The Three Theban Plays, written by the Greek philosopher Sophocles, are Antigone, Oedipus the King, and Oedipus at Colonus. The Theban Plays were not written in chronological order. Antigone was believed to have been written around 441 BC, while Oedipus The King was believed to have been written around 430 BC, and Oedipus at Colonus was assumed to have been produced around 401 BC. This was after Sophocles had already died. The chronology of the plays shows how Sophocles grew as a dramatist. Talking of the plays, ???They represent successive stages in Sophocles??™ development as a dramatist and tragic poet.???(Knox 30) Antigone was written prior to the war, Oedipus the King was written during it, but after the plague of Athens, and Oedipus at Colonus was written at the tail end of the war. This is ironic because Oedipus The King is a play of what happened prior to Antigone. So, in essence, Oedipus The King is a prequel to Antigone. The plays were written as odes to Dionysus, god of wine. The plays were also written to draw attention to the problems in the polis, the greek city-state. The three plays are separate, as in they do not rely on one another. However, the characters are the same and it is one story line. The chorus is a group of male citizens of Thebes, who support the king of Thebes and help communicate the themes of the play to the audience. Through their odes, they reveal much to the audience about the play.
In Oedipus The King, the 1st ode of the Chorus is one of desperation, for they are suffering. The Chorus has not heard what news Creon has brought from Delphi. However, they show an apprehension of this oracle of Delphi when they ask ???What word from the gold vaults of Delphi comes to brilliant Thebes??? (170-71) They open with a prayer to Athena, Artemis, and Apollo. In these prayers, they are begging for salvation, for instance they pray to Apollo, ???I cry in your wild cries, Apollo, Healer of Delos/ I worship you in dread…what now, what is you price??? (173-74) Furthermore, while begging for help from these gods, the Chorus expresses the horror of the plague. They cry, ???the miseries numberless, grief on grief, no end-/too much to bear, we are all dying.???(191-92) They call for help from any god, just not Ares. They say to the gods, ???Drive him back!-the fever, the god of death/that raging god of war.??? (218-19) Then they invoke Zeus at the conclusion. They beg him, ???You who twirl the lightning, Zeus, father, thunder Death to nothing!??? (229-30) The chorus prays to Apollo and Artemis once more, and then ends the prayer by praying to Dionysus, whose mother was Theban. They show their bond with him when they say, ???your name and ours are one, Dionysus-???. By praying to him last, the Chorus shows that he is above all other gods, including Zeus. The chorus gives a bit of background information when they allude to the plague and the oracle of Delphi. Much of the ode is them begging for help by explaining the circumstances and commenting on it, such as ???generations strewn on the ground/ unburied, unwept, the dead spreading death.???(207-08) The ancient greek audience would have worshipped and begged the gods in times like these, and so the Chorus did too. However, the Chorus did not point out that Oedipus could have been the reason of this plague, and thus they manipulate the audience.
The 5th ode of the Chorus to Dionysus in Antigone is a song of exultation. It is not only a song, but it is written as a prayer. They invoke Dionysus singing, ???God of a hundred names!/ Great Dionysus-???(1238-39). The Chorus then alludes to Dionysus??™ place of origin, which is Thebes. Then they refer to his various places of worship, ???we have seen you at Castalia??™s runnin spring/and down from the heights of Nysa.???(1253-54) They make this specific allusion to manipulate Dionysus to come to the worshipper (them). The chorus then follows up by calling him by his many different names and praising him for all he is. They are celebrating the fact that Creon has seen what he has done wrong. They want him to come dancing and to come and help them, ???dance,dance the constellations breathing fire!//Child of Zeus, God??™s offspring, come, come forth!??? (1266, 1268) This merry reaction to Creon??™s enlightenment of his own shortcomings, are similar to the way the audience would have reacted. Most would probably assume that now that he has realized what he has done wrong, he will change it, and it is time for celebration, and that is exactly how the chorus reacts. However, these calls for celebrations are soon demolished by the sad news that the messenger bears. Nevertheless, the play is meant to praise Dionysus, and that is exactly what this ode does. The chorus interprets the meaning of the play through these hymns.
Even though the two prayers are in completely different tone, one in desperation, and one rejoicing, they both reveal the purpose of the Chorus. They just want to avoid upheaval, and they prove that in both odes by looking to the gods for help. In Oedipus The King, the chorus addresses several Gods, and in Antigone they address merely Dionysus. However, in both plays they show that Dionysus is superior. In both odes, they manipulate the audience by making them think differently of what is about to happen. In Oedipus the King, they never mention that it could have been Oedipus??™ fault. In Antigone, they are rejoicing to fool the audience that everything will turn out great. Without these odes, the meanings of the plays wouldn??™t be to honor Dionysus. The chorus remains calm and collected no matter what insanity is occurring.
Sophocles, Robert Fagles, and Bernard Knox. The Three Theban Plays. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1984. Print.
Knox, Bernard. Greece and the Theater. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1984. Print.