Parode and Related Terms in Ancient Greek Tragedy and Comedy

Tragic masks
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Parode, also referred to as parodos and, in English, the entrance ode, is a term used in ancient Greek theater. The term could have two separate meanings.

The first and more common meaning of parode is the first song sung by the chorus as it enters the orchestra in a Greek play. The parode typically follows the play’s prologue (opening dialogue). An exit ode is known as an exode.

The second meaning of parode refers to a side entrance of a theater. Parodes allow side access to the stage for actors and to the orchestra for members of the chorus. In typical Greek theatres, there was a parode on each side of the stage.

Since the choruses most often entered the stage from a side entrance while singing, the single word parode came to be used for both the side entrance and the first song.

Structure of a Greek Tragedy

The typical structure of a Greek tragedy is as follows:

1. Prologue: An opening dialogue presenting the tragedy's topic that took place before the entry of the chorus.

2. Parode (Entrance Ode): The entry chant or song of the chorus, often in an anapestic (short-short-long) marching rhythm or meter of four feet per line. (A "foot" in poetry contains one stressed syllable and at least one unstressed syllable.) Following the parode, the chorus typically remains onstage throughout the remainder of the play.

The parode and other choral odes usually involve the following parts, repeated in order several times:

  • Strophê (Turn): A stanza in which the chorus moves in one direction (toward the altar).
  • Antistrophê (Counter-Turn): The following stanza, in which it moves in the opposite direction. The antistrophe is in the same meter as the strophe.
  • Epode (After-Song): The epode is in a different, but related, meter to the strophe and antistrophe and is chanted by the chorus standing still. The epode is often omitted, so there may be a series of strophe-antistrophe pairs without intervening epodes.

3. Episode: There are several episodes in which actors interact with the chorus. Episodes are typically sung or chanted. Each episode ends with a stasimon.

4. Stasimon (Stationary Song): A choral ode in which the chorus may react to the preceding episode.

5. Exode (Exit Ode): The exit song of the chorus after the last episode.

Structure of a Greek Comedy

The typical Greek comedy had a slightly different structure than the typical Greek tragedy. The chorus is also larger in a traditional Greek comedy. The structure is as follows:

1. Prologue: Same as in the tragedy, including presenting the topic.

2. Parode (Entrance Ode): Same as in the tragedy, but the chorus takes up a position either for or against the hero.

3. Agôn (Contest): Two speakers debate the topic, and the first speaker loses. Choral songs may occur towards the end.

4. Parabasis (Coming Forward): After the other characters have left the stage, the chorus members remove their masks and step out of character to address the audience.

First, the chorus leader chants in anapests (eight feet per line) about some important, topical issue, usually ending with a breathless tongue twister.

Next, the chorus sings, and there are typically four parts to the choral performance:

  • Ode: Sung by one-half of the chorus and addressed to a god.
  • Epirrhema (Afterword): A satyric or advisory chant (eight trochees [accented-unaccented syllables] per line) on contemporary issues by the leader of that half-chorus.
  • Antode (Answering Ode): An answering song by the other half of the chorus in the same meter as the ode.
  • Antepirrhema (Answering Afterword): An answering chant by the leader of the second half-chorus, which leads back to the comedy.

5. Episode: Similar to what takes place in the tragedy.

6. Exode (Exit Song): Also similar to what takes place in the tragedy.

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Gill, N.S. "Parode and Related Terms in Ancient Greek Tragedy and Comedy." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Gill, N.S. (2020, August 26). Parode and Related Terms in Ancient Greek Tragedy and Comedy. Retrieved from Gill, N.S. "Parode and Related Terms in Ancient Greek Tragedy and Comedy." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).