A Reader Responds to The Greek Chorus

From the first piece entitled The Greek Chorus:

"The Greek Chorus of which I speak has one unfailing characteristic, it 
always tells it like it is - no sugarcoat, no denial, no romance. It has 
absolute integrity, it only tells the truth...."

Phil Cubeta,* a Karoff Corner reader, responded with the following:

You seem to be describing Judeo-Christian conscience, not a Greek Chorus. 
Here is the how the Chorus is usually described. 

"An audience of spectators, such as we know it, was unknown to the Greeks. Given 
the terraced structure of the Greek theater, rising in concentric arcs, each 
spectator could quite literally survey the entire cultural world about him and 
imagine himself, in the fullness of seeing, as a chorist." 

--- Frederick Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

The chorus, I think, is supposed to be a stand in onstage for the average concerned 
citizen. Much as on a TV show, you might have an audience onstage listening to a 
politician, and interacting with him and the moderator. The onstage audience pulls the real audience into the action, eliding the difference, as Nietzsche says, between 
actor and audience. 

The chorus is fallible, fearful, timid. They have qualms. They speak often in cliches. They are of average intelligence. Their wisdom is the wisdom of the tribe. They want hard choices to go away. They do wail and wring their hands. And unlike the actors, they don't do much (except dance and sing), so they are always in a position to second guess. It seems to me that your "choral voices" function in the received manner. They are "full of high sentence but a bit obtuse," as T.S. Elliot put it in Prufrock. 

What your piece seems to be saying is that despite the chorus, with its yapping doubts and inner conflicts, the real hero moves ahead, and accepts his tragic lumps. Given a tragic choice, that is to say, standing at a cross roads where both roads lead into the shadows, the chorus wails, the hero acts, takes responsibility for the inevitable transgressions, and suffers. The hero breaks the deadlock of doubt and second thoughts, of the naysayers, and those who will say, "I told you so." 

Hegel said of tragedy that it comes from not a conflict of good and evil, but from a 
"splitting of the ethical substance," from choices where duty to the state conflicts 
with duty to family, or fidelity to the gods with fidelity to country, or the dilemma 
of a noble man who has done a horrible thing unwittingly. The Chorus doesn't like 
that. It wrings its hands because it wants all choices to be good choices. (Good 
people versus Evil Doers, heroes and villains, liars and truth tellers, good guys and bad guys.) The hero is tossed on the horns of a dilemma; his situation is always, "no win," he can win only by taking the contradiction into himself and allowing himself to suffer it, as Christ did on the cross, or Oedipus. 

Some people say that the Chorus is not so dumb, that it can model for the audience an idealized response, but the nature of tragedy is sublime, it dwarfs and shatters 
whatever understanding the Chorus can summon, particularly as the scenes unfold. After the fact, the Chorus may come on stage to haul off the bodies and sum up, but that is of no use to the hero, who must act and suffer.

*Phil Cubeta works for New York Life and is also a student of comparative literature.