The Athenian politics of tragic choral identity*
This chapter highlights the paradoxical status of the tragic chorus: as a group of musical performers, the chorus is a manifestation of social and political order, but as a group of characters within the tragic plot, chorus members are participants in a scenario of disorder in which singing and dancing are unthinkable. This conflict between the chorus' actual and fictional roles is intrinsic to tragedy's distinctive vision. In some plays, the chorus' permanent exile from festivity serves to convey conditions of irremediable social breakdown. In other plays, those conditions are overcome through a plot that moves towards the return of the chorus to its underlying celebratory function, and Athenian institutions and political ideals, such as the lawcourt, the proper balance of power between leaders and ordinary citizens, and the dramatic festival itself, are shown to be instrumental in making such resolutions possible.
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