Lysistrata Essay, Research Paper
Aristophanes was a comedy poet in the fourth century B.C.
during the time of the Peloponnesian War. Aristophanes’ writing style in this play seems to be cynical, and suggesting the far-out. This is a kind of absurd and funny Aristophanes’ comedy in which the main characters, the heroes of the story, are women. And these are very smart women.
This is a comedy showing a powerfully women named Lysistrata, who is the lead character of the play. It portrays Athenian Lysistrata and the women of Athens
teaming up with the women of Sparta to force their husbands to end the
To make the men agree to a peace treaty, the women seized the
Stronghold, where Athens’ money reserves are kept, and prevented the
men from spending the rest of it on the war. After that, they basically fend off an
attack on the money stronghold by the old men who stayed back in Athens
while the young studly men are out on campaign. So when their husbands return
from battle, the women refuse to have sex with them. This sex strike,
which is portrayed in a series of (poorly) exaggerated and blatant sexual
innuendoes, finally convinces the men of Athens and Sparta to agree to a
The Lysistrata shows the women of Athena acting bravely and even aggressively against
men who seem insistent on ruining the city-state by prolonging what the women feel is a
pointless war and excessively expending reserves stored in the
Acropolis. All of this in turn added to the breakdown of their family life
by staying away from home for long stretches while on military
campaign. In between fighting the men would come home when they could, sexually relieve themselves, and then leave again to continue a senseless war.
This plays in showing how the women challenge the masculine role model to preserve the
traditional way of life of the community. Somehow when the women become
challenged themselves, they take on the masculine characteristics and
attitudes and defeat the men physically, mentally but most of all
strategically. They prove that neither side benefits from it, just that in the end one side loses more than the other side.
It’s easy to see why fourth century B.C. Athenian women would get tired
of their men leaving. Most Athenian women married in their teens and
never had to be on their own, and probably wouldn’t know what to do if
they did land on their own. They relied on the men for support in all aspects of the word. When the men left for war, some wouldn t return because of death or being captured as prisoners. So now a widow finds herself on her own, probably with children, and no one to take care of her or her children. If she was lucky she might be able to enter her male children as a journeyman/ward to a wealthy family (who either have no male children,
or most likely lost their son(s) in one of the wars) that will raise
him. The widow has few prospects. The lucky ones, if pretty, young and attractive enough might be able to remarry. But her lot isn’t too promising. She maybe could have the old men left back in town or hope someone would want a widow. Most men probably wouldn t when you could get a fresh new one.
According to Lysistrata it is easier to solving world peace, politics stop wars and fighting than the women’s work of sorting out
wool. If you just stop war, it’s settled, but with wool all tangles
must be physically labored out by hand. She is showing that women’s work is never done.
Lysistrata insists that women have the intelligence and judgment to
make political decisions. She came by her knowledge, she says, in the
“I am a woman, and, yes, I have brains. And I’m not badly off for
judgment. Nor has my education been bad, coming as it has from my
listening often to the conversations of my father and the elders among
Lysistrata was educated in the typical style, by learning from
older men. Her old-fashioned training and good sense is what really allowed her to see
what was needed to be done to protect the community. Like the heroines of
tragedy, Lysistrata wants to put things back to the way they were. For her own physical need as well. To do that, however, she has to become a sort of revolutionary using sex as her weapon. And what woman wanted to give up sex?
Ending the war would be so easy that even women could do it.
Aristophanes is telling Athenian men, and Athenians should concern
themselves with preserving the old ways, lest they be lost.
Viewing this play through the eyes of a woman mocks man’s preference
for fighting. What started this was Lysistrata, feminist champion over war
through peace. The idea of role reversal was as funny to the Athenians
as a black President is to most Americans. In that time culture was such that
each gender had very defined roles, and there really wasn’t any room for
leeway and everyone knew that and to buck that system was unheard of.
Women were property. Something beautiful to own, to gaze upon, to
fulfill your sexual needs and desires and to bear and raise your
children in the appropriate cultural aspect. Except for sex and the
family element, women really didn t have a say in any social or political ideals.
To even consider putting a woman into any position where she would be
required to think, or to make decisions outside of the home was
laughable. This was indeed a man s man world. This is the basis of their humor. Role reversal was true humor because to imagine a one-dimensional woman in a multifaceted role was just insane. It s just like in America, yes a black man could become President, but do you think that would really happen? Hell would freeze over twice.
Whether a Lysistrata could have existed is really pointless. The point is
that it never would have happened. In the opening scenes of the play Lysistrata says, “I’m furious with women and womankind. Don’t all of our husbands say we are not to be
relied upon Don’t they think we are such clever villains?” The women
don’t like the fact that the only power women have had over men from the
dawn of time (and until the end of time) is to withhold sex. It s like all woman are basically just here for man s need and his beckon. That is their destiny, their fate, to please men, at all costs.
We see this illustrated at the start of Act Two. Holding-out
started to become a serious internal conflict. The women started to
mutiny. They started making up all sorts of reasons and excuses to
leave the Acropolis. All through the play there is a heavy sexual
connotation, but here the excuses are very unbelievable.
The underlining notion of returning home is also not specifically
because of their “sex-starvation,” but from the burden of guilt for
being away from their family, their chores and their domestic
responsibilities. Athenian women are after all not just defying their husbands
but ultimately the whole Greek culture of the times in which they
lived. They had a place, and status quo demanded they assume it. Does history really repeat itself? Even in our modern times of today women still are seen as unequal, but in a modern stealth way. Basically, War is a man business.