Chorus and Chorality in Early Modern English Drama
The essay offers a discussion of the progressive divergence, in early modern English drama, of the dramatic function of the chorus from the plural and lyrical performance derived from ancient theatre. Through an analysis of the gradual reduction in number of the performers and the chorus’s conflation with prologic and other framing texts in a time span of about fifty years, the essay retraces the gradual steps of the chorus’s transformation into an increasingly meta-theatrical piece, depriving the play of an element of lyrical artificiality traditionally attached to it. By showing that this theatrical device does have a history of its own in the English theatre, the essay argues that the loss of its traditional features, which allowed drama to provide a collective and lyrical response to the action enacted on stage, is occasionally made up for by a new and challenging idea of polyphonic chorality dislocated to other dramatic portions. Romeo and Juliet, in particular, is examined as an early example of this new choral experience, balancing the meta-theatrical dimension of a lyrico-narrative solo-performance of the Chorus, strategically appended to the play as a narrative voice competitive with the representational potential of (lyrical) drama.
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