Tony Harrison’s The Common Chorus and Dramatic Trilogies


In the mid-1980s British poet Tony Harrison planned a trilogy of three plays: an adaptation of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, a close version of Euripides’ Trojan Women, and an original play called Maxims. Together theseplays would form The Common Chorus. While the trilogy was never performed in its entirety, it is an important work for understanding the development of Harrison’s engagement with ancient Greek theatre, and a useful tool for thinking about the nature of dramatic trilogies in fifth-century Athens. This article provides an overview of Harrison’s vision for The Common Chorus, while also arguing that while any play from a trilogy, narratively connected or not, can stand independently, that is not the same thing as being complete, and that we cannot adequately grasp how a poet was using narrative, theme, and the va­rious elements of stagecraft when only a single play survives.