Stasimon

A stationary choral song

Greek theatre in Taormina
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Stasimon, in Greek tragedies, is a stationary song sung by the chorus after it has taken up its station in the orchestra. It is loosely translated as any extended song of the chorus after the parodos.

The chorus sings the stasimon while remaining in the orchestra after the parodos. Typically, after making its entrance singing the parodos, the chorus does not leave the orchestra until the conclusion of the play.

Stasimons tend to get shorter as plays progress.

The Suda, which is an 11th-century Byzantine encyclopedia, attributes the establishment of the choral singing of a stasimon to the celebrated Arion of Hermione.

Structure of a Greek Tragedy

In a typical Greek play, the stasimon would usually occur toward the end of the Agôn . The typical structure of a Greek tragedy is as follows:

1. Prologue: An opening dialogue preceding the entry of the chorus, which presents the tragedy's topic.

2. Parode (Entrance Ode): The entry chant of the chorus, often in an anapestic (short-short-long) marching rhythm (four feet per line). Typically the chorus would remain on stage throughout the remainder of the play after the parode.

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

  1. Strophê (Turn): A stanza in which the chorus moves in one direction (toward the altar).
  1. Antistrophê (Counter-Turn): The following stanza, in which it moves in the opposite direction. The antistrophe is in the same meter as the strophe.
  2. 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. They are typically sung or chanted. Each episode is terminated by 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.

    It is worth noting that the typical Greek tragedy had a slightly different structure than the typical Greek comedy. The chorus is larger in a traditional Greek comedy, but there is no stasimon. The structure of a typical Greek comedy is as follows:

    1. Prologue: Same as in tragedies.

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

    3. Agôn (Contest): Two speakers debate the issue 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 per line) about some important, topical issue, typically ending with a breathless tongue twister.

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

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

    5. Episode: Similar to as in tragedies.

    6. Exode (Exit Song): Also similar to as in tragedies.