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University of Toronto St. George
Victoria Wohl

Lysistrata by Aristophanes Copyright Notice '1998-2002; '2002 by Gale Cengage. Gale is a division of Cengage Learning. Gale and Gale Cengage are trademarks used herein under license. For complete copyright information on these eNotes please visit: eNotes: Table of Contents 1. Lysistrata: Introduction 2. Lysistrata: Aristophanes Biography 3. Lysistrata: Summary 4. Lysistrata: Characters 5. Lysistrata: Themes 6. Lysistrata: Style 7. Lysistrata: Historical Context 8. Lysistrata: Critical Overview 9. Lysistrata: Essays and Criticism Aristophanes Depiction of Women in Lysistrata Sexuality in Lysistrata The Funtion of the Chorus in Lysistrata Aristophanes, Lysistrata 231 10. Lysistrata: Compare and Contrast 11. Lysistrata: Topics for Further Study 12. Lysistrata: Media Adaptations 13. Lysistrata: What Do I Read Next? 14. Lysistrata: Bibliography and Further Reading 15. Lysistrata: Pictures 16. Copyright Lysistrata: Introduction Lysistrata is often produced in contemporary theatre. Modern audiences enjoy the sexuality and humor in Aristophanes work, and they enjoy what appears as modern feminism and the depiction of strong women. Comedies were very popular presentations during the Greek festivals, and there is no reason to think that Lysistrata was not immensely popular. At the time of the plays initial production, Athens and Sparta had been at war for twenty years, and this play would have offered one of the few opportunities to laugh at war. The idea that Lysistrata could unite women to end the war would have set up the audience for a traditional battle between the sexes. However, there are also serious ideas to be found in Lysistratas speeches. She reminds the audiences of the many men who have died during the Peloponnesian War, and the Chorus of Old Men emphasizes that there are no young men to take up their position. Aristophanes uses a woman to bring Lysistrata 1 peace, but in doing so, he is pointing out to men that they have failed in their efforts to settle the war. With the failure of men, women are the only remaining hope for peace. There is no record that Aristophanes received any awards for Lysistrata, but the plays popularity in modern productions points to its probable success on stage. In 1930, Lysistrata enjoyed a successful revival in New York City, which lasted for several months. It has inspired an opera, Lysistrata and the War, which was written in the early 1960s and first performed by the Wayne State University opera workshop, as a pro test to the Vietnam War. The theme of war and womens efforts to invoke love as a replacement for war works as well in the twenty first century as they did in the late fifth century B.C. Lysistrata: Aristophanes Biography Little is known of Aristophanes, except that his father, who was from Athens, may have been a property owner. When Aristophanes was born, Athens was at its most glorious, both culturally and politically. Born at about 450 B.C., Aristophanes was a young man when the Peloponnesian war was fought between Athens and Sparta. This war (431- 401 B.C.) provided some of the historical framework for Aristophanes comedies. Athens loss in this war affected Aristophanes, and in response, he used comedy to ridicule the political order responsible for the war and the citys loss. Aristophanes sympathy with the aristocratic landowners and condemnation of the rulers of Athens makes him appear more revolutionary than many of his cohorts. Aristophanes is associated with the Old Comedy, or comoedia prisca, which is earthy and irreverent and willing to attack prominent people. Aristophanes comedies are the only ones to have survived from this period. Of the forty-four comedies he wrote, eleven have survived. The Athenian festival of Dionysis was the first festival, in 486 B.C., to officially include comedy. Aristophanes entered the festival and won three first prizes, which was less than either of his rivals, Cratinus and Eupolis. The themes of Aristophanes eleven surviving comedies reflect the poets dissatisfaction with the government of Athens. Aristophanes wrote many of his plays during the war between Athens and Sparta. The works that have survived include Acharnians, 425 B.C.; Knight, 424 B.C.; Clouds, 423 B.C. (revised c. 418 B.C.); and Wasps, 422 B.C. Other surviving plays include Peace,421 B.C.; Birds, 414 B.C.; Lysistrata, 411 B.C.; Thesmophoriazusae (Women Keeping the Festival of the Thesmophoriae), 411 B.C.; and Frogs, 405 B.C. The remainder of Aristophanes extant work includes Ecclesiazusae (Assemblywomen or Women in Parliament ), 392 B.C.; and Plutus (Wealth), 388 B.C. A number of other plays have been lost. Three of these comediesLysistrata, Thesmophoriazusae,and Ecclesiazusaedepict women as the moving force in human society. After his death, Aristophanes popularity ceased, and he was not rediscovered until the Renaissance, and it was not until modern times that Aristophanes reentered the Western literary canon. In the Byzantine world, however, Aristophanes always held the rank of a major author: he was assiduously copied, studied, and appreciated by scholars. Lysistrata: Summary The play opens with Lysistrata pacing back and forth as she waits for the other women to arrive. She is impatient and tells her neighbor, Calonice, that women have a reputation for sly trickery, but when they are needed for something important, they lie in bed instead of rushing to meet. Lysistrata tells her neighbor that the safety of all of Greece lies with the actions of the women of Greece. Soon, all the women arrive, and Lysistrata tells them of her plan to end the war between Athens and Sparta. But first the group enters into some ribald joking about their figures and about sex. Lysistrata asks the women if they would not rather their husbands were home instead of fighting elsewhere. When the women reply in the affirmative, Lysistrata relates a plan to have all the women deny their husbands and lovers their sexual favors until the men vow to stop fighting and end the war. The women are difficult to convince, but eventually they agree to the plan. Lysistrata also tells the women that if they are beaten, they may give in, since sex that results from violence will not please the men. Finally, all the women join Lysistrata in taking an oath to withhold sex from their Lysistrata: Introduction 2 mates. With Lampito returning to Sparta to secure the agreement of the Spartan women, Lysistrata and the women who remain with her make plans to join the women who have seized the Acropolis and its treasury. Within moments, a group of old men arrive, planning to set the base of the Acropolis on fire and force the women out. The old men complain that the women they have nourished all these years have turned against them and seized a sacred shrine. But while the men are busy with their smoking logs, the women enter, carrying pitchers of water, which they will pour over the fires that the men have set. The old men and old women trade insults, but the women will not back down, and they empty their water over the heads of the old men. When the magistrate arrives, he tells the men that the womens behavior is the result of the men spoiling their women, treating them with gentleness when they do not deserve to be cherished. The magistrate orders that the men force open the doors, but he moves to a safe distance to watch. When the doors are forced open, Lysistrata emerges. The magistrate orders her arrested, but the policeman is too intimidated by Lysistrata to arrest her. The other women join Lysistrata in defying the policemen, who are too cowed to follow the magistrates orders to seize the women. The magistrate responds to the womens actions with a claim that they shall never lose to women, and the newly brave police attack the women, but they are soon beaten off and in retreat. When there is calm again, Lysistrata explains that the women have seized the Acropolis to keep men from using the money to make war and to keep dishonest officials from stealing the money. The women say they can administer the money, since they are used to administering the household money. Lysistrata also tells the magistrate that the women have been patient while the men mucked up the war and refused to listen to any advice, but now, the women have decided to take action, since there are few men left in Greece. When the magistrate continues to protest, the women dress him in womens clothing, and then they explain that they will approach the problems of state in the same way that they approach the carding of wool. When the magistrate continues to insult the women, the women dress him as a corpse, and the man runs away. Left to continue the argument, the old men and old women turn to insults again. The old women meet each of the mens insults with rebuttals of their own. They remind the men that women bear children, but men make no contribution. The shouting and insults eventually turns to physical fighting, as both sides strip off their tunics and set upon each other. Although there is no division of scene, it is understood that an interval of five days has passed since the previous action, and Lysistrata is now dealing with a possible mutiny. Many of the women are deserting and going to the men. Lysistrata tries to convince the women that the men are also miserable sleeping alone, and she pulls out an oracle from the gods telling the women they will win. The women are convinced, and the rebellion is soon ended, as they return to the Acropolis. A group of old men and old women soon enter singing, and Lysist
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