In Cat Ballou
, these guys are just walking around town singing a ballad about the next scene. Probably because it is a small town and there isn't much else to do.
Instead of always standing around, watching Lois and Clark, wondering what they're doing, what if we, uh... got lives of our own that were a little more interesting?
Perry White: Now son, you've just hit the bulls-eye. It's like we're supporting characters in some TV show that's only about them.
Yeah! It's like all we do is advance their plots!
A minor character or group of minor characters who offer commentary and/or opinions on the actions of the main characters, usually by Breaking the Fourth Wall
and addressing the audience directly. Often, they say what the audience thinks (or should think). While a lead character can do this himself, it doesn't make him a Greek Chorus; a proper Greek Chorus differs by being removed from the action and thus able to view it with something approaching objectivity. The role is frequently played by Those Two Guys
. It's one use for the First-Person Peripheral Narrator
Strictly speaking, an omniscient narrator
usually wouldn't qualify as a Greek Chorus. However, the lemony
type who repeatedly breaks the Fourth Wall and makes asides to the audience to the point that they're a "character" unto themselves might reach the point where they overlap with it. If the narration is revealed to be by an actual main member, retroactively telling the story to someone else, it may
count, but the important qualifier is that their opinions are objective and express what the audience would think (if they are retroactively self-deprecating of even their own actions, etc.).
Named for the choruses of ancient Greek
theatre, who did exactly this. Aristotle
discussed them in Poetics
and warned that they should be used as little as possible, because (in modern paraphrase), what they do is, by definition, commentary
, not story
— and so the story-teller should avoid being sidetracked by using more than it needed to help the story.
The Snark Knight
, if not the main character, often fits this role. See also Fourth Wall Observer
Compare this to Mystery Science Theater 3000
, where the comments come from outside
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Anime and Manga
- Ninja Ninja in Afro Samurai.
- The Durarara!! anime features segments with online chatrooms with unidentified people casually discussing various events and rumors related to the plot. This seems to function as a Greek Chorus, except for the fact that over time, the audience will realize that several main characters are the participants in these conversations, and some of the conversations are spoken in deliberately misleading voices to keep you guessing as to who's who.
- A debatable example is Neya from Infinite Ryvius: For most of the show she is mostly there to echo and accent the feelings of the cast.
- "Babbit" from Kodomo no Omocha is a Greek Chorus. Whether or not it is acknowledged by other characters depends on the situation (it seems to not really exist in serious situations, but may be noticed and perhaps smacked in sillier situations).
- The Japanese senior citizens (identified in the anime as the town council elders) in the town around the Hinata Apartments act as a Greek Chorus in Love Hina. However, their pronouncements can be heard by any character who is close by, and they even give Keitaro a hard time once by keeping his sketchbook away from him, Monkey In The Middle style.
- Mahou Sensei Negima!
- Chachazero acts in this capacity on occasion.
- Chamo also offers commentary on whatever is going on when he's not doing anything plot relevant.
- Later, Eva, Eishun, and Albireo take over this position, using Alberio's artifact to keep tabs on Negi and discuss his exploits.
- The aliens observing Becky on Pani Poni Dash!.
- An interesting case where the Greek Chorus is a rather important character in and of himself is Drosselmeyer, from Princess Tutu. It is, after all, a living storybook, and he is the author.
- In the anime Revolutionary Girl Utena, the Kashira Shadow Players (or Shadow Play Girls) act as a Greek Chorus. Their shadow plays usually parallel the events of the episode, with varying degrees of subtlety. Once, though, they actually invite some characters (Utena, Anthy, and Akio) to see one of their plays, a subtle-as-a-kick-to-the-head story about Anthy and Akio's past. Additionally, when the shadow play (each of which ends with a question) is performed near Utena, Utena answers the question that is posed at the end.
- The character Manzo the Saw when serving as narrator of Samurai Champloo. Often explains the history and culture behind the show's Anachronism Stew concepts.
- Fuu and Ryou from Sketchbook often fulfill this role, although their comments don't always seem to have any direct bearing on the show — which isn't helped by the fact that they're Cloudcuckoolanders..
- Alpha Q is a Greek Chorus of one after his death in Transformers Energon. He keeps assuring the audience at the beginning that something cool will happen. Something cool does indeed happen: the end of the series.
- In Umi Monogatari, the shrine maiden comments on the plot at times, and her song delivers clues to its resolution.
- Its very common for Shōnen anime to have side characters play this role during fights, especially if its a Tournament Arc, and usually to explain strategies and other important information in regards to the characters battling each other.
- The (usually civilian) supporting cast of a superhero title are usually this trope, sometimes extended to the superhero's hometown. For example, Lois Lane, Perry White, and Jimmy Olsen (and frequently the rest of Metropolis) for Superman, the Gotham police department for Batman, the staff of the Daily Bugle for Spider-Man, etc.
- The Little Archie story "The Long Walk" gives this role to three of Betty's toys: a naive panda teddy, a conceited sailor figure, and a wise witch doll.
- The Vertigo Comics book Greek Street, being a Setting Update of Greek mythology, features a Greek chorus of strippers.
Film - Animated
- The Muses in the Disney version of Hercules also take the "chorus" part as its more musical meaning. And the "greek" part as its more Greek meaning.
- The mariachi owls in Rango.
- The slugs in Flushed Away dabble with this. Most of the songs they perform are reminiscent of what's going on in the story at that moment, to the point that it starts to feel like narration. For example, they sing a parody of "Bella Notte" in a scene where Roddy and Rita are falling in love.
- Timon and Pumbaa in The Lion King 1 1/2.
- Allan-a-Dale (voiced by Roger Miller) in Disney's animated version of Robin Hood.
- In Tangled, Pascal. Without one word.
Film - Live Action
- C3P0 and R2-D2 in Star Wars.
- The comic relief pirates Ragetti and Pintel (the skinny one-eyed one and the short bald one) in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
- The Oompa-Loompas in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"
- The film Mighty Aphrodite, despite being set in the present, features an actual ancient Greek chorus that the main character has conversations with. This may be the only time you'll ever hear an ancient Greek chorus shouting, "Don't be a shmuck!"
- Not Another Teen Movie featured various random Genre Savvy characters who made snarky comments in regards to the trite teen movie cliches/conventions the main characters were expressing.
- Gonzo (playing Charles Dickens) and Rizzo the Rat in The Muppet Christmas Carol.
- The narrator of 300, who doesn't bother to hide his bias favoring the Spartans. Sensible, considering that he was one himself and telling of the tale to other Spartans.
- Shinoda's Double Suicide features the black-clad bunraku stagehands. They are silent with emphasis.
- The DJ from The Warriors.
- Stubby Kaye and Nat "King" Cole as the Balladeers in Cat Ballou.
- The band in There's Something About Mary.
- In Stardust, the princes who were slain linger behind as ghosts, unable to pass on to the afterlife until the next heir to the throne is found. Being unable to interact with the physical world, either, they can only observe and comment on whatever unfolds before them.
- Senor Love Daddy and the three people sitting across from the Korean grocer in Do the Right Thing.
- The two local farmers in State and Main.
- Four guards comment on Lord Washizu's fortunes in Throne of Blood.
- The dishwashers in the Danish hospital horror The Kingdom.
- The cowboy at the bar in the bowling alley in The Big Lebowski. Subverted in that the Cowboy thinks the story is a Western, when its actually a parody of Film Noir.
- The Criminologist ("THAT MAN HAS NO NECK!") in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
- The Grave-Robber of Repo! The Genetic Opera.
- Corey Feldman's character (you heard me) in The 'Burbs.
- The color commentators in a number of sports films qualify by default.
- The goldfish in the tank in Monty Pythons The Meaning Of Life.
- The Shadow Puppets in Sita Sings the Blues.
- If you tried to actually make sense of David Lynch's Inland Empire, you could see the hookers as such.
- Alternate Character Interpretation: Radio announcer Harry Doyle of the Major League film series can be viewed this way for the on-field action.
- The theater servants in the film of the musical The Phantom of the Opera. They say nothing, but their reactions are enough.
- Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon in Little Shop of Horrors.
- Back to the Future Part III: Word of God describes the three old-timers, played by western veterans Dub Taylor, Harry Carey Jr., and Pat Buttram, who hang out at the 1885 saloon as this.
- Who's Singing Over There?: The Gypsy musicians, quite literally: Several times throughout the movie, the two of them break into a sad song about the state of the world, commenting the events of the movie so far.
Live Action TV
- In Professional Wrestling the color commentators serve as the Greek Chorus, modeled after real Sports Casters, but also commenting on the drama and story-lines, and sometimes being made a part of them.
- Traditionally there is a Face commentator and a Heel commentator, if there are 3 rather 2 it's always 2 Faces. Sometimes one of the active wrestlers will join for one match, involving a rival he's in an angle with.
- Used quite literally in Sound Horizon's Moira, where the six goddesses of poetry are called upon to help tell the story.
- Spiritualized's "I Think I'm In Love" brings in a gospel choir to comment on J Spaceman's attempts at positive thinking.
I think I'm in love (Probably just hungry)
I think I'm your friend (Probably just lonely)
I think you got me in a spin now (Probably just turning)
I think I'm a fool for you babe (Probably just yearning)
I think I can rock and roll (Probably just twisting)
I think I wanna tell the world (Probably ain't listening)
I think I can fly (Probably just falling)
I think I'm the life and soul (Probably just snorting)
I think I can hit the mark (Probably just aiming)
I think my name is on your lips (Probably complaining)
- In the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, the choruses usually represent women or old men who do nothing except comment on what's happening. There are exceptions to this, especially The Suppliants by Aeschylus, in which the chorus represents the protagonists, and The Eumenides, also by Aeschylus, in which the chorus represents the antagonists.
- Many of the comedies of Aristophanes are named after the roles played by chorus: The Frogs, The Birds, The Wasps, etc.
- Aristole complained about the later ones in Poetics, though, pointing out that the chorus was becoming more and more detached from the plays, and so less and less commentary on them.
- Inherit the Wind has the reporter E. K. Hornbeck providing commentary... in verse. He is a Deadpan Snarker who ends up in conflict with both of the play's main characters - Henry Drummond accuses him of being a mean-spirited cynic and he is openly derisive towards Matthew Brady's religious views.
- Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette in Little Shop of Horrors are an interesting example, going back and forth between standing outside the action and commenting on it to the audience, and interacting with the other cast members using no special out-of-character knowledge. You can keep track by the costumes; when they're characters the girls wear worn-down clothing appropriate to residents of Skid Row, and when they're a Greek Chorus they've changed into sparkly dresses.
- Che in Evita, both the stage and film versions.
- The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Allegro relies heavily on its Greek Chorus to voice characters' thoughts, particularly during the protagonist's childhood when he is neither seen nor heard.
- In Mamma Mia!, this trope is taken literally: citizens of the Greek island where the main characters live often provide a chorus for the songs. They also make their own opinions on the action obvious on occasion.
- A host of dead-eyed townsfolk at dramatic junctures in the stage version of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
- A Little Night Music has Mr. Lindquist, Mrs. Nordstrom, Mrs. Anderssen, Mr. Erlanson and Mrs. Segstrom, a quintet of characters known as the "Liebeslieders" who play no part in the plot.
- The Bird Girls from Seussical The Musical play this role, actually narrating the story more than the Cat in the Hat, despite his self-assigned role as narrator.
- Trouble In Tahiti has a jazz vocal trio described in the Dramatis Personae as "a Greek Chorus born of the radio commercial." Their odes to Suburbia ironically contrast with the play's action.
- Legally Blonde, Elle's sorority sisters, the Delta Nu girls. "Margot, Serena, Pilar? What are you doing here?" "This (indicating Elle's ex with a new girlfriend) is a tragedy. And every tragedy needs a Greek chorus!"
- The Dreamers in The Secret Garden, a chorus of ghosts who haunt the house.
- The Love Of The Nightingale has two, a male and female. The male chorus are the ones recounting the plot. The female chorus is Procne's tribal women companions who warn her of danger.
- Britten's The Rape Of Lucretia has a Male and a Female chorus - a tenor and a soprano. Kinda one-person choruses...
- Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has a "Geek Chorus" of comic book nerds in Version 1.0, and in the original version the play was an in-universe fanfiction they were coming up with. They were dropped for the rewritten version that actually opened on Broadway.
- Those Two Guys Salarino (or Salerio) and Solanio in The Merchant of Venice extract plot details from other characters and discuss plot-relevant offstage happenings (Bassanio's departure, Shylock's attempts to take legal action, etc).
- Rusty, Urleen and Wendy Jo in Footloose. Rusty is less detached, being a character from the original movie (and part of the Beta Couple), but Urleen and Wendy Jo were written into the musical version to provide both this trope and 80's-style backup singing. (Wendy Jo also appeared in the movie.)
- Woody Allen's play God mocks this trope.
- The Players in Pippin, who introduce the play to the audience and guide Pippin through the spectacular finale (too bad for them it doesn't go as they planned). The majority of them are Monster Clowns trying to manipulate Pippin into suicide - the Leading Player in particular is the true villain of the play.
- The studio audience fill this role in Jerry Springer: The Opera
- In Eurydice, a Perspective Flip of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice by Sarah Rhul, a group of stones fill this trope. They offer commentary on the story and advise the characters throughout the play, encouraging them to become unfeeling and cold like the stones themselves are.
- Most of the characters in How I Learned To Drive, with the exception of the protagonist Li'l Bit and her abusive uncle, are represented by a chorus that takes on their roles in turn.
- A Greek chorus is used in Mac Wellman's play Bad Penny, commenting on the action entirely in cryptic language and stock phrases. They are suggested to be otherworldly in some way.
- In Henry V, a character simply known as the Chorus comes onstage, generally at the beginning of each act, and describes the current situation of the play. The Chorus also closes the play by explaining that Henry VI would lose everything that Henry V had gained.
- A chorus consisting of the women of Canterbury provide the commentary during Murder in the Cathedral, foreshadowing Thomas Becket's conflict with King Henry II and his murder.
- Lazarus and Eliza in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Eliza is a mainstream newscaster, whereas Lazarus is a radio talk show host who deals with conspiracy theories. Usually more often than not, their broadcasts will deal with the current situation at hand with the player.
- Super Smash Bros.
- The Star Fox (and Wolf) pilots in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Snake's allies from the Metal Gear series arguably count, but differ slightly, in that Snake himself is contributing to the discussion while he fights.
- For the Wii U version, Snake's codec calls are replaced with Palutena's guidance, where characters from Kid Icarus: Uprising (and some other games) converse about other fighters. Given the nature of the Kid Icarus setting, this would make it an almost literal Greek Chorus.
- In the DS version of Disgaea, once you win (or get a Non Standard Game Over), an option appears to turn on a prinny commentator, who often makes snarky comments on the game's goings-on.
- In Mass Effect 3, there are Privates Westmoreland and Campbell, the two female Normandy crewmembers guarding the War-Room, who often comment about the events in the story as they occur.
- By the 7th Arc of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, there are two pairs of these: Featherine and Ange in Dawn, and Furfur and Zepar in Requiem.
- Ultra-annoying side characters Peeper and Greasy, at the Super Hero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe. They even run a semi-legal campus radio station to broadcast their usually-offensive thoughts, and they provide the running commentary for the battles during the end-of-term Combat Finals. Unfortunately, they're utterly focused on the breasts of the hotter girls on campus, with the protagonists being some of their favorite targets.
- In The Order of the Stick, the Demon Cockroaches follow Xykon and Redcloak around providing comic relief.
- They actually do get directly involved with the main action in later strips, where one of them tries to talk the Monster in the Dark out of a Heel-Face Turn, warn the others about O-Chul's escape, and then gets skewered by the paladin's improvised spear.
- Even before that Miko used one to light a fire (they can do that) to make an escape.
- Belkar also lit a fire with one, to cook stew.
- Irregular Webcomic! has a literal Greek Chorushint , and a link to this page.
- Neko the Kitty often uses a character situated outside the panels to deliver an extra gag. In later strips, this has been Neko commenting on the action whether he appears in the strip or not.
- Roll and Protoman in their coffee breaks for Bob and George. Once Roll complained about being a plot device after realizing they had just explained the significance of the last comics.
- Tino in The Weekenders. Although, since he's one of the main characters, he's not quite removed from the action.
- Kang and Kodos from some of the later Treehouse of House of Horror episodes of The Simpsons where they appear in a final scene and give a quick remark on the preceeding story.
- Disney's Hercules has a literal Greek chorus, of course.
- Rango features the mariachi owls, though that might make them a Tex-Mex chorus.
- When the townspeople in Twelve Ounce Mouse start malfunctioning, they sing questions about the characters.
- The mouse and snake from Fish Hooks.
- In an episode of Phineas and Ferb, the band "Love Handel" follows a delivery driver around, singing songs about everything he's doing, and near the end of the episode, they reference their transformation from "a pop metal band into a rousing Greek Chorus".
- Dmitri and Sviatoslav, the clock bats in Count Duckula would often comment on the proceedings and make terrible jokes on the theme.
- The Badly-Drawn Brothers in Avenger Penguins would give their pondering reflections on the story.
- The whole purpose of the character Kiwi in Chowder.
- Lizzie McGuire's animated conscience.
- It was a Running Gag on the Marvel / Sunbow animated series of The Eighties like The Transformers, G.I. Joe, The Inhumanoids, and Jem that most news broadcasts about the story's events were done by a Geraldo Rivera Expy named Hector Ramirez.
- This was essentially Bill Cosby's role in the live action segments of Fat Albert.
- A live-action Patrick Stewart serves as this in the American Dad! episode "Blood Crieth Unto Heaven". Cee Lo Green does this too in "Hot Water".
- Parodied in "Spelling Bee My Baby", where after the plot's Star-Crossed Lovers dilemma starts, Principal Lewis appears in medieval garb and recites the opening lines to Romeo and Juliet before shouting "Shakespeare, bitches!"
- Sportscasters sometimes adopt this approach, alternately involving themselves with the event through sideline interviews, or standing aside to comment on the action and build up viewers' excitement.
And thus ended the trope page.