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Essay/Term paper: Lysistrata

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Humanities

Free essays available online are good but they will not follow the guidelines of your particular writing assignment. If you need a custom term paper on Humanities: Lysistrata, you can hire a professional writer here to write you a high quality authentic essay. While free essays can be traced by Turnitin (plagiarism detection program), our custom written essays will pass any plagiarism test. Our writing service will save you time and grade.

Aristophanes was a "craft" comedy poet in the fourth century B.C.

during the time of the Peloponnesian War. Aristophanes' usual style was

to be too satirical, and suggesting the outlandish. He shows little

mercy when mocking Socrates and his "new-fangled ideas" which were most

likely designed to destroy the cohesiveness of society and lead to

anarchy, in his play The Clouds.

The most absurd and humorous of Aristophanes' comedies are those in

which the main characters, the heroes of the story, are women. Smart


One of the most famous of Aristophanes' comedies depicting powerfully

effectual women is the Lysistrata, named after the female 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

Peloponnesian War.

To make the men agree to a peace treaty, the women seized the

Acropolis, where Athens' financial reserves are kept, and prevented the

men from squandering them further on the war. They then beat back an

attack on their position by the old men who have remained in Athens

while the younger men are out on campaign. When their husbands return

from battle, the women refuse to have sex with them. This sex strike,

which is portrayed in a series of (badly) exaggerated and blatant sexual

innuendoes, finally convinces the men of Athens and Sparta to agree to a

peace treaty.

The Lysistrata shows women acting bravely and even aggressively against

men who seem resolved on ruining the city-state by prolonging a

pointless war and excessively expending reserves stored in the

Acropolis. This in turn added to the destruction of their family life

by staying away from home for long stretches while on military

campaign. The men would come home when they could, sexually relieve

themselves, and then leave again to continue a senseless war.

The women challenge the masculine role model to preserve the

traditional way of life of the community. 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. Proving that neither side benefits from it, just that

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. The men leave for war and some don't return

because of death or whatever reasons, so now a widow finds herself on

her own, probably with children, and no one to take care of her or her

children. 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. If she's young and attractive enough

with the right domestic skills she might be able to remarry. But her

lot isn't too promising. After all, why would you want a widow, when

you could get a "fresh" wife to "break-in" the way you want and start a

family from your own seed?

According to Lysistrata it is easier to untangling multinational

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. 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

traditional way:

"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

the men."

Lysistrata was schooled in the traditional fashion, by learning from

older men. Her old-fashioned training and good sense allowed her to see

what needed to be done to protect the community. Like the heroines of

tragedy, Lysistrata wants to put things back to the way they were. To do

that, however, she has to become a revolutionary.

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.

Aristophanes (Through the eyes of the women) mocks man's inclination

for fighting. His catalyst was Lysistrata, feminist champion over war

through peace. The idea of role reversal was as funny to the Athenians

as the movie Tootsie is to modern America. Their culture was such that

each gender had very defined roles, and there really wasn't any room for


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 any redeeming social values.

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 is the root of their humor. Role reversal was true

humor because to imagine a one-dimensional woman in a multifaceted role

was just insane. The sky would fall first.

Whether a Lysistrata could have existed is really mute. 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. By some

accounts, women seemed little more than walking sperm receptacles. That

is their one-dimensional world, to please men, no more or less.

Again this is 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 as phony as any pick up line in

any modern singles social scene.

Woman #1 I must go home and spread my fleece out onto the bed!

Woman #2 I need to go home, I forgot to strip (my bark from the flax!)

Modern Frat-Boy #1 If I told you that you have a GREAT body, would you

hold it against me?

Modern Frat-Boy #2 Your hair would look so good…on my pillow.

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. They 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.


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