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1. Greek

χορός). The word χορός in Greek meant a number of persons who performed songs and dances at religious festivals. When the drama at Athens was developed from the dithyrambic choruses, the chorus was retained as the chief element in the Dionysiac festival. With the old dramatists the choral songs and dances much preponderated over the action proper. As the form of the drama developed, the sphere of the chorus was gradually limited, so that it took the comparatively subordinate position which it occupies in the extant tragedies and comedies. The function of the chorus represented by its leader was to act as an ideal public, more or less connected with the dramatis personae. It might consist of old men and women or of maidens. It took an interest in the occurrences of the drama, watched the action with quiet sympathy, and sometimes interfered—if not to act, at least to advise, comfort, exhort, or give warning. At the critical points of the action, it performed long lyrical pieces with suitable action of dance and gesture. In the better times of the drama these songs stood in close connection with the action; but even in Euripides this connection is sometimes loose, and with the later tragedians, after the time of Agathon, the choral performance sank to a mere intermezzo. The style of the chorus was distinguished from that of the dialogue partly by its complex lyrical form, partly by its language, in which it adopted a mixture of Attic and Doric forms. The proper place of the chorus was on the orchestra, on different parts of which, after a solemn march, it remained until the end of the piece, drawn up, while standing, in a square. During the action it seldom left the orchestra to reappear, and it was quite exceptional for it to appear on the stage. As the performance went on, the chorus would change its place on the orchestra; as the piece required, it would divide into semi-choruses and perform a variety of artistic movements and dances. The name ἐμμέλεια was given to the tragic dance, which, though not lacking in animation, had a solemn and measured character. The comedy had its burlesque and often indecent performance called κόρδαξ; the satyric drama its Σίκιννις, representing the wanton movements of satyrs. The songs of the choruses, too, had their special names. The first ode performed by the entire body was called πάροδος; the pieces intervening between the parts of the play, στάσιμα; the songs of mourning, in which the chorus took part with the actors, κομμοί. The number of the members (χορευταί) was, in tragedies, originally twelve, and after Sophocles fifteen. This was probably the number allowed in the satyric drama; the chorus in the Old Comedy numbered twenty-four.

The business of getting the members of the chorus together, paying them, maintaining them during the time of practice, and generally equipping them for performance, was regarded as a λειτουργία, or public service, and devolved on a wealthy private citizen called a χορηγός, to whom it was a matter of considerable trouble and expense. We know from individual instances that the cost of a tragic chorus might run up to thirty minae (about $540), of a comic chorus to sixteen minae (about $265). If victorious, the choregus received a crown and a finely wrought tripod. This he either dedicated, with an inscription, to some deity as a memorial of his triumph, or set up on a marble structure built for the purpose in the form of a temple, in a street named the Street of Tripods, from the number of these monuments which were erected there. One of these memorials, put up by a certain Lysicrates in B.C. 335, still remains. (See Choregus.) After the Peloponnesian War, the prosperity of Athens declined so much that it was often difficult to find a sufficient number of choregi to supply the festivals. The State, therefore, had to take the business upon itself. But many choruses came to an end altogether. This was the case with the comic chorus in the later years of Aristophanes; and the poets of the Middle and New Comedy accordingly dropped the chorus. This explains the fact that there is no proper chorus in the Roman comedy, which is an imitation of the New Comedy of the Greeks. In their tragedies, however, imitated from Greek originals, the Romans retained the chorus, which, as the Roman theatre had no orchestra, was placed on the stage, and as a rule performed between the acts, but sometimes during the performance as well. See Drama; Theatrum.

2. Roman

The Roman chorus, in fact, belonged especially to the crepidatae—i. e. the tragedies modelled on and derived from the Greek ones; but it also appears in the national tragedy of the Romans, the praetextatae. Even though Diomedes declares that the Roman comedy had no chorus, yet this is only true generally, for there is an undoubted chorus of fishermen in the Rudens of Plautus. It was probably the whole company of actors (caterva, grex), not a chorus, which said the “Plaudite” with which comedies end. There appear to have been choruses in the pantomimus and in the pyrrhica of the Empire. There was no fixed number of choreutae. As that part of the theatre which was the Greek orchestra was given up to the spectators at Rome, the chorus had to occupy the stage (Vitruv. v. 6, 2). The Roman chorus took more part in the action of the drama than did the Greek chorus (Ars Poet. 193). It was led by a magister chori, who had his place in the middle of the chorus, and so was called mesochorus (Epist. ii. 14, 6). The musical accompaniment was played by a choraules on a double flute. Between the acts the chorus (probably in tragedy) and the tibicen (in comedy) used to sing or play (Donatus, Arg. ad Andriam); and Horace (Ars Poet. 194) especially urges that the subject of the songs should be pertinent to the action of the drama. The chorus was composed of men who were professionals (artifices), and who were for the most part slaves. As the chorus of the Romans sometimes represented women, they must have worn masks. They were probably dressed after the manner of the Greeks, and the dresses appear to have been very splendid, as was the whole production of plays at the end of the Republic and during imperial times —e. g. purple chlamydes were wanted for a chorus of soldiers, as is told in a well-known story of Lucullus (Epist. i. 6, 40).

The literature on the subject of the chorus is very extensive. The most important works are: ArnoldB. , art. “Chor” in Baumeister's Denkmäler des klassischen Alterthums, pp. 383-391; Sommerbrodt, Scaenica; Muff, Die chorische Technik des Sophokles; R. Arnoldt, Die chorische Technik des Euripides; F. Castets in Daremberg and Saglio, art. “Chorus”; A. Müller, Die griechischen Bühnenalterthümer. In the two last works full reference is made to the numerous works on the subject. See also O. Ribbeck, Die römische Tragödie im Zeitalter der Republik, 607, 631 foll.; and the articles Comoedia; Dithyrambus; Drama; Theatrum; Tragoedia.

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