This instructional web was made in July, 2002, by Prof. Eric Hibbison, who is solely responsible for its content.