The Burial At Thebes Analysis

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What is the role of the Chorus and what does it contribute to The Burial at Thebes?
Seamus Heaney’s 2004 play The Burial at Thebes is a modern translation of Sophocles’ Antigone. Unlike many modern adaptations and translations, Heaney retains the original format of the classic Greek theatrical tragedy. His use of the traditional Sophoclean Chorus brings the audience into the action of the play as their main function in Heaney’s work is to serve as both the “ideal spectator” and as the narrator of the play. They offer a moral viewpoint for the audience to follow as they, as a chorus of elderly Theban men, represent the polis of Thebes and by extension the audience itself (Parker, S. P., 1983). The Chorus was a feature of Ancient Greek tragic
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Initially the chorus is passive and at times is almost submissive to Creon, this functions as a reminder to the audience just how powerful Creon even as “a new king” (Heaney, 2004, pg. 9) is. The chorus is at times “gratuitously harsh” (British Museum, 1970) to Antigone, dismissing her efforts, going so far as to attribute her “wildness” to her father Oedipus (Heaney, 2004, pg. 21). Thus completely disregarding the reason for Antigone’s defiance. However, the passivity of the chorus also strengthens the position of Antigone as a sympathetic character in the audience’s eyes – she is given dignity in her defiance of Creon, despite being a woman in a position of vulnerability. In their fourth ode (Heaney, 2004, pg. 42) the chorus details the entombment of mythical Princess Danae and the ominous tone of this ode suggests that the opinion of the chorus has changed and that they are actually beginning to pity Antigone. The men are humbled by the actions of the Olympian Gods. Acting again as the ideal spectator the choral ode serves to consolidate the sympathies of the audience for Antigone as the protagonist of the …show more content…
Imagining Iraq: Literature in English and the Iraq Invasion. Pp. 132 -134, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.
• Hardwick, L. (2008) Cultural Encounters, ‘Seamus Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes’, AA100 Book 3, Chapter 6. Milton Keynes, The Open University.
• Heaney, S., (2004) The Burial at Thebes, London, Faber and Faber Ltd.
• Parker, S. P., (1983) McGraw-Hill Encyclopaedia of World Drama, [Online], 2nd edn, USA, McGraw-Hill Inc. Available at, (Accessed 20th July 2016)
• Prendergast, M. (2004) ‘The “Ideal Spectator”: Dramatic Chorus, Collective Creation, and Curriculum’, The Alberta Journal of Educational Research, vol.50, no.2, pp. 141 – 150 [Online] Available at, (Accessed 20th July

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