Lysistrata Study Guide
I have had the opportunity to explore the relationship between faithfulness and . In translating Lysistrata, I have attempted to preserve the literal meaning of You've used up all your words, O Magistrate of the land—. Weary of the conflict, an Athens housewife, Lysistrata, invites women from Lysistrata then reveals her plan: The women shall refuse all marital relations After an exchange of harsh words with the magistrate, the women throw water on him. At the same time, another part of Lysistrata's plan (a precautionary measure) Lysistrata restores some order after the fracas, and allows the magistrate to.
Lysistrata is smart and funny, a heroine with good analytical abilities, who is easy to admire. She helps the old women defend the Acropolis, thus controlling the treasury and preventing any more money being spent on war. When it appears that many of the women cannot hold out any longer, Lysistrata finds a prophecy that convinces the women to stick with the plan.
She displays intelligence and the ability to be creative and convincing. When it appears that the peace talks between Athens and Sparta will end without an agreement, Lysistrata devises additional means to convince the men to find a peaceful solution. Magistrate The magistrate attempts to convince the women to return home, threatening them with silly and demeaning punishments.
His attempts to disband the women fail, and his effectual control over the women illustrates how Aristophanes views the ineffectual government. When her husband tries to convince her to leave, Myrrhine denies him sexual favors and teases her husband with what he is missing. Spartan Envoys It is the Spartan envoys who finally agree to a peace. When the men arrive with logs and the intention of burning out the women, they tell the audience that they are shocked that the women they have nourished, and through implication spoiled, have turned on the men.
In short, the women of Athens are no longer obedient to the men of Athens. Moreover, the women are willing to trade insults and even to fight, if necessary.
This behavior contradicts the expected demeanor of the women. The magistrate, who represents the legal and conventional expectations of women, finds that he has no control. The women have abandoned their traditional roles as obedient wives and daughters, and assumed a position of power.
Sex 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 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. The women in this play are depicted as strong and brave.
They willingly stand up to the old men and to the magistrate. They refuse to be intimidated or frightened from their oath. Instead, the women readily defend their choice and the Acropolis.
They understand that a war cannot be fought without money, and that if for some reason the oath to withhold sex fails to work, they will have another tool with which to bargain. War and Peace It is war that has devastated Athens. The chorus is made up of old men because there are no young men left. Those who have not been killed in the war, now in its twentieth year, are off at war. The women remain behind and must manage children and property with little assistance. Young women have no one to wed.
Lysistrata says that when men return from war, even the old ones can find wives. But once their time has passed, young women will never find a husband.
This is one of the injustices of war, the abandonment of the women. The Peloponnesian War provides the background for this comedy, but the subject, the tragedy that this war brought to Athens, illustrates that war victimizes everyone. Authors usually write with an audience in mind. Aristophanes writes for an audience interested in drama as entertainment, but this is also an audience that would expect the playwright to include important lessons about life.
In this case, the lesson is about an effective society and government that allows a war to continue after so many years. This comedy uses satire and humor to suggest to the audience that the men in power have not been effective in dealing with the war.
Character A person in a dramatic work. The actions of each character are what constitute the story. Characters can range from simple stereotypical figures to more complex multifaceted ones. Characters may also be defined by personality traits, such as the rogue or the damsel in distress.
To accomplish this the author provides the character with personality traits that help define who he will be and how he will behave in a given situation.
Characters in the Lysistrata - The Magistrate. by Kyle Hutchens on Prezi
Initially the chorus had an important role in drama, as it does in Lysistrata, but over time its purpose was diminished, and as a result, the chorus became little more than commentary between acts. Modern theatre rarely uses a chorus.
Drama A drama is often defined as any work designed to be presented on the stage. It consists of a story, of actors portraying characters, and of action. Historically, drama has consisted of tragedy, comedy, religious pageant, and spectacle. In modern usage, drama explores serious topics and themes but does not achieve the same level as tragedy. Lysistrata is traditional Greek drama.
Just as drama educates and warns, comedy can provide important lessons for men about how they govern. The laughter of the audience makes comedy a safer forum for criticism of the governing body.
Genre Genres are a way of categorizing literature. Consider the ways in which Lysistrata attacks Athenian society and discuss the effectiveness of ridicule and irony in changing political decisions.
Would such satire be effective in attacking politicians today? Or do modern politicians simply ignore satire? Who do you think demonstrates the stronger position?
Research the war between Sparta and Athens. That is, is the playwright correct in having Lysistrata point out that both Sparta and Athens would be better off uniting to fight a common enemy? It can also include modern forms of literature such as drama novels, or short stories.
Lysistrata - Aristophanes - Ancient Greece - Classical Literature
This term can also refer to types of literature such as mystery, science fictioncomedy, or romance. Lysistrata is a Greek comedy, in this case an Old Comedy, which refers to earthy and humorous sexuality. Farce Much of the action and most of the dialogue in this play is farcical, filled with nonsense and exaggeration. The action of the play is suppose to be divided over a period of five days, with the women organizing and seizing the Acropolis, and the meeting between Athenian and Spartan ambassadors occurring five days later.
Periods of time are never exactly noted, but the time lapse is certainly not long enough to account for the state of misery that the men portray. The emphasis in the play is on their physical discomfort and the obvious signs of that discomfort. The humor is ribald and lewd, with risque references to just what it is that the women are denying the men.
Plot This term refers to the pattern of events. Generally plots have a beginning, a middle, and a conclusion, but they may also sometimes be a series of episodes connected together. Basically, the plot provides the author with the means to explore primary themes. Students are often confused between the two terms; but themes explore ideas, and plots simply relate what happens in a very obvious manner. Thus the plot of Lysistrata is how women decide to withhold sex to force the men to stop the war.
But the theme is how ineffective men have been in bringing an end to a war that has lasted twenty years and which will last another seven years.
Scene Traditionally, a scene is a subdivision of an act and consists of continuous action of a time and place. However, Aristophanes is not using acts, and so the action, is contained in one scene, covering an unspecified period of time, perhaps a few days at most.
Setting The time, place, and culture in which the action of the play takes place is called the setting. The elements of setting may include geographic location, physical or mental environments, prevailing cultural attitudes, or the historical time in which the action takes place. The primary location for Lysistrata is Athens. The action spans a space of several days; five days is suggested in the text. Athens and Sparta had been long-standing enemies, but they had finally negotiated an uneasy peace in B.
When Athens wanted to extend its empire, the uneasy peace was broken, and war erupted. When the war began in B. Instead it was a collection of small, rival city-states, located both on the mainland and on the surrounding islands. The war began after Sparta demanded certain concessions of Athens, and the Athenian leader Pericles convinced the Athenians to refuse, and instead, go to war.
There was a short truce after ten years of fighting, when it appeared that the war was deadlocked between the two city-states; but soon the war resumed. Initially Athens seemed to be winning; in spite of having lost many people to the plague, they were winning some battles and appeared to be stronger than their enemy, Sparta.
Sparta even suggested peace, which Athens rejected. But soon, the war changed, with Sparta in the stronger position. Athens had a stronger navy than Sparta, and the Athenian forces commanded the seas, but when the battle shifted, Sparta emerged as the stronger force.
A major shift in the war occurred when Athens attempted to invade Sicily. This unsuccessful attack led to serious losses at land and at sea. When Lysistrata reminds the audience of the terrible losses that the city has endured, everyone in the audience would have recognized the truth of her words. The chorus in Lysistrata is made up of old men because there are no young men remaining. Lysistrata laments the shortage of men because there are no grooms for the young women who seek husbands.
The war, which has lasted twenty long years, shows no sign of ending, when Aristophanes is staging his play. The war will end in another seven years, but only after the Athenians are starved into surrendering. The end of the war was a major defeat for Athens, one from which it could not recover. A peace agreement was signed in B. In addition to surrendering almost all of their remaining ships, Athens was also forced to tear down the city walls, and adhere to the same foreign policy as Sparta.
The Peloponnesian War was a catastrophe for Athens, leading to the destruction of her empire. The city continued to exist as a center for culture and wealth, but its political strength was never the same. The democracy of Athens is overthrown by extremists, who are in open negotiation with Sparta. These extremists are soon overthrown, and the Athenian navy defeats the Spartan navy a few months later. Greece is a united country at this time, with no city-state attempting to seize control over the country.
The war between Sparta and Athens has continued for twenty years. The Peloponnesian War will end in B.
Greece, which has been dominated by military coups and turmoil with neighboring Turkey since the end of World War IIis no longer considered a dominant military force. Because of this plague, many Athenians ceased to believe in their gods, and much of the population fell into drunkenness, gluttony, and licentiousness.
The effect of this change can be seen in the drama, Lysistrata, in which there is little mention of the gods-as there had been in many earlier Greek dramas.
Medicine has helped to identify the cause of disease, and most modern populations no longer blame the gods for the plague. The annual drama prizes at the Dionysus competition continue to draw the most talented dramatists. The prizes are sought after, and even in the midst of war, the leading dramatists of the period continue to challenge one another for prizes and recognition as the greatest playwright.
Drama competition continues with prizes for film and theatre eagerly sought each spring. Winners of the Best Film at the Academy Awards or the Best Play at the Critic Circle Awards are assured of accolades and monetary rewards that will ease the production of subsequent work. Slavery has long since ended, but Greece is now dealing with severe poverty and a shrinking economic base.
The government of Athens changed, as well. The plague of a few years earlier had decimated the population, killing anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of the people. Within months, extremists would overthrow the democracy of Athens, and engage in open negotiations with Sparta.
Although these extremists would soon be overthrown, their initial success indicates how unstable the atmosphere of Athens was at the time. Athens had only recently suffered a significant and disastrous military loss in the attempted invasion of Sicily.
With the destruction of their navy, the importation of food became a pressing concern for Athens, and serious food shortages and hunger were the result. Aristophanes gives important lines to his heroine, a woman, to point out to the audience just how inept their government had become. Since there are no records of how this play was received, and since Aristophanes won no prize for its writing, it is difficult to reconstruct how the audience reacted to this depiction of women as heroic.
However, it is possible to examine how well Lysistrata has endured by focusing on the play as source material for modern productions. Although Lysistrata was originally produced as musical comedy, most modern productions either eliminate the music or severely reduce its presence. InLysistrata enjoyed a successful and commercially profitable run on the New York stage. Among the reviewers, none were enthusiastic, but most simply found this new production of Lysistrata either dated or offensive.
The festivals during which the plays were presented demanded something more from an audience than that which modern audiences are prepared to give. Since plays were only presented during the festivals, perhaps a couple of times in a year, Greek audiences arrived early and stayed late. Audiences sat on stone benches from sunrise to sunset, and in the large theatre at Dionysus, seventeen thousand, mostly men, sat to listen to the words of Sophocles, Aristophanes, Euripides, Aeschylus, and others.
Metzger Metzger has a Ph. The premise of Lysistrata is easy to understand: The men of Athens have waged war for twenty years, and there appears to be no end to the war, in the foreseeable future. One woman, Lysistrata, decides that if men cannot end the war, women must do so, and so, she calls the women of Athens and a representative of Sparta together to form an alliance.
This alliance of women will use the one bit of power that they possess—their sexuality—to control men. This plotting on behalf of the women is inspired, since men and religion most often criticize women for using their sexuality as a way to maneuver men into abdicating control. In this play, Aristophanes takes this criticism of women and turns a traditionally negative view into a positive depiction of women.
It is worth considering this depiction of women in two ways. But the second, more illuminating examination is to compare the women of Lysistrata to fifth century Athenian women.
It is this last inquiry that demonstrates how little strength Lysistrata and her cohorts really depict in this play. On the surface, Lysistrata appears to endorse women as strong, decisive members of their society.
After all, the Peloponnesian War is in its twentieth year, and men have not been able to bring the carnage to an end.
Indeed, the war has brought unrelenting tragedy to Athens. In the previous twenty years, Athenians have endured a devastating plague, the depletion of their treasury, and a humiliating and tragic loss in the attempted invasion of Sicily.
Their navy, once a source of great pride and strength, has been destroyed. To add to the overall feelings of despondency, the citizens of Athens are virtually prisoners in their city, forced to witness from within their walls how badly the war has been going.
The author never suggests that it is men who have failed to end the war. But in placing the potential for resolving the conflict in the hands of women, he does imply that it is men who are responsible for the general feeling of disappointment that all the people are feeling.
The implication is clear: But although Aristophanes fails to condemn men, women are also left without any genuine endorsement. Moreover, men frequently attack the women, painting them as deceptive lineslustful linesand without merit lines Actually, there is little said of women, either by women or by men, that is complimentary.
Virgina Woolf observed in that women in fiction have an authority and voice that they lacked in real life. Thesmophoriazusae, also by Aristophanes, was produced in B. Like Lysistrata, this play also depicts women as an important force in society. Peace, also by Aristophanes B. Four Plays by Aristophanes: This New American Library paperback is an easy and inexpensive way to become acquainted with this author. Menander, a later Greek playwright, also wrote comedy, including, Samia c.
Menander represents the new Comedy, but only fragments of his plays are available. Thus as Woolf points out, women in literature exist in an imaginary, fictional world, where they are important, but in the real world, women are completely insignificant.
In ancient Greece, women were not in control of their sexuality, and few men would have been willing to abdicate their desires to those of women. In the real Greek world, women were property, purchased through marriage or purchased through prostitution, but always, they were subordinate to men. In an examination of the sexual hierarchy present in 5th-century B. Greek life, Brian Arkin suggests that the way people behave sexually in a culture, is determined by what society finds acceptable.
To put it briefly, women did not deny men sexual favors. But in giving her this weapon, he makes her choices, and those of the women who join her, laughable. Arkin is also concerned, as was Woolf, that women lacked an authentic voice on the stage: Greek men effectively silenced women by speaking for them on those occasions when men chose to address significant words to each other in public, in the drama, and they required the silence of women in public in order to make themselves heard and impersonate without impediment.
Thus Greek women appeared to have an authority that they lacked in their own lives. In a sense, they were denied existence in their society twice, once by the cultural and societal rules that made males dominant, and once by the theatre, that usurped their lives, so that the playwright might give voice to his own agenda. On stage, Lysistrata might enter the world of men and conquer that world, but this could not ever happen in reality, as Arkin mentions. Women might grow tired of the deaths of their men, but they would never publicly protest the war.
There was only one forum available to women, where they might publicly comment on the war, and that was at the graves of their husbands, sons, and brothers. Women were expected to grieve properly, both as a sign of love and obedience to the men in their lives, but also, as a signal that they supported their society, and by extension, their government. This determination of proper grieving was so important, that the Athenian general, Pericles, spoke of this obligation at the first of the public funerals held after the Peloponnesian War began in B.
The historian, Thucydides, reported that Pericles told the women: If I must recall something about the excellence of those women who will now be widows, I will point out everything with brief advice. Great is the glory for you not to become worse than your innate nature, and hers is the great reputation whose fame, whether for excellence or blame, is spread among the males.
Women in ancient Greece had a prescribed formula for mourning, which required that women give voice to their anguish.
Women may be opposed to the war, but they could not voice that opposition, nor could they choose to protest silently. Her lament at all this death is the only recourse open to her. In expressing her grief, Lysistrata does come closest to depicting the real Greek woman of 5th-century B.
Metzger, in an essay for Drama For Students, Gale, Michael Rex Michael Rex has a Ph. Without argument, Lysistrata is a play about sex. However, the attitudes of the translators often get mixed up in how the play expresses the sexuality of the title character.
As an image of a traditional Greek woman, Lysistrata would not have behaved in the manner that she did because, according to history and respectable male philosophers, respectable Greek women did not engage in sexual activity. The play, while written by a man, with all male actors although the musicians and choruses included womenand performed for a mostly male audience, was written for the yearly festival of Demeter, the Greek Goddess of agriculture, whose rites and religious services, especially those performed by women, are under explored and rather hazy.
What we have left is the play. In the last twelve years, two major new translations of Lysistrata have reintroduced the comedy to college and community theaters as well as classrooms. Nicholas Rudall published his translation in and Alan Sommerstein published his in Both translators claim to be correcting a popular translation from the s, the Donald Sutherland translation of Sutherland suggests that comedy is very immediate and does not translate well over cultures.
The use of proper names and the overwhelming local references that made the play funny to its first audiences gets lost on modern audiences even with large numbers of footnotes. For this reason, Sutherland suggests that power, sex, and war become much more important as the carriers of the comedy.
Sutherland also tries to shift the focus of the comedy from the sexual to the social by giving the Spartans an American Southern accent and the Athenians a more Mid-Western speech pattern. In terms of sex, Sutherland seems reluctant to mention the idea at all.
Lysistrata could as easily be talking about cooking or cleaning house.
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 themthey quickly overcome their differences and retire to the Acropolis for celebrations, songs and dancing.
The oligarchic revolution in Athens, which proved briefly successful that same year, was more political fall-out from the Sicilian disaster was. 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 womenin 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: 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.