Euripides uses the chorus in a limited but important way. The chorus does not drive the action; indeed, the chorus is in many ways detached and, at times, almost physically helpless. The chorus, however, is an essential and meaningful element of the play. The chorus reacts to the action and expresses itself as an overarching conscience. The chorus expresses sympathy and understanding. The chorus expresses sadness and lamentations. Its perception of the main characters changes throughout the play, and these changes compel the reader to continuously reevaluate the main characters. In addition to these reevaluations, the chorus functions as a signifier of change in the play. The chorus is often used by Euripides to signify a further development in the play. In short, the chorus is intimately connected to the play, even though it is in many ways detached from the underlying action, and it functions to force deeper assessments of the main characters and to signify developments in the play.
As an initial matter, the chorus in Medea is used to function as an overarching conscience and to compel the observer to reassess the main characters. ...
This is a woman whom has been betrayed. Her wrath and her pain are justifiable. The chorus judges Medea the innocent victim, "for thou wilt be taking a just vengeance on thy husband, Medea. That thou shouldst mourn thy lot surprises me not." (Medea, 117). The chorus declares Medea oppressed and her husband perfidious.
The nature of the revenge decided upon, and the breadth of victims, force changes in the opinion of the chorus. Medea's plan to poison her husband and his bride, as well as her subsequent killing of her sons, elicit a quite different reaction from the chorus. Indeed, when Medea reveals her plans to the chorus, it remarks,
How then shall the city of sacred streams, the land that welcomes those it loves, receive thee, the murderess of thy children, thee whose presence with others is a pollution 'Think on the murder of thy children, consider the bloody deed thou takest on thee. Nay, by thy knees we, one and all, implore thee, slay not thy babes (Medea, 998).
The chorus is recharacterizing Medea and being used by Euripides to explore both the nature of vengeance and the limits of justice. Medea is fairly motivated, but her plan goes beyond what the chorus deems moral and just. In the end, as the chorus witnesses Medea's killing of her sons, they remain outside of the action. They play no protective role bound by their oath not to intervene, and they witness the death struggle and the screams helplessly. They simply observe that, "Can there be any deed of horror left to follow this Woe for the wooing of women fraught with disaster!" (Medea, 1209). The chorus judges Jason and Medea excessive. The children are innocent victims. A vengeance, once