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Lysistrata is a bawdy anti-war comedy by the ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes,

first staged in 411 BCE. It is the comic account of one woman's extraordinary mission to
end the Peloponnesian War, as Lysistrata convinces the women of Greece to withhold
sexual privileges from their husbands as a means of forcing the men to negotiate a
peace. Some consider it his greatest work, and it is probably the most anthologized.
Lysistrata, a strong Athenian woman with a great sense of individual responsibility,
reveals her plan to take matters into her own hands and end the interminable
Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. She has convened a meeting of women
from various city states in Greece and, with support from the Spartan Lampito, she
explains to the other women her plan: that they are to withhold sexual privileges from
their menfolk as a means of forcing them to bring an end to the war.
The women are dubious and reluctant at first, but the deal is sealed with a long and
solemn oath around a wine bowl, and the women agree to abjure all sexual pleasures,
including various specifically mentioned sexual positions. At the same time, another part
of Lysistrata's plan (a precautionary measure) comes to fruition as the old women of
Athens seize control of the nearby Acropolis, which holds the state treasury, without
which the men cannot long continue to fund their war. The word of revolt is spread and
the other women retreat behind the barred gates of the Acropolis to await the men's

A Chorus of bumbling old men arrives, intent on burning down the gate of the Acropolis if
the women do not open up. However, before the men can make their preparations, a
second Chorus of old women arrives bearing pitchers of water. An argument ensues and
threats are exchanged, but the old women successfully defend their younger comrades
and the old men receive a good soaking in the process.

A magistrate reflects on the hysterical nature of women and their devotion to wine,
promiscuous sex and exotic cults, but above all he blames the men for the poor
supervision of their womenfolk. He needs silver from the treasury for the war effort, and
he and his constables try to break into the Acropolis, but are quickly overwhelmed by
groups of unruly women with long, strange names.

Lysistrata restores some order after the fracas, and allows the magistrate to question her
about her scheme and the war. She explains to him the frustrations that women feel at a
time of war, when the men make stupid decisions that affect everyone and their wive's
opinions are not listened to. She expresses pity for the young, childless women, left to
grow old at home during the best years of their lives, while the men are away on endless
military campaigns, and she constructs an elaborate analogy in which she shows that
Athens should be structured as a woman would spin wool. To illustrate her points,
Lysistrata and the women dress the magistrate up, first as a woman and then as a
corpse. Eventually, he storms off to report the incident to his colleagues, and Lysistrata
returns to the Acropolis.

The debate is continued between the Chorus of old men and the Chorus of old women,
until Lysistrata returns with the news that some of the women are already becoming
desperate for sex, and they are beginning to desert the cause on the silliest of pretexts
(such as to air bedding and do other chores) and one is even caught trying to escape to
a brothel. She succeeds in rallying her comrades, however, and restoring their discipline,
and she returns yet again to the Acropolis to await for the men's surrender. Meanwhile,
Cinesias, the young husband of Myrrhine, appears, desperate for sex. As Lysistrata
oversees the discussion, Myrrhine reminds him of the terms, and further taunts her
husband by preparing an inviting bed, oils, etc, before disappointing the young man by
locking herself in the Acropolis again.

The Chorus of old women make overtures to the old men, and soon the two Choruses
merge, singing and dancing in unison. The peace talks commence and Lysistrata
introduces the Spartan and Athenian delegates to a gorgeous naked young woman
called Reconciliation or Peace, whom the delegates cannot take their eyes off. Lysistrata
scolds both sides for past errors of judgement and, after some squabbles over the peace
terms (and with the naked figure of Reconciliation before them and the burden of sexual
deprivation still heavy upon them), they quickly overcome their differences and retire to
the Acropolis for celebrations, songs and dancing.
Lysistrata was first staged in 411 BCE, just two years after Athens' catastrophic defeat
in the Sicilian Expedition, a turning-point in the long-running Peloponnesian War aginst
Sparta, and, after 21 years of war, there seemed as little prospect of peace as ever. The
oligarchic revolution in Athens, which proved briefly successful that same year, was
more political fall-out from the Sicilian disaster was. The name Lysistrata can be
translated as releaser of war or army disbander.
Modern adaptations of the play are often femininist and/or pacifist in their aim, but the
original play was neither particularly feminist nor unreservedly pacifist. Even while
apparently demonstrating empathy with the female condition, Aristophanes still tended
to reinforce sexual stereotyping of women as irrational creatures in need of protection
from themselves and from others. Certainly, it seems clear that Aristophanes was not
actually advocating real political power for women.

It should be remembered that this was a time when women did not have the vote, and
when men had ample opportunities to whet their sexual appetites elsewhere. Indeed,
the very idea that a woman could have enough influence to end a war would have been
considered quite ridiculous to the Greek audience members. Interestingly, when
establishing the rules of the sex ban, Lysistrata also makes allowance for cases where
the woman is forced to yield, in which case they should do so with an ill grace and in
such a way as to afford the minimum of gratification to their partner, remaining passive
and taking no more part in the amorous game than they are absolutely obliged to.

An added twist to the gender battle arises from the fact that, although the gender roles
were reversed (with the women acting like men, to some extent, in taking the political
initiative, and the men behaving more like women), in the Greek theatre ALL the actors
were actually male anyway. The male characters in the play would probably have worn
large, erect leather phalluses.

Lysistrata herself, though, is clearly an exceptional woman and, even when the other
women waver in their resolution, she remains strong and committed. She is usually quite
separate from the other women: she does not herself exhibit any sexual desire, has no
obvious lovers or husband and does not purposely flirt with men; she is smarter, wittier
and generally adopts a more serious tone than the other women, and uses different
language. For these reasons, both the magistrate and the delegates seem to give her
more respect and, by the end of the play, she has demonstrated her power over men,
with even the respected leaders of Greece submissive to her arguments.

There are many parallels between Lysistrata and The Knights (where the protagonist
is also an improbable saviour of Athens), as well as with two of Aristophanes other plays
on the theme of peace, The Acharnians and Peace (particularly his use of allegorical
figures full of sexual innuendo, like the figure of Reconciliation or Peace).
Thesmophoriazusae, another of Aristophanes plays with a focus on gender-based
issues, was presented in the very same year as Lysistrata.

Like all of Aristophanes plays (and Old Comedy in general), the humour is highly topical
and the playwright expected his audience to be familiar with myriad local personalities,
places and issues, a difficulty faced by any producer trying to stage Lysistrata for
modern audiences. As well as the slapstick humour and the raucous and risqu double-
entendres, much of the humour in the play derives from the audiences knowledge of
specific figures from Athens public life and recent history.
Lysistrata belongs to the middle period of Aristophanes' career, however, when he was
beginning to diverge significantly from the conventions of Old Comedy. For instance, it
incorporates a double Chorus (which begins the play divided against itself - old men
versus old women - but later unites to exemplify the major theme of the play,
reconciliation), there is no conventional parabasis (where the Chorus addresses the
audience directly) and it has an unusual agon or debate (in that the protagonist,
Lysistrata, does almost all the talking, both questions and answers, while the antagonist
- the magistrate - merely asks the odd question or expresses indignation). The character
of Lysistrata herself acts very much as the mastermind of the action, and almost at times
as an on-stage director.

Character Analysis
Lysistrata is the ultimate MC (master of ceremonies) and director of the action of
Lysistrata. Continually giving direction from behind the scenes of the action,
Lysistrata not only instructs the women on how to act, but carefully observes and
coaches the women. A good example of this "coaching" is Lysistrata's interaction
with Myrrhine when Kinesias comes to the Akropolis. Before Kinesias arrives at
the Akropolis, Lysistrata gives Myrrhine specific directions on how to act with her
husband and then watches to make sure that Myrrhine doesn't give in to
Kinesias. From her perch, Lysistrata is the overseer of the action. Lysistrata is also
separate from the action of the play and the other women of the play because
she does not participate in either the sex strike or the seizure of the Akropolis.
While Lysistrata is the mastermind for both of these attacks, she does not take
part in them.
The separation Lysistrata achieves from the other women is important to her rank
and power with the male characters in the play. Because Lysistrata does not
exhibit any sexual desire, has no obvious lovers or husbands, and does not
purposely flirt with men, the Commissioner and the delegates seems to give her
more respect. Lysistrata also uses different language than the other women; she
is smarter, has more wit and has a more serious tone than the others. This too
contributes to her ability as a leader of Greece. By the end of the play, the men
call upon Lysistrata to make the treaty between Sparta and Athens. This scenario,
a woman negotiating between states, is completely fictional; in reality, women
had no voting privileges in Greece. Therefore, however put, the idea that women
could end a war was probably very silly and ridiculous to the Greek audience
members; nonetheless, Lysistrata's rejection of the stereotypical domestic female
allows her to take the stage and achieve a real political voice in a male-
dominated state.
It has also been suggested that Lysistrata was a representative of traditional
religion which also may have allowed her to be somewhat separate or have a
higher social ranking than the other women. This theory, developed by
Papadimitriou and Lewis goes as follows. The priestess of Athena Polias was the
most famous priestess in Athens. There is significant evidence that in the late
fifth century BCE, a woman by the name of Lysimakhe held this post. Lysimakhe
was the priestess of Athena Loias for sixty-four years. The name Lysimakhe
means dissolving battles and is similar to Lysistrata (a name that means
dissolving armies). Also, a woman by the name of Myrrhine was the priestess of
the temple of Athena Nike during the same period. It has been suggested that
the characters of Lysistrata and Myrrhine were based on real-life priestesses. A
priestess in Ancient Greece had the privilege of performing rituals for a goddess.
Evidence within the play, such as Lysistrata's ability to call a meeting of all the
women of Greece and the fact that Lysistrata leads the women to the temple of
Athena, supports this theory.
Aristophanes makes fun of women, but he also makes fun of his own sex.
Kinesias, of course the prime example, is the unhappy target of the women's sex
strike. In the infamous scene between Myrrhine and her husband Kinesias,
Kinesias is fooled and tricked by his wife. Douglas M. MacDowell suggests that
Myrrhine's husband Kinesias is the same gawky and cadaverous poet who is
mocked in Aristophanes's Birds. Because Kinesias is a rare name, MacDowell
believes that the audience of Ancient Greece would automatically assume it was
the same poet, who was the "constant butt of comic dramatists" and the subject
of an entire work by Strattis. In Lysistrata, Kinesias proves himself a buffoon, poor
father and misogynist-extraordinaire. As many of the women of Greece exemplify
the idealized or stereotypical female, Kinesias represents the stereotypical,
dimwitted male figure; Kinesias only seeks out his wife because he has a painful
erection, he is unable to care for his own children and is outwitted by his playful
wife. Kinesias's character confirms that Aristophanes meant Lysistrata to be a
play mocking the sexual desires and attributes of both sexes.
Chorus of Old Men & Chorus of Old Women
The Chorus of Lysistrata is split into two, the Chorus of Men and the Chorus of
Women. The two choruses, both old and fragile, are incredibly comic elements of
the text. As the members of the choruses have all reached and passed their
prime, there is little sexual tension between the rival groups. It is obvious that
Lysistrata sends the Old women of Athens to take the Akropolis because they will
be of no use in the sex strike. Ironically, the Chorus of Women proves more useful
than the younger groups of sex striking ladies. The Chorus of Women not only
takes the Akropolis, but also is able to defend it against the Chorus of Men. The
Chorus of Men, in the style of Kinesias, is rather dumb and is completely
overwhelmed by the women who beat them physically and mentally. The action
and relationship between the two choruses parallels the action of the story; as
tensions between men and women increase, so does the fighting between the
choruses. When peace is declared, the choruses join together as one. This
dynamic between the male and female choruses also reveals the dependency
between the domestic and political lives of the Athenian people. Like Sparta and
Athens, like Myrrhine and Kinesias, like the Koryphaios of Men and the Koryphaios
of Women, the choruses find reconciliation when the state declares peace. The
Choruses also serve to place the events of the story within the Greek religious
and historical tradition. The songs of the men and women constantly refer to
other mythological and historical events that are like those that happen on stage.
BeginningInspection of Spartan Women

Lysistrata opens with the exposition of Lysistrata's plan to save and unite all of Greece. The scene
opens with Lysistrata pacing back and forth in front of the Akropolis in Athens. The Propylaia, the
gateway to the Akropolis is directly behind her in the background. Lysistrata impatiently waits for the
women of Athens and Sparta to meet her and discuss the war. Lysistrata fumes that if she would have
called an orgy in the name of Bacchos, a celebration of sex and drunkenness, the women would have
been out in the streets with tambourines, implying that no woman requires encouragement for sex.
Lysistrata's tirade is interrupted by Kleonike, her next-door neighbor. Kleonike is older than Lysistrata,
but not quite old enough to be considered a matron. Lysistrata tells Kleonike that she is distraught that
the women will not come to talk about war and that she is ashamed to be a woman because of it.
Lysistrata can't understand why the women will put up with their husbands' insults and deceit.
Kleonike assures Lysistrata that the women will come, but for the moment they are occupied with
helping their husbands.
Lysistrata begins to outline to Kleonike her plan to save Greece. Lysistrata claims
that all hope of ending the war lies with the women, a comment Kleonike finds
rather surprising. Kleonike can't understand how the women of Greece could
possibly help end the war. Kleonike informs Lysistrata that "Glamour" is the only
talent women possess and that there is nothing for a woman to do besides sit
looking beautiful for her husband wearing the best of negligees and slippers.
Lysistrata believes that women's ability to attract and allure men, to look
beautiful, sexy and well kept is exactly the key to ending the war. As Kleonike
begins to get excited about Lysistrata's ideas, a group of women enter from stage
right. Lysistrata tells Kleonike that these women are from the "outskirts" of town.
The group is led by Myrrhine, a young matron. Another group of women also joins
the group, led by Lampito, a burly Spartan woman. Lampito is joined by two
women, Ismenia, a pretty Boitian girl and a massive Korinthian Girl with large
buttocks. (In the Meridian Classic edition of Lysistrata, the Spartans speak with
an American "mountain dialect" to convey the Athenian attitude toward Spartans
as backward and imperfect civilization.) Lysistrata and the other women look over
and dissect the physical characteristics of Lampito, Ismenia and the large
Korinthian that would attract a male best. Kleonike admires Lampito's bosoms
and Ismenia's well-groomed pubic area and Lysistrata points out the
exceptionally large derrire of the Korinthian.
The opening scene of Lysistrata enacts the stereotypical and traditional
characterization of women in Greece and also distances Lysistrata from this
clichd, housewife character. The audience is met with a woman, Lysistrata, who
is furious with the other women from her country because they have not come to
discuss war with her. The discussion of war, obviously the domain of the male, is
not something that females in Greece are accustomed to. Lysistrata admits that if
she had called for an orgy or festival for the god Dionysis, the women would have
filled the streets with tambourines in tow. The God mentioned by Lysistrata is
Bacchus or Dionysis who is the god of wine. Bacchus often presided over
festivities, drunkenness, plays and theatrical celebrations. The housebound
woman that disgusts Lysistrata so, is exemplified and affirmed by her next-door
neighbor, Kleonike. As Kleonike sympathetically explains to Lysistrata, most of
the women are probably off waking the maids or tending to children. Lysistrata is
not only angered because the women won't prioritize war and the peace of their
country, but she is ashamed that the women won't stand up to the stereotypes
and names that their husband's give them. Lysistrata tells Kleonike, "I'm
positively ashamed to be a woman", and Kleonike proudly admits, "That's us!"
Ironically, even though she despises the labels men give to women, Lysistrata fits
the stereotype of the devious woman. Lysistrata deviates from the Grecian male
will to further the Peloponnesian War and, with the help of other women,
essentially takes over Greece and ends the war. But even though Lysistrata
deviates from the male urges, she does so in a masculine way, by exploiting
women as sexual creatures. By requesting that the women use their
attractiveness to make the males want them sexually, Lysistrata encourages the
women to play to their stereotype and exploit the sexual, idealized female. Like a
man, with her plan for a sex strike in mind, Lysistrata examines women for their
sexual potential. When Lampito, Ismenia and the Korinthian Girl enter, Lysistrata
scrutinizes the women's bodies, as a male would do. As Lysistrata and Kleonike
look at Lampito, Lampito remarks that she feels like "a heifer come fair-time"; in
other words, Lampito feels like a piece of meat. The women also remark on the
curves and genitalia of Ismenia and are delighted at her hairless vulva (in
accordance with Greek high-fashion) and are wowed by the monstrous buttocks
of the Korinthian Girlall features to which a male might be attracted.
Therefore, women not only begin to see each other with male desire, but they
exploit their stereotypical, female identity as a source of power. In doing so, the
women of Lysistrata not only play upon the male stereotype (that males cannot
control their lust for women), but also simultaneously become more masculine
themselves; Kleonike and Lysistrata look at the other women as sex objects. As a
pimp-in-reverse, the women look to see how difficult it will be for a man to resist
each woman. Lysistrata is ultimately the most masculine woman in the play. She,
unlike the other females who attempt to escape the treasury to find their
husbands, is able to fully ignore and reject her own attraction to males. In this
way, Lysistrata stands outside of the action of the other females of the play and
works hardest to reject the fragility and frivolity that characterizes the other
women. Lysistrata's dual ability to reject her own sexuality while exploiting others
enables her to create peace in Greece.
Lysistrata's AppealGates of the Akropolis
The women gather around Lysistrata and ask her why she has brought them
here. Lysistrata first asks the women if they would like to have their husbands
safely restored to them from the war. Kleonike immediately tells Lysistrata that
she would like to have her husband home for he has apparently been gone for
the last five months. Myrrhine and Lampito agree that they too miss their
husbands. Myrrhine complains that since the Milesians revolted she hasn't even
been able to buy a masturbation tool from the open market and is desperate for
sex. With such apparent enthusiasm, Lysistrata asks if she can then have the
support of the women to end the war. Lampito, Myrrhine and Kleonike all brag of
the great feats they would accomplish just to end the fighting, but when
Lysistrata finally tells them that she means to end the war through the evocation
of chastity, the three women refuse and cry out, "On with the War!" Kleonike,
Myrrhine and Lampito tell Lysistrata that they would be willing to do anything but
give up sex to end the war, and even offer to walk through fire. Lysistrata is
outraged at her peers and tells the women that they are the stuff of heroic songs
about womenthat the women are playing out their stereotypical sex-driven
After more rousing, the women finally agree to Lysistrata's plan. Lysistrata
explains that the women should powder, primp and make themselves look as
attractive as possible so that the men will want them desperately. She says the
women will refuse sex with the men until a treaty for peace between Athens and
Sparta has been signed. Lysistrata also tells the women that the Akropolis,
including the temple of Athena, will be seized by women later in the day to
prevent the Athenians from using the money from the treasury for the war.
Lysistrata calls a policewoman over and tells her to turn over her shield so that
the women can sacrifice a sheep on it and swear an oath that they will follow
Lysistrata's directions and make peace in Greece. Kleonike tells Lysistrata that
the women cannot make an oath of peace on a shield and suggests that they
might slaughter a jar of Thasian wine instead.
Lysistrata agrees and the women bring in an enormous jug of Thasian wine. As if
it were an animal for sacrifice, the women remark that the color of the wine is a
beautiful shade of blood. Lysistrata prays over the wine and then elects Kleonike
to take the oath on behalf of the rest of the women. Lysistrata recites an oath of
chastity and each line is repeated by Kleonike. After the oath is recited, the
women drink the wine.
As the women pass the cup, loud sounds are heard from offstage. Lysistrata
informs the women that the sounds they hear are the women taking the
Akropolis and announces that the citadel of Athena is theirs. Lysistrata and
Kleonike hurry off to help the women at the Akropolis. Meanwhile, the Chorus of
Old Men is led in from stage Left. This group of rather aged and decrepit old men
carries wood and earthen pots of fire to smoke the women out of the Akropolis.
The Koryphaios of Men encourages the men to keep going. Swifty, a leader one of
the groups of men, struggles to sing a song to set the pace of the group. The First
Semichorus of men joins Swifty in song and adds his own laments of the pains of
Matriarchy. The Second Semichorus also joins the singing and tells the story of
Kleomenes, the Spartan, who briefly occupied the Akropolis in 508 BCE.
As the men progress towards the Akropolis they blow on their earthen pots of
fire, which give off great clouds of smoke right back into the men's faces. As the
men work with their firepots at the gates of the Akropolis, the Chorus of Old
Women, carrying pitchers of water and led by the Koryphaios of Women,
approaches. The Chorus of Old Women is quite old like the men, but lively. The
First Semichorus of Women urges the women ahead in song and is joined by the
Second Semichorus of Women.
There is a considerable inconsistency in Lysistrata that may possibly be the
impetus for the two-plot structure employed by Aristophanes: men away from
home would not be affected by a sex-strike staged by their wives. The women
complain to Lysistrata that their husbands have been fighting away from home
for years, but their wives refusing sex at home miraculously affect these same
men. Thus, Aristophanes's fantastic tale is somewhat faulted and inconceivable
in real life. As critics point out, even if the men were home for the sex-strike, they
would have certainly made use of local prostitutes and other means of pleasuring
themselves. Aristophanes ignores these issues in favor of comedy and the sight
of men with enlarged and desperate phalluses at the conclusion of the play.
Therefore, perhaps for the sake of reality, Aristophanes devises a second plot for
Lysistrata and the womenthe seizure of the treasury. Lysistrata reasons that if
the Athenians have no money they will not be able to continue the war. Lampito,
the Spartan delegate, tells Lysistrata that the Athenians will not give up as long
as there is "Abundant silvers stored up with the Goddess." The dual plot lines
work well togetherthe young, attractive women stage the sex-strike and the
older women take the treasury, but the divide between old and young women is
quickly blurred. The distinct female characters introduced in the first moments of
the play disappear into the crowd of women at the Akropolis. Douglas MacDowell
suggests that Aristophanes may have not have enough actors available to keep
the groups of old and young women distinct. And, of course, the distinctions are
unimportant thematically. As MacDowell states, the point is that all Grecian
women are opposing the men as a unified force. The plots, like the women, also
become confused. Rather than the women going home to entice and seduce their
husbands into maddening desire, the women stay and are held hostage at the
Akropolis. In only one scene, between Myrrhine and her husband, does the
audience witness any seduction between husband and wife; the grand sex-strike
theme is never fully played out.
The Akropolis, by the time of Aristophanes, was not Athens's center of business
or democracy. The Akropolis belonged to Athena and was primarily a religious
place. The Akropolis was also Athens's treasury, placed under the protection of
Athena. By taking the treasury, the women prevent the men from accessing
public funds which are essential to the war effortin all, a much more direct way
to end the fighting. Although primarily religious, the Akropolis also stood for the
democracy and government of Athens. The Chorus of Old Men, progressing up
the hill, sings about Kleomenes who took the Akropolis. Kleomenes seized the
Akropolis at least a century before Aristophanes wrote Lysistrata, but this event
was obviously a memorable and great event in the collective minds of the
Athenian men. Kleomenes, like the women, threatened the government and
democracy of Athens. As the men walk up the hill, the First Semichorus of Men
remarks that a Matriarchy has taken hold.
The issue of the control of money is another source of tension between the sexes.
Lysistrata clearly tells the Commissioner that the women will take care of the
money just as they do the money at home. Aristophanes here implies that
women have a sense of reason greater than their male counterparts.
Gates of the AkropolisWool Metaphor
The Chorus of Old Men makes its way toward the gates of the Akropolis. The
males prepare their earthen pots of fire to smoke out the women who have
already over-taken the Akropolis. The Chorus of Old Women, carrying water back
to the Akropolis, meet the men at the gates. The Koryphaios of Women tells the
men that the chorus only represents one percent of all the women in their force.
The Koryphaios of Men assures his troops that a few jabs will certainly quiet the
women, in the manner of Hipponax. The Koryphaios of Men reluctantly steps up
to the Koryphaios of Women who has begun to advance on him. The Koryphaios
of Women tells her enemy that she will castrate him, which apparently frightens
the Koryphaios of Men, who retreats. The Koryphaios of Men quotes Euripides
(evidently from a lost play) and states that there is no beast as shameful as a
woman. The threats between the two sides escalate until the women empty their
pitchers of water over the men, fully soaking them.
The Commissioner of Public Safety enters with a squad of police. The
Commissioner has heard of the insurrection of the Akropolis, but does not yet
know of the sex-strike. The Commissioner has come to the Akropolis to withdraw
funds to equip Athens's naval fleet. The Commissioner, realizing that the
Akropolis has been taken by women, concludes that the women must be involved
in some kind of orgy or "spontaneous combustion of lust" and takes the
opportunity to rant about women and the imminent moral chaos that they create.
The Commissioner criticizes modern society and men who have allowed women
to have such power. As the Commissioner and his police attempt to pry open the
gates of the Akropolis, Lysistrata bursts through. The Commissioner orders four
policemen to arrest Lysistrata and the women, but the men are overpowered by
the women's threats comprised of a chamber pot, a lamp, a pair of tweezers, and
finally an entire hoard of women brandishing pots and household articles. The
policemen run and Lysistrata and The Commissioner are left to argue.
Lysistrata informs The Commissioner that she intends to keep the money in the
treasury until Athens and Sparta declare peace. The women will budget the
money for the city, just as the women budget their household accounts.
Lysistrata tells the Commissioner that she will save Greece from itself. The
women of Athens have tolerated and endured too many stupid actions of men
and have now decided that they will not witness any more. The Commissioner is
increasingly offended and threatened by Lysistrata's words. The Commissioner
tells Lysistrata that he cannot listen to a woman who wears a veil, the obvious
sign of women's inferiority. Lysistrata defiantly removes her veil and tells the
Commissioner to be quiet. Lysistrata takes her veil and puts it around the
Commissioner. Kleonike and Myrrhine enter and help to dress the Commissioner
up as a woman with Lysistrata. Lysistrata shouts to the Chorus of Old Women, "Ye
Women must Wive ye warre!"a rewrite of Homer's text, "Ye Menne must see to
Ye warre." (This passage from the Iliad means "What Athens needs is a Man," or,
in the case of Lysistrata, "What Athens needs is a Woman.")
The Chorus of Old Women dances around the stage and sing a verse about their
coming victory. Lysistrata imagines the states of Greece as a great piece of wool
to be spun. Lysistrata tells the Commissioner that Hellas is in a nasty snarl and
the women will be responsible for cleaning, scutching, pluching, combing and
finally spinning the fibers into a bobbin of yarn to clothe the entire city of Athens,
free of Bias or stitch. The Commissioner is not convinced of Lysistrata's weaving
metaphor and exclaims that the women have not born any part of the war. This
comment infuriates Lysistrata who tells the Commissioner that she has had to
bear double the quotashe has given her son and her husband to the effort.
Lysistrata winds a bobbin of thread around the Commissioner, Kleonike empties
her chamber pot over him and Myrrhine breaks a lamp over the Commissioner's
head. The Commissioner, defeated, finally staggers off.
The humorous tone set by the rivalry between the two choruses, the dressing up
of the Commissioner in women's clothes, and the defeat of the Officers with
chamber pots fades into a serious debate about the politics of Athens between
Lysistrata and the Commissioner. Lysistrata tells her captive audience member
how Greece should be taken care of and repaired. The extended wool metaphor
she employs describes Athens as a whole city, as a body of citizens. Lysistrata
believes that the whole city must be cleaned and the burs, or bad men, and
corruption should be removed. Lysistrata specifically mentions the "clots" or
lumps of knots snarled together to "snag important posts." Aristophanes is here
criticizing politicians in Athens who conspire to get each other elected. Politicians
who combined to get each other elected threaten the democratic structure of
Athens. Douglas M. MacDowell suggests that Aristophanes was here attacking
men who might want to stage an oligarchic coup on the city. After the play was
completed an oligarchic revolution did take place in Athens.
After threats of oligarchy have been removed, Lysistrata imagines that the good
people of Athens should be gathered together in a basket. Lysistrata makes clear
who she would accept into her city, including loyal "Resident Aliens, all Foreigners
of proven and tested friendship, and any Disenfranchised Debtors." Resident
aliens, or Metics, are non-citizens who have permission to permanently reside in
Athens. Metics paid taxes, did military service and many Metic families lived in
Athens for multiple generations. The "[f]oreigners of proven and tested
friendship" are simply any resident alien who did not have permission to live in
Athens, but who desired to do so and, lastly, the "Disenfranchised Debtors" were
men who failed to make payment to the state. Any man who failed to pay money
to the government was disenfranchised and forfeited his rights as a citizen. The
man would remain disenfranchised until he paid his debt. If the debt was still
owed when the man died, it was passed on to his heir.
Lysistrata then urges the Commissioner to "cull the colonies settled by our own
people" that she regards as nothing but scattered flocks. It has been suggested
that Aristophanes didn't mean just colonial settlements, but all Ionian cities.
Aristophanes probably didn't mean to give citizenship to all of these people, but
rather to gather citizens loyal to Athens from around the Aegean region and
along the coast of Asia Minor together in Athens. Lysistrata imagines this
collection of people as a new, stronger Athenian civilizationa fine staple to be
spun into a bobbin of yarn. Lysistrata describes enough yarn to "clothe the City of
Athens"; in other words, Lysistrata means to create a state that will encompass
and embrace the many people loyal to Athens.
Lysistrata excludes women from her idealized Athensa considerable omission.
This is the first time Lysistrata dictates what men should do and explicitly
excludes women from the plan to change Athens. This passage is clearly the
voice of Aristophanes coming through Lysistrata. As women were truly given no
political power in Athens, it seems that this omission indicates that Aristophanes
was making a viable, serious proposal to his audience, not one that they would
disregard completely. This passage reduces and undercuts the women's seizure
of the Akropolis as an anomalous and comedic event; although the women take
real power in the course of Lysistrata, women are not included in Lysistrata's
idealized vision of the city.
Wool MetaphorMyrrhine's Seduction
The Koryphaios of Men addresses the audience and tells them that they must act
to preserve their freedom from the women. The Chorus of Old Men also advances
toward the audience and, with the Koryphaios of Men, the chorus strips its
clothing off until the men wear only short tunics. The Koryphaios of Men and the
Chorus of Old Men lament that the women have caused great disorder in Athens.
The Koryphaios of Men sneaks up next to the Koryphaios of Women, knocks her in
the jaw and runs back to the men. The women also remove their mantles,
revealing tunics much like those of the men. The Chorus of Old Women also
advances toward the audience and makes its plea. The Koryphaios of Women
tells the audience that she is not ashamed to be a woman, that women's
leadership is better than the present state of Greece. The Koryphaios of Women
hits the Koryphaios of Men in the jaw with her slipper. The Koryphaios of Men
leads the Chorus of Old Men in the removal of their tunics to make the women
smell their foul odor. The women also remove their tunics to give the men a whiff
of the "Femme Enragee," or the enraged female's odor. The Koryphaios of
Women then grabs the Koryphaios of Men by the ankle and trips him.
Lysistrata comes out of the Akropolis, visibly distraught. Lysistrata complains that
the women are escaping from the temple to have sex with their husbands. At
that moment, the one of these women attempts to escape from the Akropolis
across the stage. The woman explains that she must get back to her weaving at
home and runs on despite Lysistrata's orders. Another woman then runs across
the stage telling Lysistrata that she must pluck the fibers from unpeeled flax and,
finally a third woman crosses the stage who pretends that she is pregnant. Other
women filter out of the Akropolis and crowd around Lysistrata who tells the
women they must be a united front or that everything will fail. Lysistrata reads
from the oracle, which tells the women that if they do not work together they will
suffer great shame and embarrassment. Encouraged, the women go back to the
As the women exit, the choruses reassemble. A fight ensues between an old man
and an old Woman, who unsuccessfully swing at each other with fists and sexual
slander. In the midst of this struggle, Lysistrata mounts a platform and looks over
the horizon where she sees an approaching male. Myrrhine identifies the man as
Kinesias, her husband and assures Lysistrata that she can take care of him. All of
the women exit, except for Lysistrata, who is on the platform, and Myrrhine, who
is hidden from the view of her husband. Kinesias has a visible erection and is
followed by a slave who carries a baby boy. Kinesias is in visible pain and
demands that Lysistrata bring out Myrrhine to him. Myrrhine appears at the wall
and Kinesias begs her to come down to him. Kinesias has brought the couple's
son who begs for his mother. Pitying the child, Myrrhine comes down from the
As Myrrhine descends, Kinesias soliloquizes about the beauty and temper of his
wife. When Myrrhine enters she takes the baby and refuses to let Kinesias touch
her. Kinesias explains the problems at homethe weaving has come unraveled,
the house has gone to hell and he, himself, is desperate for sex. Myrrhine solidly
refuses to have sex with him until there is a peace treaty. Kinesias apparently
wants to have sex with Myrrhine immediately and Myrrhine takes advantage of
his neediness. Myrrhine pretends she is suddenly willing and gets a cot from
inside the Akropolis. While the desperate Kinesias lies down, Myrrhine goes to get
more and more essential items for sex (a pillow, a blanket, perfume) from inside
the Akropolis until she finally disappears after asking her husband to remember
to vote for the truce.
After another formidable choral interlude between the old men and old women,
the sex-strike is played out in full. In the infamous scene between Myrrhine and
her husband Kinesias, a woman is finally seen tempting the male as plotted by
the women earlier in the play. MacDowell suggests that Myrrhine's husband
Kinesias is the same gawky and cadaverous poet who is mocked in
Aristophanes's Birds. Because Kinesias is a rare name, MacDowell believes that
the audience of Ancient Greece would automatically assume it was the same
poet, who was the "constant but of comic dramatists" and the subject of an entire
work by Strattis.
Lysistrata gives Myrrhine careful directions about how to tempt her husband.
Atop her perch, Lysistrata remains the spectator and director of the scene
between husband and wife. Myrrhine acts as the female seductress in this scene
and positions herself as an idealized female or subject to male attraction.
Myrrhine plays at the woman her husband desires. The comedy lies in Myrrhine's
exploitation of Kinesias's ideal female and the audience's knowledge that
Kinesias will not get what he wants. The seductress has a long history in Greek
mythology. Possibly two of the most famous actual tribes of women who used
men for power were the Amazons and the story of the Lemnian women.
The Amazons are known as a tribe of women who excelled in war craft and lived
near the southeastern coast of the Black Sea. The Amazons rejected all men from
their tribe. After getting pregnant, women would kill their mates and only keep
female children. Many critics have pointed out how women like the Amazons are
used as the representative female threat to male power. Like the myth of the
Amazons, the women of Lysistrata refuse sexual relations with the men and
occupy the Akropolis. The Amazon women over took the Akropolis as survived in
the painting on the Stoa Poikile and the metopes on the Parthenon. The Lemnian
women are seen various times in Greek literature. Aphrodite made the Lemnian
women have an odor to repel their husbands. When the husbands took Thracian
women captives and concubines, the women murdered all the men on the island
of Lemnos. The daughter of the king, Hysipyle, did not kill her father, but sent
him out to sea. Hysipyle became ruler of the women. When Jason and the
Argonauts ventured to Lemnos, Hysipyle married Jason and restored
heterosexuality to the island. Like the battle of the choruses, the women of
Lemnos battle the men. Also the chorus of women attempts to repel the men of
the chorus with their odors (unfortunately not made putrid enough by Aphrodite).
The similarity between these mythic tribes and the women of Lysistrata
symbolically equates the women with their threatening ancestors. The women
pose a great threat to the men of Athens; the similarity of the women of
Lysistrata to the actual mythological women who defeated men make the
women's threats more potent. It is interesting, however, that in the mythology of
the Amazons and the women of Lemnos the women control their own
governments. For a while this is somewhat true in Lysistrata, but ultimately the
women do not include themselves in the future social and political scheme of
Athens (Lysistrata's wool metaphor), but have merely taken over as a temporary
fix to restore order to the country.
Myrrhine's SeductionPlay's End
The Koryphaios of Men comforts the distraught Kinesias, abandoned by Myrrhine.
In agony, Kinesias departs. A Spartan Herald enters the stage and shrouds his
own erect phallus with his cloak. The Herald asks for the Executive Board and
tells the men he has brought some news. The Commissioner enters the stage and
asks whether the Herald is carrying a concealed weapon (indicating the Herald's
erection). The commissioner throws open the cape of the Herald and exposes the
Herald in full. The Herald explains that things are very bad in Sparta and that the
men are quite desperate for their women. The Commissioner tells the Herald to
go to Sparta and request a Plenipotentiary Commission to conclude an armistice.
The Herald departs.
The Koryphaios of Women tells the Koryphaios of Men that the two should no
longer persist in their frivolous war of the sexes. Although the Koryphaios of Men
cries out for misogyny, the Koryphaios of Women wins his favor by helping him
put his tunic on once again. The Koryphaios of Women also helps the Koryphaios
of Men take an insect out of his eye and the two make amends, sealed with a kiss
from the Koryphaios of Women to the Koryphaios of Men. The Chorus of Old Men
and the Chorus of Old Women also make amends and end their disputes. The two
choruses unite and face the audience in song. The Spartan ambassadors, who
enter from stage right, interrupt the singing. The ambassadors, like the Herald,
also suffer from their erections. The Athenian delegation, also with erections,
enters from the left led by Kinesias.
The gates of the Akropolis open and Lysistrata emerges with her handmaid
Peace. Peace is a beautiful girl and is completely naked. Peace remains out of
sight when Lysistrata first enters the scene. Lysistrata tells the men that they will
come to an agreement soon enough and calls out Peace. The men stare at Peace
who makes the men's stiffness all the more uncomfortable. Lysistrata directs the
Athenians and the Spartans to places opposite each other. Lysistrata announces
that she is a woman with wisdom and condemns the killing of Greek men and
women. As Lysistrata's oration goes on, Kinesias comically remarks that he will
be destroyed if "this is drawn out much longer" (alluding both to the "drawn out"
nature of not only Lysistrata's speech, but also of his elongated phallus).
Lysistrata continues and ignores Kinesias's complaint. Lysistrata reminds the men
that the Spartans have asked for assistance from Athens and that Athens gave it.
Lysistrata tells the men of Athens that they should remember when the Spartans
saved Athens from the "pride of Thessaly." Lysistrata asks what keeps the men
from peace and a Spartan replies that they would end the war if Sparta was given
a strategic location. Pointing to Peace's buttocks, the Spartan tells Lysistrata that
Sparta will take The Promontory of Pylos. Using the maid Peace as a map of
Greece, Kinesias tells the Spartans that he wants certain portions of Greece and
is given the land equivalent of Peace's legs or the "legs of Megara." (The legs of
Megara are the walls that connected Megara with the seaport, Nisaia. The names
of the towns desired by Kinesias are puns on the geography of the female body.)
With some urging from Lysistrata, both parties agree to a truce. The men take off
their cloaks and again expose their throbbing phalluses. Lysistrata further
instructs the men that they must convene with their councils and declare a union
among allies; the delegations of men run off to follow her instructions in full.
The Chorus of Old Men and the Chorus of Old Women sing another verse and go
to the door of the Akropolis. The Commissioner appears, slightly drunk and
carries a torch. Time has apparently passed and the banquet between the
Spartan and Athenian delegations has just finished. The Commissioner tells the
chorus to get back from the doors. Kinesias, also drunk, comes out of the
Akropolis and raves at the wonderful party between the Spartans and the
Athenians. The Commissioner also adds his enthusiastic description of the party.
The Spartans enter onto the stage through the door of the Akropolis, followed by
all of the women. Lysistrata tells the men that they may take their women home
and the men and women of the chorus join together in a joyous song. As the play
concludes there is singing and dancing all around.
Recognizing the performance practices of Ancient Greece is vital to an
understanding of Aristophanes's real purpose in the writing of Lysistrata. The
illusion and sexual tension of an original performance of Lysistrata would have
been undoubtedly influenced by the fact that males played all of the female parts
and that there was only an all-male audience to watch. With this in mind, it
seems that one could view Lysistrata as a chauvinist piece, with men playing at
their idealized woman. However there remain a few earnest arguments for
empowering women in the play.
One such argument is that the shortage of men in Athens necessitated the
empowerment of women. Indeed, in the play there seems an overabundance of
women by comparison to the males. Lauren K. Taafee points out that the
conditions of Athens in 412 and 411 BCE may have actually caused such an
inequality. The Sicilian expedition killed many young and middle-aged men. The
male population was actually reduced by one-third in 411. Thus, Lysistrata
complains about a real problem facing Athens when she complains that there is a
shortage of men because of the war. The shortage of men in the city may have
given the impression that there were too many females in the city, possibly a
threatening force for men and most likely a real influence on Aristophanes's
Another example of sympathy towards women is Lysistrata's argument with the
Commissioner. In the debate between Lysistrata and the Commissioner,
Lysistrata seems the more sensible of the two and it seems reasonable for her to
complain that the Athenian men do not listen to their wives when they obviously
should. Lysistrata herself commands respect throughout the play from both
females and males. Lysistrata is called upon by the males to forge a truce
between the two sides, a show that she has gained great support and respect
from the males of both camps. Unlike the other women, Lysistrata makes
humorous remarks that do not make her seem stupid or frivolous like the other
women. Also in the battles between the choruses, the women come out on top
(so to speak). The Chorus of Women defeats the men in wit and in strength.
Aristophanes seems to argue that, while the women should remain in the home,
women do have a lot to say. Aristophanes communicates this explicitly as
Lysistrata argues that Athens should be treated and handled as a woman would
work with wool.
Nonetheless, part of the joke on women, which may explain Lysistrata's own
masculinity, is the fact that there are no real women on stage. Lysistrata is
played by a man and her masculine proclivities become somewhat apparent in
the wool scene because, for the first time, she describes what the men of Athens
should do, rather than what the women of Athens should do. In this passage, as
Lysistrata completely excludes women as part of the Athenian society, it is clear
that Aristophanes means not to advocate actual political power for women.
Although this is the first time that Lysistrata talks explicitly about what the men
should do, the entire play is really about what the men will dowhat they will do
to get their wives back in bed. It is assumed that after the play the women go
home and return to their domestic duties. Rather, as suggested by MacDowell,
Aristophanes's main theme of Lysistrata is peace. MacDowell believes that
women are not the theme of the play, but merely the crafty ones who figure out
how to restore peace to Athens. The goal of the play is not to empower women,
but to make Sparta and Athens sign a treaty.
The terms of peace are comical themselves, however, with the ease of
agreement and allusions to the various part of a naked woman. Aristophanes
could not hope that his proposals for peace would be taken seriously, but rather
that his connections between the domestic and political spheres would be
recognized. The relationship between Athens and Sparta is not unlike the
relationship between the men and women of the play and the emotions and well
being of the two couplings are inextricably linked and dependent on one another.
By the rules of Lysistrata, a happy home means a happy country and a peaceful
Using Aristophanes' Lysistrata, discuss the notion that comedy arises
from improbable people in probable situations.

Aristophanes' Lysistrata first came to the stage in Athens in 411 BCE. At the time, Athens was two
decades into a war with the people of Sparta and its allies. Given this historical background,
Aristophanes once again brings up the issue of peace between the two city-states.

In Acharnians of 425, Aristophanes' hero Dicaepolis had made a personal peace treaty with the
Spartans. In Peace, which appeared just before the Peace of Nicias in 421, Trygaeus had flown to
heaven on a dung beetle to bring the goddess Peace to the Athenians and Spartans. Now, a decade after
the Peace of Nicias had disintegrated and war and erupted again, Aristophanes proposes a new comic
solution to the war between Athens and Sparta.

In Lysistrata, Aristophanes brings some other unlikely heroes into the peace process: a group of
women led by the title character. Whereas in our modern society, it is not surprising that women have
the right to vote and it is not uncommon to see women as leaders of nations, in ancient Athens, women
could not vote.

Thus, Aristophanes' audience would have been quite surprised to see a group of women attempting to
bring an end to the war. The method that Lysistrata advocates is perhaps even more surprising.
Lysistrata proposes that the women of Greece refuse to have sexual relations with their husbands until
they men make peace. By the end of the play, Lysistrata and her fellow women have compelled the
sex-starved men to make peace. Thus, as is typical in Aristophanes, an unlikely hero resolves a
situation that Aristophanes has taken up in at least two earlier plays.

suggest a new title for Lysistrata that best reflects its theme, then make
an argument for your title based on what you take to be the plays
major idea(s). How does the theme relate to contemporary issues and
life? What is your personal response to the theme?

In the 1960s in America there was a popular anti-war saying that might make a strong alternative title
for Lysistrata: Make Love, Not War.

One of the most significant themes of the play is sex. The women in Lysistrata use sex as a means of
controlling the men in their lives. The women withhold sex from them so long as the men are at war.
The title character, Lysistrata, uses this late in the play as a means of trying to negotiate peace. When
that doesn't work, she gets the men drunk and it is then that they are seduced into calling a truce. If we
think about the new title, Make Love, Not War, one could see how the women are enticing the men to
do just that. The message they are sending to the men is that if they stop the war, they will again be
allowed to make love.

So how does this theme or main idea connect to our world today? The argument could be made that
sex can and is still used by women as a bargaining chip, whether it be to convince men not to go to
war or simply to do something else the woman wants or needs. One other theme of the play is that
men viewed women of the time as powerless, yet the one thing that men did value women for (sex)
was so powerful that without it, the men were powerless. That carnal need has not changed. Men still
desire sex and women can still withhold it from them in order to get their way.

In terms of your personal response to the theme or main idea, you should probably think about the
motivations of Lysistrata and the other women in the play. Why is it they are withholding sex? Is their
cause noble? Is it justified? Keep in mind that the women in this play are the ones left behind during
this war. They are raising the children, they are abandoned for the most part by their husbands and
fathers, and the young women have no young men left to even marry because they are off at war
dying. As a result of their extreme solution to ending the war, critics have often described the women
in this play as strong and brave. You might think about whether or not you agree with this. Consider
how the men in the story are portrayed as you craft your own response to the theme. If you must
connect your response to the world today, the reasons why the women in the play withhold sex will
probably be very different than real-world examples you may find in 2016, so your opinion might be
based on the theme of the play, where you see these connections in the real world, or both. Ultimately,
you will need to consider the motivations of the women in the play (and they were responding to
extreme circumstances) as you think about how women might use this same tactic today.

What would be dramatically interesting to explore in Lysistrata by

Aristophanes? How would one make comedy/tension/impact accessible
for the actors?

Lysistrata is one of the most famous classical Greek comedies, written by Aristophanes and originally
performed in 411 BC in Athens. Lysistrata is often performed, as it provides many roles for women
and is regarded as a hilarious battle between the sexes. In the plot, Lysistrata famously persuades the
women of Greece to withhold sex from their husbands until the men negotiate a peace deal.

There are a few dramatic elements that can be helpful to focus on while in a rehearsal room with
actors. First, the physicality of the play is a big question in a rehearsal room. How do these women
move? How do they attract their husbands, but also reject their sexual advances? This conundrum is a
fun, open-ended dramatic element that a creative cast must tackle when performing this play.
Secondly, can you pull elements from commedia dell'arte? While commedia dell'arte, an Italian art
form, was created long after this play was originally performed, many theater companies
tackle Lysistrata through Italian clowning. This practice is extremely physical and often funny, and so
the acting technique lends itself to modern interpretations of Lysistrata. Finally, how should you
tackle the divided Chorus? This Old Comedy technique is exciting and tricky in Lysistrata. A creative
team will need to figure out how they portray the divided Chorus. Will men play the Old Men and will
women play the Old Women? Will the cast be divided in gender? Will the cast use masks? These are
all questions a team can ask themselves and each other.

Is Lysistrata a play that discusses the war in Greece or gender relations

as they existed in Athens and other Greek states?

I think that Lysistrata has more to say about gender relations than about the war in Greece. The
statements that come out of the play are more about the relationships between men and women than
about the war in Greece. Lysistrata and the Greek women forge an alliance with the women of Sparta.
In doing so, Lysistrata and the others are not "Greek" as much as much as a "woman." The women in
the drama do not see their identities bound by the city- state and its wars. Rather, they seem
themselves as women, first. Women who have been widowed and abandoned by war and women who
see themselves as being able to fundamentally guide matters better than the men who are in the
position of power. The "disobedience" that Lysistrata and the other women display is not one in which
they see themselves as citizens of a city- state. Theirs is one that transcends the political. Rather, they
see themselves as women and the drama seems to make a statement on how gender can be a defining
trait, even in the Classical time period.

The statement on gender relations is more dominant in the drama because men on both sides are seen
as participating in the savagery of war. Women on both sides are tired of what war does. War is seen
as an extension of patriarchy on both sides and something that is repudiated in the women's attitudes.
It is here in which a clear statement on gender relations is offered more than one on the war that
existed between Athens and other Greek city- states. The weaknesses of men, on both sides, is where
women are able to forge solidarity and display power. In this, a gender statement becomes the major
thematic element of the drama over anything else.

Does Aristophanes reinforce the Greek stereotype (women were often

thought of being constantly preoccupied with sex) or does he challenge
it in Lysistrata?
This hilarious and often quite challenging play definitely seeks to debunk this cultural stereotype
about Greek women. Clearly, if Lysistrata is proposing that women bring about peace in the
Pelopennesian War by deliberately refusing their men sex until they achieve peace between Greece
and Sparta, this indicates that they are not so constantly obsessed by sex as the cultural stereotype
would suggest. On the contrary, the women show that they are able to put aside their own sexual urges
to achieve their purpose of forcing their menfolk to do what they want. The play presents women as
being a force to be reckoned with, and this is reinforced through the sense in which the women
reinforce their image as being rather underhand and deceitful in their methods of getting what they
want. Note for example how this is underlined in the following conversation between Lysistrata and

Lysistrata: Calonice, it's more than I can bear,

I am hot all over with blushes for our sex.
Men say we're slippery rogues--

Calonice: And aren't they right?

Women therefore are definitely presented as being forceful and

manipulative, using whatever power they have over men to get what
they want, but Aristophanes definitely challenges the stereotype that
women are constantly obsessed with sex. With men walking around
with erections because they have bDoes Lysistrata by Aristophanes
depend more on verbal or visual humor?
While physical, visual humor is important to Lysistrata, it serves to illustrate
the clever verbal humor. Think of it this way: if you were to watch a
performance of Lysistrata in a completely darkened theater or over a radio as
you may have done in days of old, the humor would still come through. It is true
that the humor might be heightened by the visual aspect, but the humor is not
eliminated when the visual element is missing.
Aristophanes is a master at the word play that is requisite for this kind of
comical verbal satire. The women are excellent on their own in verbal repartee as
is illustrated in the opening volley between Lysistrata and Calonice during which
womens' clothing and cosmetics are likended to and coveted as elements of
warfare in the proposed assault to end the war the womens' husbands are
forever occupied with fighting, much to the womens' unhappiness:
...We women who dwell ...
With gowns of lucid gold and gawdy toilets
Of stately silk and dainty little slippers....

These are the very armaments of the rescue.
No man will lift a lance against another--
Or take a shield--

I'll get a stately gown.

Or unscabbard a sword--

Let me buy a pair of slipper.
[The women] should have turned birds, they should have grown
wings and flown [to meet].
The verbal repartee takes on a different tone and meaning though it remains of
high quality when it occurs between the women and their husbands as is
illustrated by Myrrhine and Ciesias when Myrrhine elicits confirmation of Ciesias'
promise of a peace treaty between the warring factions:
Get up a moment.

I'm up high enough.

Would you like me to perfume you?

By Apollo, no!

By Aphrodite, I'll do it anyway.
been refused sex, it is the men who are shown as sex-crazed, not the women.
Explain how the Bhagavad-Gita and Lysistrata continue to appeal to the
readers today.

Both works stress how individuals can take action even in the most dire of conditions. If both works
resonate with the modern audience, part of the reason why would have to be their affirmation of
human autonomy. Even in contexts where individuals could be rendered silent and without their own
experience being authenticated, both works affirm how individuals can find power and can act to
make their own experiences and those of others better. It is here where their appeal in the modern
reader can be seen.

Aristophanes takes the most dire of conditions as the setting for his drama. The Peloponnesian War
had taken a significant toll on the women of Athens. Sending their sons, husbands, and prospective
suitors off to war only to come back dead or not even return is a context in which the silencing of
voices could be the reality that the women have to confront. Yet, Lysistrata affirms that the women can
have a voice. They can actively impact their own being if they show solidarity with one another and
remain committed to the goal of ending the war. Lysistrata's plan is one in which she seeks to broaden
her connection with other women in order to find a voice. This is only possible through collective
recognition. Lysistrata does not assume a tragic condition in her own being, and in the being of other
women. The comic element in Aristophanes' work is that individuals can act in a manner where their
own suffering is alleviated. Individual action can result in positively impacting one's place in the
world and the social order in which one lives. Lysistrata's ideas about freedom and happiness exist in
solidarity and collective empowerment. In this, there is much relevance to the modern setting with an
appeal to the modern reader in showing that individuals can have power even in conditions that might
not necessarily allow it.

The ability to keep an eye on the maintenance of the social order while taking action is at the heart of
the Bhagavad- Gita. Arjuna is placed in a position where he surveys the battlefield and is poised
against members of his own family and people he has known his entire life. He looks dejectedly at
Lord Krishna and tells him that he cannot continue and he is forlorn. It is here the Lord sings "the
divine song" to his disciple. Lord Krishna reveals the nature of truth to Arjuna. The essence of this is
that he must take action in the name of collective identity. He has power, and that power is to do his
duty in the name of Lord Krishna and the dharmic duty that is his to perform. In being able to take
action in the name of something larger, Lord Krishna educates Arjuna that his forlorn condition is
actually the work of an illusion. It does not account for the idea that when individuals see themselves
as part of a larger entity, greater power can emerge as individual voice is authenticated. Lord
Krishna's words speak such truth: "Giving up all vexations and paths, do thou take refuge unto Me. I
will save you from all dangers." Arjuna's realization of how he is to take action while keeping an eye
on the maintenance of the social order is where power is evident. Like Aristophanes' idea in
Lysistrata, individuals are not forlorn, even in conditions when they might see themselves as atomized
and alienated. In this setting, the Bhagavad- Gita appeals to readers today.

Explain how the women are portrayed in Lysistrata.

The original question had to be edited. Through his work, Aristophanes shows how women display a
sense of unity with amongst one another. The solidarity that women show in the work is seen as a part
of their character. Whereas men are shown to be driven by splitting the bonds of connection that exist
between them, women are shown to cherish connection and uphold the connective threads that exist
between one another. Lysistrata and the Greek women display one aspect of this. Yet, when Lysistrata
is able to secure Lampito's help in doing the same with the Spartan women, it brings out the solidarity
that is intrinsic to the portrayal of women in the drama. The Greek and Spartan women display
solidarity with their own people and with one another. The idea of consensus in consciousness is what
the drama defines as what it means to be a woman.

I think that a fundamental sharpness of mind is included in how women are portrayed in the drama.
The women being able to construct a plan to withhold sex from men, as well as asserting control over
financial affairs of the state are two conditions that Aristophanes displays, showing an intelligence
within women. This same sharpness of mind is what drives the women to seek a plan to stop the
impact of the war, in the first place. Women are shown to be critical thinkers who go outside what is
into what can be, a quality shared by individual women in the drama so as to see it as how the drama
portrays women, in general.

Describe the devastation of the war in Lysistrata that motivates the

women to withhold sex.
It is important to keep in mind that Lysistrata's desire for mobilization to change
the condition in Athens is reflective of the destruction in the Peloponnesian War.
This is seen in different aspects, reflective of how the war has created a
condition where there is little good in Athens. The Chorus being made up of old
men because the young ones have died in the war is one such aspect of this.
The absence of husbands and sons or fathers for a period of about two decades
is reflective of the war's destruction and the root cause as to why the war needs
to stop in the women's eyes. For the women, the emotional heartache of
separation or widowhood is evident. Yet, there is a practical struggle also present
as women who are behind have to deal with property issues, managing the
affairs of the home, as well as domestic duties. For women, the war has
relegated them to emotional isolation as well as dual responsibilities. Younger
women waiting to be married have been relegated to the single life because the
duration of the war has moved them past the age of marriage. The waging of the
war on the part of men has abandoned the lives of women, causing their
predicament to be even more strenuous. Women's voices were never taken into
account in this, and thus, Lysistrata's actions become the need to right that
which is wrong. This is the devastation of the war that has been wrought upon
the women and thus calling out for change.
What serious issues are being explored beneath the comic surface of
The original question had to be edited down. Beneath the comedy of
Aristophanes' work is a significant and serious issue about the nature of modern
warfare. War is shown to be a destructive force, something that endangers all
human beings. Men and women are shown to be impacted through war.
Lysistrata's plan is not meant to ensnare men, as much as it meant to stop war.
The Peloponnesian War has ravaged Athens. It has not spared anyone and the
plan to stop the war is what motivates the women. The fundamental issue that
drives the plot of the drama is how to stop the bloodshed and the destruction
that is so intrinsic to war. War is shown to be socially destructive. Nothing of
value is shown to be gained by it. Women are challenged by time apart from
their men, who are already impacted by the war that they wage. The serious
issue about how war can be stopped is where the comedy is most effective. The
Athenian desire for conquest and for victory is offset by how the women
understand the condition of war that has left them without their men, subject to
living lives alone. At the same time, the need to stop war becomes one of the
fundamental elements in the narrative, helping to convey something very
profound through its comedic approach.
How did Aristophanes exploit gender stereotypes in Lysistrata?
There are several definitions of "exploit," most of them having good denotations
and good connotations. I'm assuming though that you mean "exploit" in its
negative meaning since you couple it with "gender stereotypes."
exploit: to use selfishly for one's own ends. To make use of selfishly or
unethically. [T]o take advantage of, esp unethically or unjustly for one's own
ends. (Random House, American Heritage, and Collins Dictionaries)
stereotype: A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion,
or image. Sociology--a simplified and standardized conception or image
(American Heritage and Random House Dictionaries)
"Stereotype" has negative denotation and connotation. It was originated,
therefore unknown until, between 1790 and 1800.
Consequently, to suggest that Aristophanes exploited gender stereotypes in any
way is without foundation. In ancient Greece, people were seen as having specific
functions to perform. To elaborate, Robin Lane Fox, in Pagans and Christians,
makes it clear that gender roles in ancient Greece were far greater than
stereotypically believed. He presents clear evidence that women had significant
power as benefactresses and city planners.
It is a universal fallacy that because works like the comedies of Aristophanes
discuss certain social or ethical problems, they are inspired by them. (Jack
Lindsay, Forward, Lysistrata)
The question you are really asking is: What gender stereotypes can we recognize
from our own cultural orientation as being present in Aristophanes Lysistrata,
recognizing that Aristophanes' perspective would not have concurred with ours
and that we don't even yet have an adequate picture of ancient Greek society?
In the opening of the drama, we might perceive a gender stereotype in the very
premise of the play: the men have been at war for twenty years and the women
at home keeping the home fires burning (and the city running). The conflict of the
play, which is embedded in a plot devised by Lysistrata, the main character, may
also be perceived as a stereotype: the women choose not to do what the men
demand of them to do causing a social battle divided along gender lines of he
against she. Lysistrata's plan itself might be seen as representing gender
stereotypes although the plan is meant to sabotage and reverse the gender
stereotype: women intend to withhold sexual favors. This anti-gender stereotype
plan has a specific cultural objective: sexual activity will be withheld until the
ongoing twenty year war is brought to a permanent end.
Another example of what might be perceived as gender stereotypes is the
occupations the women protest a need to return to with some urgency. One must
go home to tend her "Melisian wool" to save it from moths; another, her
unstripped flax, and she must "flay it properly"; another has an urgent pregnancy
that she is on the verge of delivering (it is miraculous in that it sprang up in one
day and turns out to be a helmet in disguise).
I must get home. I've some Milesian wool
Packed wasting away, and moths are pushing through it.

Fine moths indeed, I know. Get back within.

By the Goddesses, I'll return instantly.
I only want to stretch it on my bed.

You shall stretch nothing and go nowhere either.

Must I never use my wool then?

If needs be.

How unfortunate I am! O my poor flax!
It's left at home unstript.

So here's another
That wishes to go home and strip her flax.
Inside again!
I'll drop it any minute.

Yesterday you weren't with child.

But I am today.
O let me find a midwife, Lysistrata.
O quickly!

it's Athene's sacred helm,
And you said you were with child.

And so I am.

Then why the helm?

[As] a laying-nest in which to drop the child.

More pretexts! You can't hide your clear intent
In Lysistrata, examine how women could be seen as portrayed as
objects rather than human?
I think that the reason for editing the question was that I am not sure anything in
Aristophanes' work is so clear cut. On one hand, the women are shown to be in
the position of power over the men. This becomes one of the driving forces of
the drama. The fact that the women are in power and are shown to have power
makes it challenging to see them demonstratively shown to be objects. Yet, if
one were to make a case for the women to be shown as objects, it would be
shown in the idea that women are only seen as sexual objects. Lysistrata's plan
is rooted in the idea that if women withhold sex from men, the men will
capitulate and acquiesce. It is not rooted in the idea that men will suffer from the
absence of women companionship or in the fact that men will feel lessened by
the spiritual experience of being denied their mates. Women are objectified in
their singular association with sex. Little else seems to be defined by the element
of being a woman other than sex. It might be here where a potential case can be
made for women to be seen as objects. Even if they are in the position of power
regarding it, their being is reduced to one of sex. In this, they can be seen as
being objectified.
Examine the validity of gender stereotypes that you observed in the
The original question had to be edited down. Valid or not, one of the most
resounding stereotypes to emerge from the drama is how men are viewed as
fairly singular one dimensional in their attitude towards sex. Lysistrata is
successful in her movement because she predicates it upon how the withholding
of sex to men will drive them to become mere pawns. This can be seen as a
stereotype because it reduces the complexity of a human being to one element.
In this case, that element is sexual gratification. Lysistrata's analysis makes the
argument that if sex is denied from men, all else will fall into place. It does not
take into account that men, like women, can be complex and possess primary
motivations that exist outside the realm of sexual desire and appropriation. This
reduces men to a singular construction. At the same time, I think that an
argument could be made that the women in the drama are stereotyped to
embrace a world without war. While the depiction might be valid, I sense it to be
a stereotype in that it depicts women as wanting to avoid war at all costs. In
these conditions, stereotypes enables the drama to advance, one that displays
the genders in reductive capacities.

How does Aristophanes' Lysistrata subvert the private

and public distinction?
It can be argued that

Aristophanes' Lysistrata subverts the public and private distinction in the manner that the sexual,
which is generally considered private, is set forth as a way of affecting public policy. Consider the

Calonice: My dear Lysistrata, just what is this matter you've summoned us women to consider. What's
up? Something big?

This sets up what functions as a parody of what would be, among men, a discussion of political news
or other important public issues. Here, the protest, as it were, mingles sexual innuendo and a
discussion of sexual practice and use of sexuality as politically manipulative with the quite serious
public issue of the Peloponnesian wars, making the important point that the war affected many
individuals in the polis who would not normally be considered part of the political classes or public
per se, such as women, slaves, and metics.

In what ways does Aristophanes' Lysistrata undermine the notions of

masculinity, femininity, and heroism defined by earlier Greek authors?
Aristophanes Lysistrata, like many of his other plays, exists in the realm of the
fantastic. Just like his farmer flying to Olympus on a dung beetle or talking birds,
the women in the play are not meant as realistic characters, nor is this meant as
a feminist drama. It is not intended as a challenge to female gender roles, but
rather a suggestion that the males of the Greek city are failing so badly in their
civic duties by pursuing senseless wars, that even mere women need to
intervene. It also suggests that heroism does not consist of pursuing war at all
costs, but can consist of refraining from them. Thus gender roles are not really
being undermined in the play except in so far as Aristophanes is suggesting that
war is not a necessary attribute of masculinity.
What is the historical context of Aristophanes' Lysistrata? How does it
effect the drama?
Aristophanes' comedy Lysistrata really had nothing to do with feminism. It was
staged for an all male audience, with all the roles (including those of the women)
played by men. The premise, like that of most Aristophanic comedy, was meant
as funny and fantastical, rather like the kingdom of the birds or the farmer flying
to Olympus on a huge dung beetle, rather than a serious consideration of gender.
The main historical context was the Peloponnesian War, which had been going on
for 20 years and devastating the lives of ordinary people in Athens and Sparta.
The play is a strong anti-war statement, showing that the effects of war were so
pervasive that even women, who in Athens tended to be very isolated from
political affairs, were still be affected by it.
Outline and discuss how a modern production of Lysistrata might be
relevant to todays audience. What contemporary issues might connect
this ancient Greek comedy to you or me? Include a short discussion of
why the issues in Lysistrata are better heard through comedy.
Although Aristophanes Lysistrata was not intended as a feminist play, it was
intended as an anti-war play. The main situation is one in which the
disempowered women, who as wives and mothers, objected to the war, used the
power of withholding sexual favours as a way to make the male politicians stop
the fighting. Although this situation doesnt have an immediate parallel in the
contemporary United States, with our gender equality, it could be staged in a
contemporary middle eastern setting, in which there are many women in
positions similar to the ones they had in ancient Greece, and many conflicts,
internal and external, being pursued by male leaders without necessarily the
approval of the women citizens.
There are several reasons why some people are interested in the play. Those
reasons have to do mainly with themes and humour.
First, it is an anti-war play, that despite its comic surface, makes significant
points about the effects of foreign wars on the general public. People are still
affected by such wars.
Second, feminist critics are interested in its portrayal of the role of women in
politics, and how they can partake of some forms of political power even while
Thirdly, the sexual and political humour are extremely funny.
Discuss the play's duality both as ''physical, bawdy, sex comedy'
entertainment -AND- 'political theatre' with an important message? How
do these work together? Any examples of present day plays/movies
using similar tactics?
In Lysistrata, as in many of Aristophanes plays, a serious political point is made
entertaining by obscene physical comedy. In part, the dialogue, especially the
parabasis, introduces the ideas of the play, and the ithyphallic costumes and
physical stage business contribute much to the comic effect. Aristophanes use of
verbal humour, including obscene puns and plays on the names of politicians
(especially Cleon, whom he detested) often contribute to the political effect,
criticizing ideas or policies by making them appear absurd. Many shows like
Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show continue this tradition of political
Describe the power that Lysistrata held over the other women around

This is a great question. Let me offer some background information. Aristophanes wrote many
comedies in Athens and eleven of them survive today. Lysistrata is one of the most famous and it deals
with the topic of the Peloponnesian War. The women are sick and tired of the protracted war. So, they
concoct a plan to withhold any sexual relations until the war is over.

Now as for how she gets the women together, Aristophanes does not say. All we can say is that her
friend, Calonice, was instrumental in helping her. In light of this, we can say that word of mouth was
probably the way, which was the normal mode of communication in any ancient city during
Aristophanes' time. We need to keep in mind that these cities were not enormous. When the women
get together they all make an oath around a wine bowl and put their plan into practice.

What is Aristophanes trying to say about the importance of marriage to

the state when he shows the men weakened by a lack of marital
First, we need to remember that Lysistrata is a comedy and that unsatisfied male sexual desire was a
typical element of Greek comedy. Typical comic actor costumes include a large erect phallus made of
red leather, and many of the jokes in Aristophanes and the equally humorous satyr plays make
reference to the phallus; some of the jokes were extremely visual in nature, and at times difficult to
assess based simply on the texts which have been transmitted without stage directions.

Greek marriage, of which our most detailed account may be found in Xenophon's Oeconomicus,
normally involved an adult (approximately 30) man taking a wife just at the beginning of her
reproductive age (12-14) for the purpose of trying to father living male offspring in an era of high
infant mortality. Greek society was radically homosocial -- men socialized with other men, and
women with other women. They often even attended separate religious rituals.

There is no evidence that Aristophanes was unconventional in his notions of women; a proto-feminist
reading of the play is probably anachronistic. The importance of marriage was primarily fathering sons
to sustain population, in a era in which the Peloponnesian wars were decimating the Athenian male
population. Aristophanes' plays consistently oppose the Peloponnesian wars, and like his "Peace", the
point of this play is to suggest that Athenians, rather than prosecuting foreign wars, should focus more
on cultivating their estates. Marriage was a critical part of household economics, with women
providing heirs and also engaging in most of the clothing production of the estate.

Lysistrata and her friends are important vehicles for this argument because Aristophanes is making the
point that the Peloponnesian wars are so obviously harming Athens, that even women can see their
pointlessness. The sexual strike, of course, is intended mainly for its comic effect.

How is female sexuality exploited in Aristophanes' "Lysistrata?"

Concerning your question about Lysistrata, there is plenty of female sexuality in
the play, but I'm not sure "exploited" is the best word to explain how it is used.
Exploited has a connotation that suggests someone or something is being used.
The women in the play use their sexuality to protest the war themselves. They
are not really being used by anyone.
The enotes Study Guide on the play says the following:
It is sex that permits the women to seize control. The men are held captive to
their carnal desires and are unable to deal with the women as they had
previously. Sex is both the womens weapon and their prize to withhold. Sex gives
the women a power they would not ordinarily hold; and with the simple banding
together of the women, the desire for sex leads the men to capitulate. One of the
women, Myrrhine, uses her sexuality to tease her husband, and to assert her
power over him. Near the end of the play, as Lysistrata tries to negotiate a
peace, she uses sex to motivate the men, by parading a nude representation of
reconciliation in front of the sex-deprived males. When this maneuver fails to
work, Lysistrata plies the men with wine, in a ironic reversal of the traditional
male effort to seduce a woman. When the men begin drinking they become even
more desperate for sex, and finally agree to a truce.
If you could establish with evidence that the other women do not really feel about
the issue as Lysistrata does, you could make an argument that they are exploited
by her. Otherwise, the only other possibility of exploitation is that the writer,
Aristophanes, exploits female sexuality to write his play. But that seems like a
weak argument.
As the passage from the Study Guide above mentions, sex is the women's
weapon. They may be doing some exploiting, but they are not exploited.
What are the themes in Lysistrata?
Another theme is war or violence. The women rebel against the men and get
together (from both sides) to plan how to end the war their men are fighting. The
women withhold sex on both sides of the war in order to end the fighting. So,
ultimately, the men are fighting against one another and the women are uniting
to fight against the men to end the war/violence. Very ironic, and extremely
One of the themes in Lysistrata is obedience. The women are no longer willing to be subservient
to the men. This shocks the men when the women are vocal about their discontent, and willing to fight
about it if necessary. They are giving up the usual, traditional roles of wife and mother to fight.

Another theme is that of sex. The women are using sex as a weapon to fight the men. They band
together and withhold sex in an attempt to weaken the men and have them give in. It is one of the few
true weapons that these women have in their arsenal.