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Untitled Essay Research Paper By April GibbsLysistrata

Untitled Essay, Research Paper

By: April Gibbs

Lysistrata by Aristophanes

I think the story of Lysistrata is both interesting and surprising. I did

not expect a story that was written in 411 BC to have much of anything I

could relate to our world today. Aristophanes deals with very real, every

day issues in this story. Although he is actually poking fun at them by making

the situations as absurd as possible, there are still many very real topics

discussed in this work. I think the most prevalent theme is that of gender

roles and how they are viewed. It is obvious that Athenian men think that

the women are inferior and the women seem to have accepted this as their

position in society. Even Aristophanes himself must have thought this to

write such lines as “What could women do that’s clever or distinguished?

We just sit around all dolled up in silk robes, looking pretty in our sheer

gowns and evening slippers.” (468). It seems unlike women of this time to

say such things as Calonice did, but to get across the point of women’s tolerance

of such behaviors it proves very effective.

I was also surprised by the candor of the character’s dialogs. As much as

the women are portrayed inferior and not to have voice on such issues as

war and politics, it seems unlikely they would be prepared to speak so easily

to the men they are subservient to. Aristophanes makes it clear, that even

though the women to not have a voice on these subjects, they are continually

thinking. They listen to their fathers, brothers, and husbands talk and learn

from them. They are able to form their own opinions about the subjects, but

at the same time they never share their thoughts. Lysistrata says, “Formerly

we endured the war for a good long time with our usual restrain, no matter

what you men did. You wouldn’t let us say ‘boo,’ although nothing you did

suited us.” (480). All this time, the women remained silent, afraid to say

anything about their affairs to their own husbands in the privacy of their

own homes. Yet, now they are able to speak freely that of which they have

thought about for so long. Why did these women not speak up before? Aristophanes

portrays the women as strong and pretty independent. If this is true, were

they waiting for someone like Lysistrata to bind them together so they could

speak up? Maybe. It says that even police officers were afraid of them, just

due to their harsh words. It seems to me that if the women were strong enough

to take Acropolis, withhold sex from their husbands, and forcefully voice

their opinions about the war, they would have been doing it, at least to

their husbands, a long time ago.

At the same time, I understand that Aristophanes did not intend this story

to be very realistic. After all, the very basis that women could withhold

sex from the men in order to end a war, and have it work, is absurd in itself.

Aristophanes intended this work to show the uselessness of Greeks fighting

among themselves. It is evident that he was against the war, and this was

his way of showing that opposition and looking for a way to end it, no matter

how ridiculous. On the surface, it would seem that Aristophanes is a great

supporter of women and that he thinks very highly of them by implying that

they could accomplish a feat such as ending a war during that time. But in

reality, I think Aristophanes was just writing the women that way to get

a point across to the men of that day. To think women of all people, especially

at that time in the world, could end a war just implies to those involved

in the war that it is silly and a waste of time.

Some other things I found interesting about this story were the extent to

which the women had to be devious and teasing toward their men, and the ease

at which the men crumbled without their women. The women were almost ruthless

in their teasing and trickery. The oath that they take at the beginning,

“I will remain at home unmated, wearing my sheerest gown and carefully adorned,

that my husband may burn with desire for me.” (472), shows the extent to

which they intend to go to carry out their plan. The scene where Cinesias

comes to visit his wife Myrrhine and she taunts him mercilessly with her

constant running back to get things is quite humorous.

Lysistrata is portrayed as a very strong willed, brave, and aggressive women

in the story. Her convictions against war are resolute and there is no ulterior

motive for thisplan she initiates. For some women, it seems possible that

they are doing this more for the revenge on their husbands for being gone

all the time, than any real objection about the war itself. Lysistrata begins

her proposal to the women by saying, “Tell me: don’t you yearn for the fathers

of your children, who are away at the wars?” (470). Several of them answer

that they do miss their husbands and even when they do come home it is only

for a short time and then they are gone again. Lysistrata is a very smart

women. She knows this is the only reason most of the women would even want

to end the war, to bring their husbands home. But there is never a mention

of Lysistrata’s husband or lover in this story. Her reasons evidently lie

distinctly with stopping this war and she has figured out how to lure others

into helping her. All through the story she has to remind the women of their

pact and the end they are working toward because the others are weak and

would give up. Those women are just as miserable in Acropolis without their

husbands as the husbands are without them. But Lysistrata urges them on.

She uses these women to fight her own battles, and in a very clever way,

without them even knowing it. Aristophanes had to have at least some respect

for women to write a character like Lysistrata, a woman, as smart, as

charismatic, and as complex as she is. Most writers of his day probably

would not have even thought a woman was capable of such a feat as organizing

people, lining them up for the fight, motivating them, and all without the

knowledge of her true intentions. The other women thought she just wanted

the men home, just as they did.

I found this story to be the most interesting and captivating out of any

we read during this semester. I actually enjoyed picking apart the different

levels of the work and trying to figure out Aristophanes motivations behind

them. That usually doesn’t happen with most things I am assigned to read.

I think it came from my expectations of what the story would be like, based

on the Greek background and the time it was written. It was nothing like

what I had thought, and that was certainly a surprise. Lysistrata is

a play showing the strength and impact women can make, the dedication of

one women, her cleverness in order to accomplish a goal, and the senselessness

of war, all rolled up in one entertaining 32 page story. Seems an impossible

feat to include all that plus humor in such a short work, but Aristophanes

does a creative and beautiful job of just that.

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