Steve: With Frank James still in it?
Silas: Yes sir.
Dwight: But... Frank James is still alive, living in Missouri. Showing folks around the family farm for 25 cents a tour!
Silas: I didn't say he died in the fall, now did I?
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.
Compare this to MST, when the comments come from outside the story.
- DEVILMAN crybaby has one of these in the form of a gang of delinquents who frequently rap about what's currently happening with the plot.
- It's very common for Shōnen works to have side characters play this role during fights as the Combat Commentator, especially if it's a Tournament Arc, and usually to explain strategies and other important information in regards to the characters battling each other for the readers or viewers benefit..
- 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.
- In Pokémon, Ash's friends will frequently take the role of a Greek Chorus during battle scenes between Ash and another trainers, commenting on the 'surprising' nature of certain moves or counter-attacks.
- 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.
- 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.
- EDENS ZERO has Xiaomei, the self-proclaimed narrator of the story. She shows up periodically to directly address the reader and offer some vague hints about events or revelations to come.
- In Pretty Deadly, the narrative is told and commented on by a butterfly and a skeleton rabbit (known as Bones Bunny) who live in Death's garden.
- Brett and his mother in The Legend of Total Drama Island. At the end of each "episode", they discuss it, usually briefly, sometime less so.
- The students at Skyhold Academy are "a Greek chorus of squee," according to the authors. It applies to all of them to an extent, but most especially to the ones who call themselves the 'Partners in Crime,' as they have side stories of their own which showcase them observing and commenting on the antics of their teachers (who are the actual focus of the series).
- 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.
- Allan-a-Dale (voiced by Roger Miller) in Disney's animated version of Robin Hood. He introduces himself to the audience at the end of the openiing titles, and explains that what we are about to see is the animal kingdom's version of the Robin Hood story. From then on, he largely acts as narrator: only entering the actual action during the fair and the prison break.
- The merchant who introduces Aladdin was intended to be something like this, reprising more verses of "Arabian Nights" at different points of the movie. The movie was also supposed to end with the merchant finishing his story and revealing himself to be the Genie (which would explain why he and the Genie both have Four-Fingered Hands and Robin Williams's voice). The songs and the concluding reveal all got excised from the final cut, but as a nice little touch, the ending of Aladdin and the King of Thieves brings the merchant back to wish the characters good luck and to sing some more verses of "Arabian Nights."
- The Interactive Narrator Clopin plays this role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. he shows an almost supernatural ability to know what is going on anywhere in Paris, at any time.
- The comic relief pirates Ragetti and Pintel (the skinny one-eyed one and the short bald one) in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
Pintel: [watching Norrington, Will and Jack fight whilst Elizabeth is screaming and throwing rocks] How'd this go all screwy?Ragetti: Well, each wants the chest for hisself, don't 'e? Mr. Norrington, I think, is trying to regain a bit of honor. Old Jack's looking to trade it, save his own skin. And Turner there, I think 'e's trying to settle some unresolved business twixt him and his twice-cursed pirate father.Pintel: Sad.
- The Oompa-Loompas in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory who sing meaningful songs about the Fatal Flaws of each of the children as they meet their fate within the 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, who frequently segue off into discussions about literary and film conventions, and how they apply to the scene s we've just witnessed.
- 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.
- The DJ from The Warriors, who provides updates on the Warrior's progress across the city, and on the other gangs' attempts to take them out.
- Stubby Kaye and Nat "King" Cole as the Balladeers in Cat Ballou. They stroll through the action, playing banjos and singing about what has just occurred, and what is about to happen.
- 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.
- The two local farmers watching the movie crew and their shenanigans in State and Main.
- The cowboy at the bar in the bowling alley in The Big Lebowski who occasionally bowls with the Dude and seems to know everything about him. 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, who narrates the tale of the newly engaged couple, Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, who find themselves lost and with a flat tire on a cold and rainy late November evening, somewhere near Denton in 1974.
- Corey Feldman's character (you heard me) in Film The Burbs. He's the local delinquent, who observes and comments on his neighbors investigating the newcomer to the block (who they think is a killer) and ends up inviting over his friends to take part.
- 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. They comment on how Marty and his actions are being perceived by the average townsman (although unlike many examples, they let Marty hear them).
- 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.
- While the singing fishermen from Blow The Man Down, never actually describe the plot, their singing is a good indicator of the mood for a given section of the movie, and they seem to be hovering in the background during key events without the other characters acknowledging their presence.
- The Oompa-Loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which fits in quite nicely because they are a chorus. They sing meaningful songs about the Fatal Flaws of each of the children as they meet their fate within the factory.
- Illium by Dan Simmons plays with this in its intro. The story begins with the narrator laying out the basics of the story in dramatic fashion, much in the same style as an actual Greek Chorus ("Sing, O Muse..."). Then it's revealed that the narrator is, in fact, the main character speaking in the first person and that he has, in fact, been resurrected from the dead specifically to tell you the story. He actually lampshades the trope:
If I am to be the unwilling Chorus of this tale, then I can start the story anywhere I choose. I choose to start it here. [And the plot begins]
- In The Penelopiad, the maids who are executed by Odysseus serve this role. They critique Odysseus and Penelope's actions in prose and verse, and are especially bitter towards Penelope for allowing them to be killed (when many of them were actually serving as double agents on her orders). At the end, they are transformed into owls.
- In Bored of the Rings, Lavalier (parodying a similar scene with Galadriel in Lorien) recites an ancient Elvish lament, which is followed in the text by a translation. The lament, which starts out in gibberish Elvish modeled closely on Tolkien's original ("Dago, Dago, Lassi Lima rintintin / Yanqui unicycle ramar rotoroot...") ends with the repeated line "Honi soit la vache qui rit, / Honi soit la vache qui rit", which the subsequent text translates as "We are the chorus, and we agree. We agree, we agree, we agree."
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Andrew filled this role in "Storyteller". However, like most tropes in the show's later days, it was pretty ruthlessly deconstructed: Andrew realized he was putting a rhetorical spin on death and suffering for the sake of his own vanity (he's talking to a camcorder throughout the episode).
- A Bound and Gagged Lorne found himself in this position on Angel's "Spin the Bottle". The events are being retold to an actual audience, so we know he gets free at some point, but the slowness of his rescue is commented on frequently. At the end of the episode we see that the whole time the bar was totally empty. Mind Screw, anyone?
Lorne: [still tied up] I know I'm supposed to be unconscious right now, but can you believe these mooks?
- Jimmy Olsen and Perry White fill this role in Lois And Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, spending undue amounts of time commenting on the titular power couple. They even lampshaded this in one episode, when Jimmy complains about never having their own plotlines — only for the scene to instantly switch back to Lois and Clark.
- Doctor Who
- In the First Doctor story The Gunfighters we have Lynda Byron performing "The Ballad/Of the Last Chance Saloon". Somewhere along the way, she segues from Greek Chorus to All-Knowing Singing Narrator, as the song starts referring to things that haven't happened yet.
- In the later serial "Vengeance on Varos", this role falls to married couple Arak and Etta, who are watching the events of the episode on television.
- Early in the fourth season of Hannah Montana, Rico had one in the form of a gospel choir that followed him around and sang about his words and actions.
- Future!Ted in How I Met Your Mother often qualifies, providing a great deal of snarky, hindsight-enhanced commentary on his and his friends' actions. He often freezes the entire universe so that he can basically say "lol no" whenever a character makes an inaccurate prediction or does something that is going to eventually bite them in the ass.
- Augustus Hill In Oz. A prisoner who uses a wheelchair who also serves as the show's surrealistic narrator, breaking the fourth wall by talking to the audience about the themes of each episode (often serving as a vehicle for beliefs of the show's creator). He also introduces every prisoner, and informs us of their crime and sentence. This continues even after he's killed.
- Dear White People: Rashid, an African exchange student, often comments on the peculiarities of American culture and most poignantly its dual obsession with and terror of addressing race.
- In Trust the mini-series about the real life kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III, has Fletcher Chase. Throughout the show he gives different monologues directed towards the audience, typically about how crazy rich people are.
- 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)
- Hector Berlioz's "dramatic symphony" adaptation of Romeo and Juliet begins with a vaguely neoclassical chorus (with contralto soloist) that narrates and comments on the scenes from Shakespeare's play which are musically depicted in subsequent movements (most of which are instrumental). However, this chorus exits before any of the action happens.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Noah Smith's stage version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, two characters designated in the script as the Butler and the Maid provide scene-setting narration and portray all the minor characters. They also act as a Greek chorus to Jekyll in the first act, expressing his hopes and hesitations at the decisive moments, and to Utterson in the second, giving voice to his struggle to comprehend the events he's become enmeshed in.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- In Eurydice, a Perspective Flip of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl, 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.
- 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.
- The stage version of A Christmas Carol will sometimes include Charles Dickens as a character, narrating the events, setting up scenes, and sometimes interacting with the other characters.
- As Mourning Becomes Electra by Eugene O'Neill is a retelling of The Oresteia by Aeschylus set in a 1930s American town, the various townsfolk fill the role of a Greek chorus, commenting on the events of the play and the main characters' behavior.
- In Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe, the play is opened, commented on, and closed by a character designated as the "Chorus".
- The Firebugs, a play by Max Frisch, includes a chorus of bungling firemen who speak in verse and comment on the main story.
- In Hamilton, weirdly enough it's a villain (albeit one who never directly interacts with the main characters) who plays this role: after You'll Be Back, where King George sings about the revolutionary war from his perspective, his next two songs pretty much stick to commenting on the state of America depicted in the musical at the time, from his own quite unique perspective:
Oceans rise, empires fall
Next to Washington they all look small!
All alone, watch them run
They will tear each other into pieces, Jesus Christ this will be fun!
[..] President John Adams... good luck!
- 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. More often than not, their broadcasts will deal with the current situation at hand with the player.
- Super Smash Bros.: In 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.
- The singing Trow in The Bard's Tale pop up regularly, deliver An Aesop song about a character who's just died in a particularly nasty way, and then disappear just as quickly. Granted, this is a game where the fourth wall's already been sledgehammered to rubble, and the Lemony Narrator also fits the role.
- 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.
- World War II: Every episode begins with host Indy Neidell in a Newhart Phonecall with an unknown entity (jokingly said to be the ghost of Conrad von Hötzendorf in a livestream) usually for the purposes of foreshadowing the events of the episode. They are aware of things that have yet to unfold in the regular episodes such as in Episode 035 - "Norway is Burning", covering April 1940, the introductory phone call has Indy being foretold about upcoming events in the life of British Major-General Carton de Wiart.
Indy: Man, the future sounds adventurous.
- 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 HeelFace 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.
- 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. Then again, the series as a whole has No Fourth Wall, characters who Rage Against the Author, the Author himself as a main character, and pretty much everyone gets in on the act of commenting about plot lines, Plot Holes, (there are none) the yearly attack by some random villain, the various holiday and anniversary party strips... Can your entire cast qualify for a Greek Chorus?
- 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.
- 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.
- It was a Running Gag on the Marvel / Sunbow animated series of The '80s like The Transformers, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Inhumanoids, and Jem that most news broadcasts about the story's events were done by a Geraldo Rivera Expy named Hector Ramirez.
- Johnny Gomez and Nick Diamond in Celebrity Deathmatch are rare main character examples, as their purpose is to provide humorous commentary on the death matches which are the real focus of the series. While Nick would sometimes get involved in a death match himself, Johnny only ever got into one over the course of the series, and even then he mostly just provided commentary on his own fight.
- Sheriff Callie's Wild West has a trio of singing prairie dogs, who provide musical commentary on events at the beginning, middle and end of every episode. This usually involves them popping out of nowhere and is never addressed by the characters themselves.