Lysistrata

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Lysistrata
Lysistrata.jpg
Illustration by Aubrey Beardsley, 1896.

Dramatis Personae in ancient comedy depend on scholars' interpretation of textual evidence. This list is based on Alan Sommerstein's 1973 translation.[1]
Written byAristophanes
Chorus
  • Old men
  • Old women
Characters
  • Lysistrata
  • Calonice
  • Myrrhine
  • Lampito
  • Magistrate
  • Cinesias
  • Baby
  • Spartan Herald
  • Spartan Ambassador
  • Athenian Negotiator
  • Two Layabouts
  • Doorkeeper
  • Two Diners
  • Stratyllis
  • Five Young Women
Mute
  • Ismenia
  • Corinthian Woman
  • Reconciliation
  • Four Scythian Policemen
  • Scythian Policewoman
  • Athenian citizens, Spartan envoys, slaves et al.
SettingBefore the Propylaea, or gateway to the Acropolis of Athens, 405 BCE
 
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Lysistrata
Lysistrata.jpg
Illustration by Aubrey Beardsley, 1896.

Dramatis Personae in ancient comedy depend on scholars' interpretation of textual evidence. This list is based on Alan Sommerstein's 1973 translation.[1]
Written byAristophanes
Chorus
  • Old men
  • Old women
Characters
  • Lysistrata
  • Calonice
  • Myrrhine
  • Lampito
  • Magistrate
  • Cinesias
  • Baby
  • Spartan Herald
  • Spartan Ambassador
  • Athenian Negotiator
  • Two Layabouts
  • Doorkeeper
  • Two Diners
  • Stratyllis
  • Five Young Women
Mute
  • Ismenia
  • Corinthian Woman
  • Reconciliation
  • Four Scythian Policemen
  • Scythian Policewoman
  • Athenian citizens, Spartan envoys, slaves et al.
SettingBefore the Propylaea, or gateway to the Acropolis of Athens, 405 BCE

Lysistrata (/lˈsɪstrətə/ or /ˌlɪsəˈstrɑːtə/; Attic Greek: Λυσιστράτη, "Army-disbander") is a comedy by Aristophanes. Originally performed in classical Athens in 411 BC, it is a comic account of one woman's extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War. Lysistrata persuades the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing the men to negotiate peace — a strategy, however, that inflames the battle between the sexes. The play is notable for being an early exposé of sexual relations in a male-dominated society. The dramatic structure represents a shift away from the conventions of Old Comedy, a trend typical of the author's career.[2] It was produced in the same year as Thesmophoriazusae, another play with a focus on gender-based issues, just two years after Athens' catastrophic defeat in the Sicilian Expedition.

Plot[edit]

                 LYSISTRATA:     There are a lot of things about us women     That sadden me, considering how men     See us as rascals.                CALONICE:                         As indeed we are! 

These lines, spoken by Lysistrata and her friend Calonice at the beginning of the play,[3] set the scene for the action that follows. Women, as represented by Calonice, are sly hedonists in need of firm guidance and direction. Lysistrata however is an extraordinary woman with a large sense of individual responsibility. She has convened a meeting of women from various city states in Greece (there is no mention of how she managed this feat) and, very soon after confiding in her friend about her concerns for the female sex, the women begin arriving.

With support from Lampito, the Spartan, Lysistrata persuades the other women to withhold sexual privileges from their menfolk as a means of forcing them to end the interminable Peloponnesian War. The women are very reluctant but the deal is sealed with a solemn oath around a wine bowl, Lysistrata choosing the words and Calonice repeating them on behalf of the other women. It is a long and detailed oath, in which the women abjure all their sexual pleasures, including The Lioness on The Cheese Grater (a sexual position).

Soon after the oath is finished, a cry of triumph is heard from the nearby Acropolis – the old women of Athens have seized control of it at Lysistrata's instigation, since it holds the state treasury, without which the men cannot long continue to fund their war. Lampito goes off to spread the word of revolt and the other women retreat behind the barred gates of the Acropolis to await the men's response.

A Chorus of Old Men arrives, intent on burning down the gate of the Acropolis if the women don't open up. Encumbered with heavy timbers, inconvenienced with smoke and burdened with old age, they are still making preparations to assault the gate when a Chorus of Old Women arrives, bearing pitchers of water. The Old Women complain about the difficulty they had getting the water but they are ready for a fight in defense of their younger comrades. Threats are exchanged, water beats fire and the Old Men are discomfited with a soaking.

The magistrate then arrives with some Scythian archers (the Athenian version of police constables). He reflects on the hysterical nature of women, their devotion to wine, promiscuous sex and exotic cults (such as to Sabazius and Adonis) but above all he blames men for poor supervision of their womenfolk. He has come for silver from the state treasury to buy oars for the fleet and he instructs his Scythians to begin levering open the gate. However,they are quickly overwhelmed by groups of unruly women with such unruly names as σπερμαγοραιολεκιθολαχανοπώλιδες (seed-market-porridge-vegetable-sellers) and σκοροδοπανδοκευτριαρτοπώλιδες (garlic-innkeeping-bread-sellers).[4]

Lysistrata restores order and she allows the magistrate to question her. She explains to him the frustrations women feel at a time of war when the men make stupid decisions that affect everyone, and their wives' opinions are not listened to. She drapes her headdress over him, gives him a basket of wool and tells him that war will be a woman's business from now on. She then explains the pity she feels for young, childless women, ageing at home while the men are away on endless campaigns. When the magistrate points out that men also age, she reminds him that men can marry at any age whereas a woman has only a short time before she is considered too old. She then dresses the magistrate like a corpse for laying out, with a wreath and a fillet, and advises him that he's dead. Outraged at these indignities, he storms off to report the incident to his colleagues, while Lysistrata returns to the Acropolis.

The debate or agon is continued between the Chorus of Old Men and the Chorus of Old Women until Lysistrata returns to the stage with some news — her comrades are desperate for sex and they are beginning to desert on the silliest pretexts (for example, one woman says she has to go home to air her fabrics by spreading them on the bed). After rallying her comrades and restoring their discipline, Lysistrata again returns to the Acropolis to continue waiting for the men's surrender.

A man soon appears, desperate for sex. It is Kinesias, the husband of Myrrhine. Lysistrata instructs her to torture him and Myrrhine then informs Kinesias that she can't have sex with him until he stops the war. He promptly agrees to these terms and the young couple prepares for sex on the spot. Myrrhine fetches a bed, then a mattress, then a pillow, then a blanket, then a flask of oil, exasperating her husband with delays until finally disappointing him completely by locking herself in the Acropolis again. The Chorus of Old Men commiserates with the young man in a plaintive song.

A Spartan herald then appears with a large burden (an erection) scarcely hidden inside his tunic and he requests to see the ruling council to arrange peace talks. The magistrate, now also sporting a prodigious burden, laughs at the herald's embarrassing situation but agrees that peace talks should begin.

They go off to fetch the delegates; and, while they are gone, the Old Women make overtures to the Old Men. The Old Men are content to be comforted and fussed over by the Old Women; and thereupon the two Choruses merge, singing and dancing in unison. Peace talks commence and Lysistrata introduces the Spartan and Athenian delegates to a gorgeous young woman called Reconciliation. The delegates cannot take their eyes off the young woman; and meanwhile, Lysistrata scolds both sides for past errors of judgment. The delegates briefly squabble over the peace terms; but, with 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.

Another choral song follows; and, after a bit of humorous dialogue between drunken dinner guests, the celebrants all return to the stage for a final round of songs, the men and women dancing together.

Historical background[edit]

Some events that are significant for our understanding of the play:

Old Comedy was a highly topical genre and the playwright expected his audience to be familiar with local identities and issues. The following list of identities mentioned in the play gives some indication of the difficulty faced by any producer trying to stage Lysistrata for modern audiences.

Pellene was also the name of a Peloponnesian town resisting Spartan pressure to contribute to naval operations against Athens at this time. It was mentioned earlier in The Birds.[41]

Discussion[edit]

As indicated below (Influence and legacy) modern adaptations of Lysistrata are often feminist and/or pacifist in their aim. The original play was neither feminist nor unreservedly pacifist. Even when they seemed to demonstrate empathy with the female condition, dramatic poets in classical Athens still reinforced sexual stereotyping of women as irrational creatures in need of protection from themselves and from others.[42] Thus Lysistrata accepted the men's conduct of the war out of female respect for male authority[43] until it became obvious that there were no real men in Athens who could bring an end to the destruction and waste of young lives.[44] She must protect women from their own worst instincts before she can accomplish her primary mission to end the war – she has to persuade them to forgo sexual activity, even binding them with an oath, and later she must rally them with an oracle when they show signs of wavering. She is an exceptional woman and by the end of the play she has demonstrated power over men also – even the leaders of Greece are submissive once caught in her magic (iuggi).[45] Her role as an improbable savior of Athens is anticipated in The Knights, where the protagonist is an obscure sausage vendor, Agoracritus. Some points of resemblance:

  1. Lysistrata uses an oracle to manipulate women, Agoracritus uses oracles to manipulate Demos (the people);[46]
  2. Lysistrata presents the Athenian and Spartan envoys with the beautiful Reconciliation (Diallage), Agoracritus presents Demos with the beautiful Treaties (Spondai);[47]
  3. Lysistrata appears to have extraordinary powers (possibly magical powers), Agoracritus emerges as an agent of divine intervention, not only inspired by the gods[48] but also able to be thought of as a god himself.[49]

There are also some parallels between Lysistrata and two other plays written by Aristophanes on a peace theme: The Acharnians and Peace.[50] The allegorical figure Reconciliation, virtually a prostitute in Lysistrata, appears also in The Acharnians and her beauty is celebrated by the Chorus of old Acharnians in a song full of sexual innuendo.[51] In Peace, the goddess Peace is invoked as Lysimache ('She Who Undoes Battle)[52] and her beautiful companion, Sacred Delegation (Theoria), is offered up to the Athenian Boule as a prostitute.[53]

The play is not an attempt to promote universal peace – Lysistrata chides the Athenian and Spartan envoys for allying themselves with barbarians.[54] In fact the play might not even be a plea for an end to the war so much as an imaginative vision of an honourable end to the war at a time when no such ending was possible.[55]

Lysistrata and Old Comedy[edit]

Lysistrata belongs to the middle period of Aristophanes' career when he was beginning to diverge significantly from the conventions of Old Comedy. Such variations from convention include:

Influence and legacy[edit]

Translations[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Aristophanes:Lysistrata, The Acharnians, The Clouds Alan Sommerstein, Penguin Classics 1973, page 37
  2. ^ David Barrett's edition Aristophanes: the Frogs and Other Plays (Penguin Classics 1964) page 13
  3. ^ Lysistrata in 'Aristophanis Comoediae' Tomus II, F.Hall and W.Geldart (eds), Oxford University Press 1907 edition, lines 10–11, Wikisource original Greek [1]
  4. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek [2] lines 457-58
  5. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 507
  6. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 558
  7. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 1094
  8. ^ Lysistrata line 619
  9. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 1153
  10. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 633
  11. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek lines1138-44
  12. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek lines 801-4
  13. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 489-91
  14. ^ Peace lines 395
  15. ^ The Birds line 1556
  16. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek lines 391-93
  17. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 621
  18. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 1092
  19. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 63
  20. ^ Wasps line 1183
  21. ^ Peace line 928
  22. ^ Birds lines 822, 1127, 1295
  23. ^ The Apology, Wikisource English translation section [29]
  24. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 270
  25. ^ Wasps line 1301
  26. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 274
  27. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek lines 1247–61
  28. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 675
  29. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 520
  30. ^ Iliad Book 6, line 492
  31. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 188
  32. ^ Seven Against Thebes lines 42–48
  33. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek lines 283, 368
  34. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 158
  35. ^ Aristophanes:Lysistrata, Acharnians, The Clouds A.Sommerstein, Penguin Classics 1975, page 250
  36. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 361
  37. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 679
  38. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek lines 785–820
  39. ^ Aristophanes: Lysistrata, Acharnians and The Clouds A. Sommerstein, Penguin Classics 1975, pages 251, 252
  40. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek lines 725, 996
  41. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek line 1421
  42. ^ Life and Society in Classical Greece Oswyn Murray in 'The Oxford History of the Classical World', J.Boardman, J.Griffin and O.Murray (eds), Oxford University Press 1986, page 215
  43. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek [3] lines 507-15
  44. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek [4] lines 521-28
  45. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek [5] line 1110
  46. ^ Knights lines 997–1050
  47. ^ Knights line 1389
  48. ^ Knights lines 903, 1023, 1253
  49. ^ Knights lines 1337–38
  50. ^ Aristophanes:Lysistrata, The Acharnians, The Clouds A.Sommerstein, Penguin Classics 1973, page 177
  51. ^ The Acharnians lines 988-99
  52. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek [6] line 992
  53. ^ Peace lines 868–909
  54. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek [7] lines 1128–34
  55. ^ Aristophanes:Lysistrata, The Acharnians, The Clouds A.Sommerstein, Penguin Classics 1973, page 178
  56. ^ The Acharnians, Wikisource [8] lines 557-71
  57. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek [9] lines 1043–71 and 1189–1215
  58. ^ The Orator's Training Quintilian 10.1.65-6, cited in The Birds and Other Plays by Aristophanes David Barrett and Alan Sommersteinn (eds), Penguin Classics 2003, page 15
  59. ^ Lysistrata Wikisource original Greek [10] lines 476–607
  60. ^ Pelling, C. B. R. (2000). Literary texts and the Greek historian. London: Routledge. pp. 213–217. 
  61. ^ Flickorna (1968) at the Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 2008-04-08.
  62. ^ Lysistrata (1976) at the Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 2008-04-08.
  63. ^ Schwartz, Robyn (2003-02-27). "We Can't Make Love if There's War: The Lysistrata Project". Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved 2008-03-08. 
  64. ^ "Lysistrata 100, by Aristophanes". Untitled Theater Company. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  65. ^ "Lysistrata". New York Innovative Theatre Awards. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  66. ^ The Grahic Canon" website: Contributors.
  67. ^ "'Lysistrata in Togo' under 'The World on a Page'". Newsweek. Retrieved 2012-09-10. 
  68. ^ [11]
  69. ^ [12]
  70. ^ [13]
  71. ^ partial text
  72. ^ [14]

External links[edit]