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On Not Managing Mourning: The Reticent Chorus in Sophocles’ Antigone

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-226
JournalNEARCO revista de antiguidade
Issue number2
Accepted/In press22 Nov 2018
PublishedDec 2018


King's Authors


This paper discusses the reticence of the chorus in the Antigone’s two scenes of lyric dialogue which are cast as ritual laments (thrēnoi): the heroine’s interaction with the chorus in the fourth episode, before she marches off to her death, and the final kommos of Creon, when he laments the deaths of his son and wife. My discussion illustrates the manner in which Sophocles “manages” the choral response within the larger framework of ritual lament, by either gradually or straightforwardly silencing the expected lamentation of the chorus. In doing so, I contend that the dramatist produces moments of broken antiphony, in which the chorus either partially participates in or simply does not contribute to the lament of a character on stage. My exploration reveals the manner in which collective mourning rituals are able to break down on the Sophoclean stage, in particular focusing on the impact of the chorus’ refusal to respond and engage in the communal act of lament, which ultimately works to isolate further the play’s protagonists.

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