The UVic Writer's Guide


In Greek drama the chorus is a group of actors who comment on the action in choral odes separating the play's episodes. The chorus usually expresses traditional attitudes, or the probable views of the audience.

In Elizabethan drama (as in Shakespeare's Henry V [1598-99]), "chorus" refers to a single character who appears as needed for narrative purposes, for instance speaking the prologue and epilogue. In modern criticism, a choral character is someone within the play's action but largely aloof from it, who either views the action in a unique way (often with irony) or represents a particular type of perspective.

In Shakespeare's Hamlet (1600) and Antony and Cleopatra (1606-07) respectively, Horatio and Enobarbus can be seen as choric figures; Horatio offers Hamlet a steady moral perspective, while Enobarbus is appreciative and ironical but also represents the perspective of the proud and staunch Roman soldier.

"Chorus" can also be used as a synonym for refrain, meaning the repeated lines or stanzas in a song.

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 23, 1995