Introduction: The chorus in the middle

Renaud Gagné, Marianne Govers Hopman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


There is something distinctive about choral mimesis in Greek tragedy. The tragic chorus is never just a group of old men or captive women, never just a ring of ships or dolphins or the circle of stars of its imagery, or masked citizens dancing in the theater – never just one chorus. It will rarely be entirely circumscribed by its fictional character, narrative, or performance at any one moment. In a genre defined by impersonation, it can push the referential limits of embodiment and enactment beyond any strict equivalence. Its boundaries, like its movement, are always shifting. If the central characters are simultaneously here and there, on stage and in the play, the chorus can simultaneously be here, there, and elsewhere, now and then, this and that, meld one into the other, and pass freely between these different levels through the semantics of word, sound, and movement. Its well-known ability to reference itself and its own dance in performance, or to ‘project’ itself on other, distant choruses, is part of a much wider pattern of mimetic transfer set in motion by the choral song. Without ever breaking the dramatic illusion, the chorus can radically shift the focus from one level of reference to another and create greater depth through a superimposition of semantic layers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationChoral Mediations in Greek Tragedy
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9781139519564
ISBN (Print)9781107033283
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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