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This is what we mean by the umbrella term choral mediations. Tragedy as a choral genre The approach to dramatic choruses exemplified above draws on several related assumptions about the nature and function of Athenian drama that have progressively emerged over the past thirty years or so. Perhaps at the most fundamental level is the now well established but once radical idea that the written words transmitted under the names of Athenian dramatists should not only be approached as autonomous texts, as formalist critics advocated, but that they take on a rich significance when viewed as traces of singular events, which it is the critics role to recreate in their richest possible complexity.

A dramatic event happens in a certain space, in the presence of a given audience, and in a distinctive social, political, and cultural context. In addition to the words spoken by the performers, it involves a wide range of stimuli, visual and auditory alike, which fundamentally inform the spectators experience. The scholarly recreation of a dramatic event is thus a resolutely historicist project requiring a double focus on socio-political context and staging.

As such, the appreciation of plays as events is directly related to the application of the wide-ranging notion of performance to drama studies. That insight marks a sharp departure from a long tradition of scholarship informed by Aristotles Poetics and shaped by the idea that Athenian drama reached its full level when it broke away from its choral origins Poet.

Choral Mediations in Greek Tragedy

For a different view, which downplays the democratic setting of the plays, see Rhodes On the idea that the confusions in the modern debate about the tragic chorus partly at least are a legacy of Aristotle, see Halliwell []: Zimmermann on the dithyramb; Rutherford on paeans; Kowalzig b, etc. That is of course not to say that there was no interest in dramatic choruses before the performative turn of the s see e. Kaimio , Burton , but that these earlier works study the odes from a literary viewpoint, independently from other choral genres.

According to the ninth-century ce lexicon of Photios of Constantinople, before the city performances of dithyramb and tragedies were moved to the precinct of Dionysos, they took place in a part of the agora called the orchestra. In fifth-century Athens, actors evolved in the same performing space as the dancing chorus. Drama physically happened as an extension of a choral dance. Approaches sensitive to the staging of Athenian drama have further emphasised the sheer theatrical power of the chorus performance, with its distinctive intermedial combination of music, singing, and dancing.

The specifics of choral dancing are irretrievably lost to us. Whether the chorus danced in a circular or rectilinear formation, or perhaps more probably a fluid combination of both, is still fiercely debated. For the hypothesis that the rectangular formation may have been emphasised in the late fifth and fourth century, see Wiles 96 and A good survey of modern approaches to Greek dancing can be found in Ley Knights from the city represented by the Archon, who gave it corn didnai, cf.

Thus a playwrights opportunity to put on a play was synonymous with and depended on his ability to secure a chorus from the polis. Furthermore, the language of comedy suggests that the chorus was conceptually at the centre of the victory, even though it is unclear whether the judges inscribed the poets or the choregos name on their tablets: the chorus of Aristophanes Clouds enumerates the benefits that the panel of judges will receive if they help this choros, as is just Genetic arguments about the origins of Athenian drama occupy a dis- tinctive position in the scholarly reevaluation of tragedy and comedy as choral genres.

Aristotle famously says in the Poetics that tragedy originated from the leaders of the dithyramb and comedy from the leaders of the satyr-play; that Aeschylus first increased the number of actors from one to two, reduced the choral parts, and gave speech the leading role; and that the third actor came with Sophocles Arist. In the Aristotelian context, these statements support an argument that deflates rather than emphasises the importance of the dramatic chorus.

Operat- ing on a teleological rather than genetic logic, Aristotle identifies as the proper nature fsin of tragedy the state that it reached after a number of developments rather than its original features. Yet Aristotle still tells us a story according to which tragedy and comedy originated in choral dances to which actors were gradually added. His statement is corrob- orated by the extant scripts: most of Aeschylus plays seem to require only two actors, but his last extant production, the Oresteia, requires three.

In addition, the chorus drives the plot of several of our earliest extant plays, including Aeschylus Persians, Supplices, and Choephoroi, but seems to play a lesser role in the action of most of Sophocles tragedies. Such observations form the basis of an evolutionary view of the develop- ment of Athenian drama through the gradual amplification of a choral performance.

Origins do not necessarily explain or foreshadow later developments. Furthermore, as crit- ics have pointed out, the historicity of Aristotles statement is questionable. Aristotles ideas about the development of poetic genres are based on theo- retical considerations rather than empirical information. The idea of choral origins that has been so influ- ential is mentioned only in passing. It departs from, rather than reinforces, Aristotles notions that tragedy is the representation of an action, whose most important parts are plot and character Poet.

Overall, Aristotle minimises the role of choruses in his description of the most dignified type of tragedy Poet. The brief mention of the choral origins of tragedy and comedy thus occupies a complex position in Aristotles argument. It does not support his demonstration and thus may rather be a concession to conceptions commonly held among Aristo- tles readers, thus suggesting how much attention fourth-century audiences paid to the choral component of Athenian drama.

That last point is supported by the structure of Platos Laws, which discusses whether dramatic poets and performances should be allowed in the Platonic city in the context of a larger section about the role of corea e. A small dose of comedy and other forms of dancing representing the ignoble movements of ugly bodies e is allowed on the ground that it is impossible to learn the serious without some awareness of the comic, but with the provision that those dances be performed by slaves and foreign hires and not paid much attention de.

The presence of tragic poets is addressed last, a position that perhaps reflects the anxiety of legislating on an immensely popular cultural form ad. Significantly, the Athenian speaker appropriates rather than dismisses tragic poetry by metaphorically redefining the citizens as tragic poets, whose city is a mimesis of the best life. The section on chorality ends on provisions for comic and tragic poets to be granted a chorus. Even in the fourth century bce, Plato still conceptualised tragedy and comedy as fundamentally choral events.

See also Scullion about the possibility that Aristotles reconstruction of the origins of tragedy and comedy in relation to the more ostensibly Dionysiac dithyramb and satyr-play is an aetiology for their performance during the festival of the wine god. A multi-layered medium Scholars of Greek drama have long been aware of the fact that the odes of Athenian tragedy formally resemble the songs of melic poetry. Our admittedly complex and frag- mentary extant sources suggest that the choruses performing for Dionysos in Athens functionally took over at least some of the social, religious, and civic roles fulfilled by melic choruses in other city-states.

Evidence for male choruses include a few epinician poems by Pindar and Bacchylides; testimonia about paeans composed by Phrynichus Ath. Paian 5 SM. Performances of female choruses in Athenian public life are even more poorly attested. The festival for Artemis at Brauron may have been a medium for female choral training, for instance. We know that the bears rktoi took part in various activities including dance, which makes it reasonable to suppose that their service to Artemis would have culminated in some kind of pub- lic performance.

From an evolutionary viewpoint, the dramatic and dithyrambic choruses of Athens take over the performance position that melic choruses occupy in other cultural contexts. The idea that Athenian audiences experienced the dramatic contests as choral performances has played an important role in recent discussions of tragic and comic choruses. Among other consequences, it raises the possibility that some features of melic choruses that have recently come to light in the scholarship may be applicable but to what extent?

Starting with Calames Choeurs de jeunes filles, a number of studies informed by anthropology and pragmatic linguistics have shown that in archaic and classical Greece, song-and-dance ensembles of maidens, men, or women were fundamentally social and civic events integral to an. Parry Work on the phenomenon of deixis, whereby a song refers to its extra-linguistic circumstances of performance, has shown that the songs of Alcman, Pindar, and other lyric poets point at a wide range of social institutions and practices.

Many if not most melic performances were offerings to the gods: the hymns, paeans, dithyrambs, and sacred chants of Pindar, Bacchylides, and Simonides are cultic songs that often include aetiological myths about their cultic context of performance. Their song unfolds both in the specific time of the performance and in the cyclical temporality of ritual.

In addition, melic choruses are closely connected to the community for and on the behalf of which they perform. According to Plato, choruses represent the lawgivers strategy for impressing on all the idea that just behavior is equated with happiness Leg. Hence the analogy between dramatic and non-dramatic choruses has led to a more acute sensibility for the multiple layers of meaning at work in the choruses of tragedy, both within and without the fiction. First, it supported a new scholarly emphasis on the ritual context of the dramatic contests that put the old question of the relation between drama and ritual, formally explored by the Cambridge Ritualists at the turn of the twentieth century, on an entirely different level of understanding.

Just as other choral performances were offerings to the gods, the tragic and comic contests were performed in the context of festivals dedicated to the god. The performance of the masked choreutai singing and dancing in the orchestra may thus signify both within the dramatic fiction, and in relation to the festival of the wine god.

This idea that the context of the festival of Dionysos potentially infuses the choral utterances with a ritual significance is a premise of Albert Henrichs influential argument that all instances when the chorus refers to its own dancing in extant tragedy may be interpreted in terms of its extra-dramatic identity as a performer of the ritual dance.

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For Henrichs, the ritual dimension of the theatrical experience, both diachronically, as a memory of its origins in choral cult celebration, and synchronically, as a direct dialogue with contemporary ritual practices and imagination, lies behind the complementary capacity of the dramatic chorus for projection and self-reflexivity, and the elusive figure of Dionysos looms large as a common denominator of this heightened play with ritual and illusion.

This research has opened the way for a much greater appreciation of the specificity of tragic choral mimesis. It has taken the chorus out of the strict confines of the dramatic illusion, placed it between projection and performance, and shown how the chorus of drama is able to evolve in different levels of reference simultaneously. Chorus and audience If the chorus simultaneously partakes in a ritual for Dionysos and performs in a work of fiction, it also stands as a collective impersonated by Athenian citizens and thus entertains a special relation with the Athenian audience.

In an article originally published in and reprinted in the Mythe et tragedie en Grece ancienne, co-authored with Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Jean- Pierre Vernant suggested that the chorus stands as a representative of the city on stage. Working with an idea of tragedy as the staging of the tensions and limitations of the democratic ideal, Vernant argued that the contrast between the collective chorus and the individual actors reflects on demo- cratic anxieties about the respective roles of the group and the individual.

Other important works that rely on the double identity, ritual and fictional, of dramatic choruses include Calame and Bierl []. Even though the exact numbers are unknown and varied over the course of the fifth century, the Dionysiac festivals clearly involved massive numbers of choreutai. At the Great Dionysia, each of the citys ten tribes produced a chorus of fifty boys and a chorus of fifty men for the dithyrambic contest;72 the choreutai involved in the tragic contests probably varied between thirty-six to forty-five depending on whether the chorus included twelve or fifteen performers ; and the comic contests introduced in bce seem to have involved five and then three choruses of twenty-four.

The chorus is not only a group of performers, but also, and crucially, a group of Athenian citizens. Among other problems, it glosses over the fact that unlike the choreutai singing dithyrambs or other types of melic songs, tragic choreutai are masked, and that the mask introduces a fundamental distance between stage and audience. For Gould the choreutai introduce into the fiction a particular voice, that of collective wisdom, that contextualises the tragic action performed by the actors. Csapo and Slater ; Swift On the chorus authority as an object of tension and negotiation among the individual actors, see Hawthorne Yet as Simon Goldhill has stressed, one position does not need to be emphasised to the expense of the other.

It may precisely be that capacity to shift that defines the specificity of the choral voice. Accordingly, Donald Mastronarde has offered a multi- layered model of the various factors that favour or impede the authority of the choral voice.

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Mastronarde argued for a diachronic evolution whereby Euripides goes beyond Aeschylus and Sophocles in weakening factors that favor audience identification and exploiting opposing factors, but also showed how the chorus of a single Euripidean play Euripides Andromache can display a mixture of involvement and aloofness, authority and error.

Two concepts, identity and voice, have mostly and sometimes inter- changeably been used to describe that proteiform nature. From a mimetic perspective, the chorus oscillates between two identities, an intra-dramatic identity as a fictional group of slaves, soldiers, or captive women, and an extra-dramatic identity as a ritual, civic, and institutionalised collec- tive performing in the festival of Dionysos.

For other studies discussing possible correlations between the fictional identity of the chorus and its role in the action, see Dhuga and especially , and Hawthorne From Athens to the American stage This volume represents a collective attempt to explore the multiformity and polyvalence of tragic choruses through a wide range of perspectives and methodological practices.

The contributions refrain from offering a general theory on the tragic chorus but rather view it as a medium whose rich potential is handled differently from one play to another. The collection opens with a theoretical paper by Claude Ca l a m e, Choral polyphony and the ritual functions of tragic songs, which reflects on the various tools and methods previously used in the scholarship to conceptualise the variability of the choral voice.

Calame revisits his own earlier distinction between the three semantic levels performative, hermeneutic, emotive at work in what he calls choral polyphony, and the distinction between the fictional and ritual identities of the chorus; he argues that the performative voice corresponds to the chorus identity as a character, the interpretive voice to its identity as a ritual agent, and the emotive voice to its position as an intermediary between character and audience. Taking as his main examples the binding song of Aeschylus Eumenides and the final threnos of Persians, Calame looks at how the chorus performance of ritual draws attention to its embedded, double identity as character and institution.

Picking up on the example of Persians discussed by Calame but explor- ing it through a different set of analytical tools, Ma r i a n n e Go v e r s Ho p m a n argues in Chorus, conflict, and closure in Aeschylus Persians that the performance of the Persian chorus challenged the conceptual opposition between Greeks and barbarians in at least two respects.

Focus- ing first on the chorus as a narrator, she shows how its perspective on the war markedly differs from the actors in its capacity to focus on a wide variety of objects and to consider the viewpoint of various constituencies, Athenian included. Turning to a discussion of the chorus as a character, she suggests that it partakes in a plot culminating in a sequence of opposi- tion to and reconciliation with the protagonist, Xerxes. Through a survey 84 Vernant and Vidal-Naquet Through a series of close readings of the Oresteia, Jo n a s Gr e t h l e i n explores a number of tropes that interweave temporal layers in Aeschy- lus choral odes.

As he shows, similes, parables, and other instances of metaphorical speech create a temporal panopticon whereby the past, present, and future of the mythical action are integrated with each other; maxims gnomai claim to a timeless validity and thus tie events from the vagueness of heroic times to the democratic present; mythical paradigms evoke a mythical plu-past hermeneutically connected to the mythical past and hence call attention to the potential relevance of the mythical past to the present of the performance; finally, the ritual staged at the end of Eumenides integrates the audience into the performance and blends the internal and external communication systems.

Grethlein thus concludes that the Great Dionysia as a whole provides a time-out whereby the demo- cratic present enters in a dialogue with mythical time. Turning from Aeschylus to Sophocles, Si m o n Go l d h i l l argues in Choreography: the lyric voice of Sophoclean tragedy that metre, especially the transition and juxtaposition between lyric voices and iambic voices, evi- dences the emotional, intellectual, and physical transitions enacted by the chorus in the course of a single drama. Through a reconstruction of the vocal score and soundscape of passages from Ajax, Electra, Oedipus Tyran- nus, and Trachiniae, Goldhill shows how variations in the choral voice amount to a narrative that organises the interaction between chorus and actors: moving along constantly shifting lines, it oscillates between sym- pathy and distance, proximity and alienation, authoritative generalisation and character-led specificity.

The chapter reacts against monolithic views of the chorus and stresses the experimental nature of Sophocles handling of it. The next four papers highlight some aspects of Euripides distinctively self-conscious use of the multi-referentiality of the chorus. In Conflicting identities in the Euripidean chorus, La u r a Sw i f t shows how Euripides uses the multi-dimensional identity of the chorus to promote a reflec- tion on group identity.

As she argues, the plot of the Medea depends on the chorus prioritising gender over local identity so that the Theban women remain silent while Medea destroys the royal house of Corinth, yet double-entendres and self-contradictions in the chorus position encour- age the audience to question the validity of this type of prioritisation. Conversely, in the Ion, Euripides explores the problems that result from. The chorus inability to differentiate between the two underscores the troubling risk that national identity could be used to support personal interests.

In The choral plot of Euripides Helen, Sh e i l a Mu r n a g h a n explores the double status of the chorus as musical form and experience in the Helen and other plays. Tragic plots self-consciously exploit the formal status of actors and choruses as displaced participants in a festive choral performance, and the experience of chorus leaders in myth provides a pat- tern for the struggles of the tragic protagonists.

Numerous plays recast the successful ritual passage from maidenhood to marriage facilitated in real life by participation in a chorus as an unsuccessful transition where the woman is supported by a sympathetic female chorus. The Helen casts the eponymous character as a dislocated chorus leader but envisages in choral projections a few brighter situations when Helen hypothetically reassumes her leading position in the choral group.

In Transcultural chorality: Iphigenia in Tauris and Athenian imperial economics in a polytheistic world, Ba r b a r a Ko w a l zi g is interested in Euripides use of the tragic chorus as a space for mediating between the religious cultures of different Mediterranean polytheisms. Using the Iphigenia in Tauris as a test case, she shows how the chorus functions as a tool of religious thought for expressing the meeting of distinct cultic traditions and their transformation into a new hybrid transcultural religious imaginary.

She explores the myriad ways through which this religious conceptualisation of the transfer of Taurian Artemis from the Crimea to Attica reflects the transnational economic encounter of imperial Athens, and discusses the special ability of the chorus to embody the cultural exploration of identities that results from it.

As An t o n Bi e r l argues in Maenadism as self-referential chorality in Euripides Bacchae, finally, the Bacchae presents a unique case where the ritual identity of the chorus as worshippers of Dionysos at the Great Dionysia and their fictional identity as Asian bacchants newly arrived to Thebes virtually coincide. Euripides multiplication of choral references and projections, whereby the chorus simultaneously impersonates a group of Dionysos followers and Theban women who previously resisted the god, both demonstrates and enacts the presence of the proteiform god Dionysos.

The medium of the performance coincides with its message. Put together, these case studies suggest among other things that choral polyvalence provides tragedy with a means to reflect upon Athenian prac- tices and concepts. Furthermore, tragic plots often put the multi-layered identity of the chorus to various uses by casting the pro- tagonist as a displaced chorus leader who may alternatively be separated from or reintegrated into the choral group or even fully take on the role of choregos.

The specificity of tragic choral mediation can be understood much more sharply against the background of other non-tragic forms of choral mediation, both diachronically and synchronically. The lyric antecedents of the tragic chorus present us with particularly significant elements of comparison, contrast, and insights about the genesis of tragic chorality.

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The parallel, often radically different experiments of comedy with the dramatic chorus offer indispensable points of reference for considering the distinctive nature of the tragic experience. The great narrative shifts of the parabasis and the generic commentaries of paratragedy stand out in that regard. Another important point of reference is Platos Laws, which contains a uniquely sustained reflection on the role of the chorus in the city, and its use in mediating emotions and the teachings of tradition for the population of the second best city. The only classical discussion of any length on the function of the chorus in the polis, the ideal of the tragic chorus, and the effect of its spectacle on the audience, it opens a fascinating window on the question from a completely different perspective.

Although other ancient points of reference could have been considered, of course, most notably the choruses of satyr-plays, this volume will limit itself to looking at some particularly relevant aspects of lyric antecedents, the Laws, and Old Comedy. Four chapters are concerned with that wider background of choral mediation. In The Delian Maidens and their relevance to choral mimesis in classical drama, Gr e g o r y Na g y examines the cultural conditions that made possible the transformation of choral lyric into the three composite genres of Athenian drama.

As Nagy argues, the fact that tragedy, comedy, and the satyr-play combine solo performances with a wide variety of chorals songs is a function of choral mimesis as a form of reenactment. The interaction between the chorus of the Delian Maidens and the blind singer of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo shows that a chorus can reenact a solo performance and that a soloist can reenact a choral performance. Furthermore, the mutual empathy between chorus and audience involved in the process of choral mimesis accounts for the fact that dramatic choruses can bridge the gap between the archetypal there-and-then of the actors and the here-and- now of the audience.

She discusses the roles ascribed to the rhythm and order of choral song and dance in Platos city, charting the chorus ability to bring together emotion, perception, and reason through vocal and kinetic activity, and its effect, both as performance and as representation, on the education and socialisation of the citizens a double mediation between individual and collective, on the one hand, and human and divine, on the other. She further shows how the specific image of tragedy that emerges out of Platos appropriation of dramatic chorality for his philosophical project can only be understood against the wider background of civic chorality painted by the text.

Turning to another contemporary witness, Je f f r e y He n d e r s o n considers how the concept of mediation can be useful for comedy in The comic chorus and the demagogue. He follows distinctively comic forms of choral mediation in some of the early plays of Aristophanes, most notably Banqueters, Babylonians, Acharnians, Knights, and Wasps.

Particular attention is paid to the comic chorus ability to mention contemporary political figures in the play, in and out of the parabasis, as well as to its capacity for embodying affiliations and viewpoints current in the city, and integrating these views from the world of the poet and the audience in the fictional world of the story.

Henderson shows how vast is the range of choral identities that comedy could accommodate, and how exceptionally flexible. In Dancing letters: the Alphabetic Tragedy of Kallias, Renaud Ga g n e looks at the unique play of media interaction between word, movement and image at work in a fragmentary comedy of the later fifth century. The play, he argues, orchestrated an elaborate reflection on the nature of dramatic sound in its relation to writing, and opened a humorous perspective on the metrical syllabification of the choral ode a literal deconstruction of the dramatic text, possibly one of the most radical experiments of paratragedy imagined in the classical period.

The chapter looks at the specific role of the chorus as an instrument of poetic retrospection in the play, the various strategies deployed by the chorus of the parodic comedy to represent its tragic counterpart, and the spectacular staging of intermedial correspondences it set in motion. It goes without saying that the modern reception of the ancient chorus is an inexhaustibly rich topic; giving it any kind of justice would require a book-length study, and this is not the aim of this collection.

Yet, if only in order to better situate the ideas of this collection by contrast, it seems necessary to take some space to reflect on how choral mediation has been imagined at different moments not in terms of reconstructing the teleological stages of an evolution that leads to a precise destination, but as examples of how the experimentations of different periods with the idea of the chorus as a mediator answered the different imperatives of their time.

The three following chapters explore facets of three particularly significant moments in this respect: German Ide- alism, Victorian choreography, and contemporary American performance arts. In Choral dialectics: Holderlin and Hegel, Jo s h u a Bi l l i n g s looks at how German thinkers from the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth completely transformed the modern under- standing of the ancient Greek chorus, laying the foundations for all further reflection on the specificity of the chorus and its ability to mediate between different levels of reference.

After discussing the relationship of their work to Aristotle and the influential ideas of Schiller and Schlegel, he proceeds to investigate the choral theories of Holderlin and Hegel as a privileged space for the deployment of tragic dialectic, especially in their readings of the Antigone, and how their interpretation of the chorus as an expression of the collective in societal transition reflected, in great part, their understanding of the French Revolution.

In Enter and exit the chorus: dance in Britain , Fi o n a Ma c in t o s h looks at the profound interest in the revival of ancient Greek dance that took hold in Britain at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. She traces the development of the entirely unprecedented and short-lived enthusiasm for the experience of ancient chorality in the period, and its many correspondences with the radical corporeality explored by theatre of the time. The chapter investigates the moral and political dimensions of the new fascination for ancient choral performance of those years, and the original perspectives it opened on the tragic chorus as a three-dimensional experience.

It also considers the conditions that led to the abandonment of this dynamic view of the chorus at the time of the First World War. In a discussion that combines the reflections of the four creative artists on the adaptation of the Greek material to the modern stage, and recent advances of classical scholarship on ancient choral performance, Meineck looks at how the chorus has been used to mediate dramatic territory and cultural lines in the present period, and how these modern experiments can help illuminate the ancient material.

Taken as a whole, the volume emphasises the variety of discourses and media mobilised by tragic choruses. The chapters analyse choruses as fic- tional, religious, and civic performers; as combinations of text, song, and dance; and in relation and contrast to the choruses of comedy and melic poetry. As a result, the volume offers both a synthesis of previous studies and directions for further work.

The chapters fully integrate the implications of earlier analyses of the social context of Greek drama, the non-textual dimensions of Athenian tragedy, and the relations between choral genres. In addition, they show how new analytic tools, including attention to the physicality of choruses, their musical interactions with the actors, or the treatment of time and space in the odes, allow us to better capture the specificity of tragic choruses.


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As a result, the volume offers a wide range of original contributions looking together at the tragic chorus as a highly specific, complex, and metamorphic medium. Apart from the last three chapters, all dates are bce unless otherwise indicated. All Greek is translated. Proper names are mostly spelled follow- ing standard English practice, and transliterations are internally coherent within each chapter. Abbreviations follow the standard conventions of the Oxford Classical Dictionary and the Annee philologique. Choral polyphony and the ritual functions of tragic songs Claude Calame.

In this past decade, the role of the choral group in classical Attic tragedy has often been addressed in terms of identity social identity. With regard to the status of the choral group as an actor, as well as to its spatial position, this role can be interpreted through the general and instrumental con- cept of mediation understood as intermediary between different levels of reference; and, as far as the power of the choral voice as medium in a pro- cess of musical communication is concerned, it can be made more precise through the particular and instrumental concept of intermediality.

Gener- ally speaking the tragic chorus as a protagonist invited to sunagwnzesqai to speak with Aristotle 1 has a status which leads it to interact with the actors of the heroic and dramatic action: the choral group is integrated in the time and space of the plot, of the mythos still in the Aristotelian meaning of the word enacted in front of the skene. This is its dramatic mediation.

But the choreutai are also Athenian; they are chorally educated citizens, singing in Greek in fifth-century Athens. Secondly spatially the chorus members dance in the orchestra, which has an obvious inter- mediary position between the place not yet the stage on which the heroic action is dramatized and the rows of seats where the audience is sitting and participating in the musical performance: this is their social mediation, on the mode of the intermediality. Moreover, from that second viewpoint of mediation, the mask plays an important role as mediator between, on the one hand, the heroic time and space of the palaia dramatized in the theatre and, on the other, the historical, political and social reality of the actors; which is also the reality of the audience.

But from the notion of mediation let us move to that of intermediality. Tragic choral identities Tragedy as ritual and musical performance, the songs of tragedy as drama- tized melic and choral performances: the recent interest in ancient theatre as a performative art has focused the attention of a few scholars in Classics on the pragmatics of Greek tragedy. Tragedy no longer seen as a literary text, then, but as theatrical performance; choral parts not only read as poems, but as songs with their melody and their metrical rhythm corresponding to a choreography.

We have to consider in this light the performative aspects of choral songs in tragedy along the three functions of mediation just men- tioned: dramatic, spatial and religious. As in melic poetry, the choral group not only uses self-referential statements to offer its songs as speech acts, and thus as ritual song acts, but, in a striking expression of polyphony, it takes on different roles to react emotionally to the action played on the stage, to try to influence it or just to give a commentary on it. The scholars sensitiv- ity to the pragmatics of these enunciative procedures of the tragic chorus requires a linguistic aptitude that is focused on discourse and combined with the anthropological and ethnopoetical point of view required by the study of song performance and ritual.

Such is the perspective I would like to adopt in the following introduc- tory remarks, insisting on the different intermedial roles of the polyphony of the choral songs in Attic tragedy; and that in relationship with the gen- erally marginal identity conferred on the choral group in the heroic action dramatized on stage.

In a second part of the study I will illustrate my general reflections, drawing my examples mainly from Aeschylus Persians as this tragedy offers a fourth mediation in putting the heroic victory of the Athenians at Salamis in the perspective of the defeated barbarians. Relying in these introductory and general remarks on numerous studies 3 The ritual aspects of the tragic performance in the theatre and sanctuary of Dionysos Eleuthereus in Athens are recalled by Sourvinou-Inwood ; for the theatrical role of Dionysos in the tragic performance, see for instance Bierl Is it fair to say that the chorus was the mouthpiece of the city, which through its movements paid its respects to the altar of Dionysus, the god who, of all the Olympians, was the one most foreign to the city and that tragedy could be said to be a manifestation of the city turning itself into theater, presenting itself on stage before its assembled citizens?

And that is precisely the problem surrounding the dual identity of the choreutai in Greek tragedy: they simultaneously have both a civic and a dramatic status. Independently of the civic role played by the choreutai as both Athenian citizens and singers ritually honouring Dionysos Eleuthereus, the social and sexual identity of the choral group implied in the dramatic action is a complex one; as we will see, it has a decisive impact on the authority of the tragic choral voice, on its semantic, enunciative and musical polyphony. In a recent paper, a scholar from Berkeley noticed that 59 per cent of the attested tragedies by Aeschylus feature a female chorus; this proportion rises to 68 per cent in plays by Euripides, but drops to 38 per cent in those of Sophocles tragic dramas which are known to us.

Mainly on the basis of Euripides Medea with its chorus of Corinthian women and where Medea is herself an exile , the same scholar assumes that, at least in that tragedians dramas, the choral voice is heterogeneous, and that the chorus is incapable of expressing a coherent judgement. For him, the lack of cohesion in the part sung by the chorus has a cause that goes beyond the heroic action played on the stage, one that is related to the social crisis in Athens at the end of the fifth century.

The apparent inconsistencies of the choral voice in Attic tragedy, how- ever, are to be related less to an external situation, to a particular historical and political context, than to the fact that the performative, emotional and interpretive reactions of the chorus follow the dramatic movement of the play, as in the rule stated by Aristotle himself in the Poetics; its musical interventions follow the different tensions and reversals of the dramatic action.

Continuing the statistical approach that points to the tragic focus on the chorus and its action within the play, it is important to remember that, out of the nine of Phrynichus tragedies whose titles are known to us and without taking into account the special case of the Capture of Miletus , five derive their title from the name of the chorus, three from the main character, and one has a double title character and chorus. For Aeschylus, the proportion is analogous: out of his six or seven surviving tragedies, four have a title corresponding to the name of the chorus and three of those titles correspond to a female group not taking into account the exception offered by the Persians, Choephoroi, Eumenides and the Supplices in which the Danaids, as suppliant women, are the main protagonists of the tragic action ; and around half of the surviving titles of tragedies by Aeschy- lus derive their title from the name of the choral group.

Of Sophocles surviving tragedies, only one has a title deriving from a female chorus: Trachiniae; and from around eighty of his tragedies whose titles are known to us, only fifteen correspond to the name of the choral group. Finally, as far as Euripides is concerned, of his surviving plays only four titles derive from the name of the chorus and they are all female Supplices, Phoenis- sae, Troades, Bacchae. However that may be, in a collective volume focused on Tragedy and the Tragic, one of the contributors pays attention to the dramatic role of the chorus within the fictional world created by the performances themselves.

From the outset he had to acknowledge that the fictional world the pos- sible world constructed and dramatized on the stage is interpenetrated by the real musical and ritual performance. Nonetheless, from an internal point of view the tragic choral group, on the one hand, partly participates in the heroic identity of the characters, the protagonists of the tragic action, while, on the other, it quite often assumes a position of social marginality: the choreutai are generally women, slaves or foreigners see for instance the choral group in Euripides Phoenissae.

Sensitive to the nuances of gendered roles in Greek poetry, a recent study has offered further relevant reflections on the evident social marginality of the choral groups in tragedy which consist of women, slaves, foreigners, or old men. In these cases, the tragic choreutai cannot represent the audience of Attic tragedy, much less the politico-religious community to which they would belong, in one way or another. Differing according to both the poet of the tragedy and the gender criterion, the choral groups show emotional and moral attitudes which are mainly determined by their social status and situation in the dramatic plot.


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  • Representing a kind of authoritative cultural memory through references to other heroic examples which we call myths and with their frequent gnomic statements referring to traditional wisdom, the tragic choruses are, generally speaking, engaged with both female and male characters playing on the stage. This is especially true of the female choruses who have more authority and more aggressive expression in Euripides dramas. From 9 Gould and for the quotations. This is probably not a real surprise, but it does mean that the poetics enable the tragic poet, in the creative moment, to imagine the gendered perspective corresponding to the social identity of a female group.

    In a book published in the same year as the essay just mentioned, the author pointed out not only the position of the chorus in the dramatic action, but also its identity as a performer at a civic festival and as a representative of the city at the ritual level. Rightly refusing the idea of the otherness of the tragic chorus, she assumes the variability of the identity and authority of the tragic choral group. Being mimetic and ritual, the persona of the choreutai is not static and would shift as the performance progressed.

    In fact, the tragic chorus would be quite close to the world of the audience and therefore play a central role in what tragedy was about, i. Independently of her very hypothetical reconstruction of the origin of the tragic performance in representing, and then problematizing, essentially Dionysiac myths, she suggests that the identities of the choreutai would originally have been divided between their dominant persona in the here and now of the ritual and the reenacting of the past facet of their persona.

    Even with its ritual collective identity as choral group, contrasted with the singular identity of protagonists who are situated by their proper names in the time and spaces of the heroic world, the tragic chorus does not represent a college de citoyens; its collective voice does not have the communal authority of the democratic polis either in its dramatic and heroic, or in its ritual identity. In response to the proposition concerning the chorus social marginality, on the other hand, a critical voice 11 Foley One has to be conscious that the composition and the performance of choral songs of tragedy depended on the musical education of the Athenian citizen and on a culture of choral and ritual performance.

    Despite the social marginality of the singers as protagonists in the heroic action, the tragic choral voices, in their variety and flexibility, draw their authority from a broadly shared musical and ritual poetic tradition which belongs to the political and religious culture of the city. We might say that it is through the choral and ritual performance that the tragic chorus, relying on the treasury of traditional wisdom and on examples to be drawn from that tradition of heroic narratives we call mythology, also sings in the name of the broad audience.

    On that particular point one should remember a very relevant conclusion: The chorus requires the audience to engage in a constant renegotiation of where the authoritative voice lies. It sets in play an authoritative collective voice, but surrounds it with other discussing voices. The chorus thus is a key dramatic device for setting commentary, reflection, and an authoritative voice in play as part of tragic conflict.

    In a previous study for an earlier choral meeting on The Chorus in Greek Culture, I tried to refer to the complexity of the voice of the tragic choral group entailed by its dual identity: on the one hand as collective actor engaged in the heroic action with its specific time, space and ideology; on the other, as performer of rituals related to the hic et nunc of their own religious culture which correspond to the religious practices of the audience.

    To this end, I tried to distinguish three different semantic dimensions in the tragic choral voice, each corresponding to a particular position and function of the tragic chorus. In a purely instrumental way, and taking as examples the powerful parodos of the Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus and the dramatic parodos of the Phoenissae by Euripides, it follows that the different functions assumed by the tragic choral group in the orchestra correspond to three different voices: first a performative voice, insofar as the choral group quite often adopts and transforms the traditional forms of melic poetry hymn, paean, hymenaios, threnos and so on in order to react to, participate in and have a ritual influence on the dramatic action;.

    Finally, the commentaries the choreutai give of the action they see unfolding on the stage define a hermeneutic voice; taking on an ethic move, this interpretive voice relies on the traditional wisdom and patrimony of heroic figures and examples, which were the twin foundations of the standard political and religious culture in fifth-century Athens.

    The actual combination of the hermeneutic voice with the performative and the emotive ones forms a threefold polyphony which I will call content polyphony or semantic polyphony. The complexity of the tragic choral voice in this kind of counterpoint corresponds both to the multiplicity of the functions assumed by the voice of the tragic chorus and to the multi-layered substance of the social and gender identity of this same choral group.

    This complex identity of the tragic choruses has been well highlighted in the different studies I just mentioned. Relying on the distinction between intermediality and mediation, I will revisit my first distinction between the interpretive, the affective and the performative 15 See here the introductory study by Renaud Gagne and Marianne Hopman with the bibliographical references given in n. Insofar as the traditional forms of melos are transformed on the tragic stage by the performative voice of the chorus, their presence cannot be interpreted in terms of reference and allusion to autonomous lyric genres as proposed by Swift and The polyphonic content of the tragic choral songs, considered from a semantic viewpoint, relies on an enunciative polyphony.

    We will now proceed to this double semantic and enun- ciative polyphonic play of the tragic choral voices on the basis of a few examples. Come let us join in the dance choron hapsomen , for we are ready to perform our grisly song mousan and to tell how our ensemble stasis apportions lots among mortals. Albert Henrichs. Such is the beginning of the famous dsmiov mnov sung by the chorus of the Erinyes as the first stasimon of Aeschylus Eumenides.

    To quote examples drawn from melic poems sung by a female chorus, let. With these verbal forms, including a verb of the song or the dance, the choreutai describe in the first-person singular or plural the choral activity and musical performance they are currently engaged in. In the terms of pragmatic linguistics, these utterances correspond to speech acts; they are more exactly song-acts and, as they are included in a ritual of which the performance of the melic song is a part, they are also to be considered as cult-acts.

    The rituality of the hymn is underlined by its complex rhythmic structure. Out of four, the three first strophic pairs composing the binding song are divided by a so-called ephumnion of around six lines; all three refrains are based on a rhythm made of cretics. This hymnic procedure reinforces the incantatory function of the choral song of the Erinyes. But it is also self-referential, according to another meaning of the concept. The choral song is intro- duced in iambic trimeters, by the koryphaios or by the whole choral group itself, as mnon.

    To that first self-referential designation, the choral group adds in its own song another gesture of deixis; in a kind of refrain the Erinyes refer again to the song they are just performing not only as mnov dsmiov, but also as tde mlov! This means that, when located into the orchestra of the theatre consecrated to Dionysos, the ritual melic song can be designated and isolated as such by its own singers. Identified in a recent and fundamental study, this self- referential gesture is taken to its logical conclusion by the desperate chorus of the Oedipus Tyrannus in the famous question t de me coreein, why 19 Alcman, fr.

    This kind of reflexive choral self-referentiality is rather frequent in the choral songs of Attic tragedy. I would call this type of commentary by the chorus on its own musical performance dramatic or mimetic choral self-referentiality. In this, it could also deserve the designation of meta-theatrical self-referentiality, as has been also suggested concerning the interventions of Dionysos in various choral songs of tragedy.

    This authorial self-referential gesture reminds us of the different forms of sfragv, of signature made familiar to us by the elegiac lines of Theognis or in the prelude of Herodotus Histories. Supporting both these voices, the emotive choral voice would work as a kind of intermediary between these two positions; so it would imply the characters of the tragedy, on the one hand, and on the other, through the musical performance, the audience paying honour to Dionysos.

    The choral emotive voice would thus work as an expression of the tensions provoked by the confrontation between the staged heroic and fictional action and the politic, religious and cultic reality in which the choreutai as performers are engaged along with the audience. We believe we practise straight justice: against him who can display clean hands there comes no wrath from us, and he goes through life unharmed ; trans.

    Sommerstein so the Erinyes must sing to reassure the audience, stating that their hateful and revengeful binding song is addressed only to Orestes, the main protagonist of the heroic action. From the perspective of the chorus external relationship with the audi- ence to which we will return in conclusion , it is important to point out that the various gestures of verbal deixis which punctuate the choral interventions in Attic tragedy with words in -de can actually have a double reference, as is the case in the different forms of melic poetry: not only an internal anaphoric or cataphoric reference, corresponding to what the German linguist Karl Buhler calls the Deixis am Phantasma; but also an external one corresponding to the demonstratio ad oculos.

    But there is also, on the other, an extra-discursive demonstrative reference when the same Athena speaks of the actions which she just mentioned tde, and which she is about to accomplish prssw, out of favour for these citizens tosde poltaiv : both the citizens implied in the dramatic action and, above all, their successors in the audience, hic et nunc; for them the Erinyes of the tragedy are now the Eumenides, since in Athens they were honoured in a cult at Colonus.

    Calame, b: , with the different studies published in a special issue of Arethusa, 37, This ambiguity between dramatic action and ritual act is even more marked when the heroic action is staged in Athens itself, as is the case in the Eumenides, and when the tragic chorus sings both as a character with its marginal social status and also as a member of the broad Athenian community. Its threefold semantic polyphony is underlined by a strong enunciative polyphony which refers to the hic et nunc of the musical performance in its religious, political and cultural context. Enunciative intermedialities of the tragic chorus What, then, are we to make of the semantic and the enunciative poly- phonies of the chorus in Aeschylus Persians?

    What is specific about the modes of mediation and intermediality of a tragedy whose action is situ- ated in a barbarian country? The question is even more interesting given that, from the title given to the tragedy, the chorus of Xerxes personal guard is the main character of the action; but the question is rather more complicated since these Persian choreutai sing in Greek melic dic- tion with its lexicon, rhythms, music and ritual forms; in a foreign space, but staged in Athens; and, above all, in a time which is not the usual heroic time of myth, but a time quite close eight years to the nunc of the performance.

    If the space of the heroic action coincides with a barbarian and enemy city, its temporality corresponds to a past in which part of the audience itself, as Athenian community, has been a living protagonist. It also takes on the start of the dramatic action that begins with the dialogue with Atossa ; reacts before the queen to the news of the disaster of the defeated Persian army ; provokes the apparition of the phantom of Darius and, finally, in a particularly long exodos, it gives a sung echo to Xerxes ritual lament. The dimension which prevails in this omnipresent choral voice is the voice of emotion.

    This 28 A summary on the role of the chorus in the Persians is in the commentary by Broadhead xxivxxvi, with a reference to the study of Kranz ; for Kranz, the chorus gives to the dramatic action the meaning the poet wants to offer to the audience; see also now Gruber For the question of the parodos, see Taplin This is especially the case in the kommos which, in a melic exchange between the King and his advisors, concludes the tragedy, giving it a very long exodos.

    I will focus this case study on the choral polyphony and on the performative pragmatics of that impressive melic song. As a start, let us just give the form and rhythmic structure of this very elaborate choral song: r prooimion : choral introduction the chorus and Xerxes in anapaests r str. The intention to give tragic grief a ritual expression in song corresponds to the musical and cultic function of any choral group.

    Linguistically, this purpose is expressed by the use, in the first part of this long choral song, of a set of verbs of speech in the form of the so-called performative future: r I shall do so indeed, honouring the sufferings of the army sw, r truly I shall cry forth the tearful wail of mourning klgxw, r and above all I shall send forth, send forth with many tears the shout of woeful words. These lines offer good examples of what I call performative self-referentiality. The analogy with Pindars poems is even more striking as the choreutai of Aeschylus relate their own song to the mournful voices of the Thracian singers of threnoi, well known in the musical tradition of Ionia.

    The Mariandynoi were famed for singing a funerary lament to mourn the untimely death of a local hero named Bormos. That figure evoked, for Greece, the figure of Linos if not that of Hymenaios, and the songs attached to the names of these young heroes. The evocation of the death of the Thracian hero Bormos provokes the performative declarations of the choreutai about their inten- tion of lamenting ritually and these appeals to start singing the threnos are actually followed by a choral mourning song.

    After the allusion to the death of the heroic figure Bormos, the deaths of the captains fallen during the battle of Salamis are evoked. In a sharp contrast, these heroes were already sung and praised by the same choreutai in the parodos before the messengers report of their fight and their death In such a way, in the form of the kommos and during a melic dialogue with Xerxes, the threnos of the chorus takes over the positive epic catalogue of the Persian soldiers which opens the tragedy and transforms it in a tragic reversal. As at the beginning of the tragedy, for their praise, this pragmatic effect of the catalogue inserted in the lament is underlined by the sonorities of the barbarian names.

    In the parodos as it has been very recently noticed the chorus of elders anticipates both the pqov longing provoked throughout Asia 62; see in the city of Susa by the absence of the Persian soldiers and the lament that the women in Susa and other towns will sing if the army does not return. You do stir up in me a longing for my brave comrades, speaking of unforgettable, unforgettable things, hateful beyond hatefulness.

    My heart cries out, cries out, within my body! The proper names of the Persian captains in the three cat- alogues punctuating the dramatic action are analyzed by Kranz ; see also the commentary by Groeneboom , and , and for the relationships of the names mentioned in these three catalogues with Iranian onomastics, see Belloni Sad , has shown the tragic reversal these catalogues provoke between parodos and exodos.


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    • Due And there are others too that we miss, Xanthes the commander of ten thousand Mardians and Anchares of the Arians, and Diaxis and Arsaces, lords of the cavalry, and Egdadates and Lythimnas and Tolmus, never surfeited with battle. I am amazed, amazed, that they are not following behind your wheeled tent. Alan H. In the first part of their melic exchange with the defeated king, the Persian choreutai combine their ritual and performative voice with a hermeneutic one: they accuse Xerxes of causing the death of so many young men and the defeat of the whole country, and they allude to the power of the daimon In the second part of the exchange, it looks as if the king will join in the lament of the chorus and take over the role of the koryphaios or, rather, of the melic choregos of this group of his counsellors.

      In the first strophes, the chorus repeats almost word for word the moans and the laments of the defeated king Repeating his invitations to sing in the following lines, Xerxes alludes to a Mysian song that the Greeks also used to associate with their threnos.

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      The choreutai answer the appeals of the Great King not only with the laments he asked for, but also with an affirmative and deictic td rxw this is precisely what I am about to do, , which underlines the performative value of the funerary song with its amoebean form. The chorus has already had occasion to show the efficiency of its songs twice over: in the hymnic invocation addressed to the divinities of the underworld, then in the ritual appeal to Darius, father of king Xerxes, while Atossa was offering libations : as for us, with songs we will ask for.

      The last choral statement of the tragedy is to be understood along the same lines: with the performative form pmyw it not only achieves the transformation of the laments of the chorus, led by the defeated king into a ritual threnos, but it makes of the whole tragedy a ritual funerary song, a dramatic dirge, on the mode of melic and performative self-referentiality. On the basis of that typically Greek melic and ritual self-referentiality, what then should we say about the social identity and the enunciative position of this very active choral group?

      It has often been noticed that, despite their barbarian costume and the exotic localization of their action, the protagonists and choreutai of Aeschylus Persians speak and sing in Greek, in a language which is particularly Athenian-sounding from both the formal and semantic points of view. Going over from the performative to the dramatic and mimetic choral self-referentiality, we have to enquire about the role of a chorus which is barbarian from the point of view of the space of the dramatized action, but Athenian under the aspect of its time.

      To confine ourselves to the long funerary song which is the exodos of the tragedy, I would point out the fact that morally Xerxes presents himself from the outset as the hero of an Attic tragedy: he is the victim of his destiny mora, ; cf. In consequence, the defeated Great King addresses Zeus to ask for death as an answer to the tragic question par excellence: t pqw tlmwn; What am I to do, wretched me?

      On the Greek nature of the terms and of the ideas expressed in the Persians, see Broadhead xxxxxxii; Hall , refers on the contrary to the specifically barbarian traits of the Persians staged by Aeschylus. The song itself in iambic and Aeolian rhythm mixed with a few dochmiacs is introduced by a prooimion sung in anapaests. In this first prelude the grief expressed in the different towns of Persia is first mentioned; the gestures of mourning of the Persian women are also described.

      O Zeus the King, now, now by destroying the army of the boastful and populous Persian nation you have covered the city of Susa and Agbatana with a dark cloud of mourning. And I too shoulder the burden of the death of the departed, truly a theme for mourning far and wide. With such words does the choral group introduce the lament song which directly follows.

      Interpreters of this tragedy have wanted to see behind this figure of the overall reigning god an interpretatio graeca of Ahuramazda. The formulaic address to the god by the guardians of Xerxes Ze basile, is just the same as that sung by the elders of Argos in the Agamemnon