Lysistrata

Aristophanes and His Story of Life

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

In Aristophanes’ play Lysistrata, Lysistrata the main protagonist calls the women of Greece to a meeting to discuss the plan to end the Peloponnesian War. Lysistrata plans to ask the women to refuse to have sex with their husbands until a treaty of peace has been signed. Lysistrata also plans to have the older women of Athens occupy the Acropolis and seize control of the treasury which holds the funds the men need for war. While some of the women have difficulty refusing to have sex, the Greek women pull through and are successful in their plan. Lysistrata helps the Greek and Romans negotiate a peace treaty and the two former enemies celebrate together in celebration. The women of ancient Greece were often seen as submissive and had little to no rights in comparison to their male counterparts. Greek women were unable to vote, own, or inherit land. A women’s main purpose was to produce children and see to the day to day operations of the household. Most of the women could participate in religious festivals but other than that they were deemed to stay in the house. This play was considered atypical for the period in which it was written in. As mentioned above women were only supposed to be seen as reproducers, pleasers to the husband, and to take care of the household. The females in this play are depicted as head strong women who take matters into their own hands, which is considered highly unusual for this time. Women are more likely seen a being submissive and deficient. Aristophanes characterized this play as a comedy. Comedies were considered very important bodies of work from ancient Athens and explored the representation, status and role of women in Ancient Greece.

One of the major themes in this play is women’s activism and male privilege which correlates directly to the topic of transnational feminism and male privilege mentioned in lecture nine. The females in this play were seen as feminists of sorts, going against the male dominated society that they lived in. The women of ancient Greece had almost little to no power, but they did hold power in the ways of sex. According to Katie Wilcox, “the major women in the play are extremely strong-willed individuals who will stop at nothing, even harnessing the power of their own sexuality, in order to promote peace between the city states of Greece” . Aristophanes depicted the salvation of all of Greece as being in the hands of the women. Not only that he portrayed a woman – Lysistrata – as having more intelligence, passion, and courage than most of the men of Greece. Lysistrata brings her feminist voice to the other women of Sparta to also help with ending the war which correlates with what we discussed about feminism being a broader global issue. He also portrayed the men as being incompetent fools when it came to the withdrawal of sex in contrast to the play’s influential women. This draws a parallel to when we talked about male privilege in lecture nine. Male privilege is when privileges are given to men as a class due to their institutional power in relation to women. In ancient Greece the men were seen as the superior beings. When they didn’t get what they thought was rightfully theirs they revolted. For example, in the play the Men’s Chorus brings firewood to smoke the women out of the Acropolis when they realize they are holding the war funds hostage. The women then push back and keep control of the Acropolis. This play is the beginning of a woman’s revolution.

Gender relations also take a bit of a turn during this play. The women-instead of maintaining the household and their children are taking political initiative when it comes to the Peloponnesian War; while the men are becoming sex-crazed creatures desperate for attention. According to Helene Foley, “Lysistrata emphasizes that the women of Greece share in the citizenship of their cities not only through their power to produce heirs and guard the interior domestic space. As in many cultures, they exercise symbolic and ritual power for the city, both in their own public festivals like the Thesmophoria and in state cults involving the entire population”. Lysistrata challenges the concept of Classical Greek female sexuality that sex is something to be desired for both parties and not just for the act of reproducing. Lysistrata uses this sexuality concept as a weapon against the men. She sends the message that men are indeed reliant on women and require their contributions to society to function. This play is very similar to Aristophanes other play Ecclesiazousae. Both plays switch the traditional Greek gender roles and showcase women’s power both politically and sexually as they both have very strong female protaganists. Ecclesiazousae is very progressive in its thoughts of gender equality and a fair society. According to Helene Foley, “In the Ecclesiazusae, then, women do, as they do so rarely in tragedy, continue to represent the oikos as they make their symbolic intrusion into the political sphere. “This is very similar to Lysistrata in the way that women forcefully push themselves into the political realm of society to help benefit the community.

In conclusion, Lysistrata is a great example of an ancient Greek play with a theme of women’s rights. It also incorporates some of the major themes of our module such as male privilege and feminism in a global society. Lysistrata took a twist on the classical Greek gender roles in ancient Greece displaying that women can be influential in the political aspect of the society. This play expresses women as being real people with real thoughts and not just as mindless pawns in society.

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Aristophanes’ Nature of Humor in Theatrical Comedy Lysistrata

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

As a form of language which is succinct and easily conveyed, comedy is a fundamental manner of expression, whether through words or through action. Lysistrata, a theatrical comedy by the Athenian playwright Aristophanes, provides a starting place from which to investigate the nature of humor. When applied to the broad context of rhetoric, humor possesses a transcendent power over other rhetorical forms by virtue of its heightened ability to actively influence the way in which an audience perceives people and ideas. Humor presents itself as both fulfilling and manipulative and is an indispensable tool of discourse that can serve the interests of all people.

Humor, as it exists in Lysistrata and from a modern perspective, can be defined as a visual or verbal expression that is designed with the intent of inciting laughter. Whether it is channeled through a single orator or through many as in a theatrical comedy, humor operates on its audience in an insistent manner—we have little control over the initial reaction to something we find very funny. The presence of laughter among an audience, however, cannot speak to the presence of humor; a joke or action may make us laugh, but nothing directly compels us to find it humorous or not. Aside from it being an indication of amusement, laughter may be a reaction to an entirely different influence, such as the desire for social acceptance or to ease personal tension or embarrassment. While laughter is largely an instantaneous and unconscious reaction to how humor is constructed and presented, assessing whether something is humorous or not is an action that is definitively more conscious. Unlike laughter, there is nothing reactionary that can confine one’s determination of whether something is humorous.

Although humor appeals more to the provocation of laughter, humor operates on both a direct responsive level as well as a reflective mental level, which indicates that there is a depth to using humor that is not readily perceived by those who are exposed it. Additionally, this distinction implies that this inner determination of whether something is humorous is indicative of a deeper consideration. If, for example, we attend the performance of a stand-up comedian, it is understood that the comedian is attempting to entertain; their primary aim is not to change the audience’s perspective on the issues that are presented. Humor goes beyond entertainment, however. It subconsciously compels us to question the content of what is addressed through mediums such as comedy. Although the comedian may only want to make his or her audience laugh, what is introduced in their routine may make us question why certain topics are humorous to a certain audience and how the choice to tell a particular kind of joke is reflective of the views of an audience. To provide an example, humor relating to a certain race of people over another during a routine may incite such debate. Due to this stimulation of thought that humor entails, comedy presents great implications for those who would like to change the opinion of their audience. For a politician, humor may be implemented with the intent of changing the political perspective of others in favor of his own. This also has great application for theatrical productions that border on the absurd or ridiculous, such as Lysistrata, by demonstrating that humor has a much more inherent value than it initially presents itself to possess. There is some degree of idealism, however, in attempting to use humor for the purpose of persuading others. Even with an approach to humor that is carefully constructed to uproot the views of an audience on a certain matter, the speaker may only succeed in conveying that it was intended to amuse.

By constructing a role-reversed society where women acquire complete political authority in his play, Lysistrata, Aristophanes leverages comedy as a means of addressing the error of Athenian aggression through the swift and almost effortless action of women by withholding sex from their husbands in order to bring war to an end. Reversing the roles of men and women in Lysistrata was a particularly comedic choice in Aristophanes’ time because women were viewed as having no ability to take on the multitude of roles that men unquestionably occupied in Athenian society. As the Magistrate says in reference to the takeover of the women: “How terrible is it to stand here and watch them carding and winding at will with our fate, witless in war as they are.” The fact that men played the parts of the women characters in Lysistrata as it was performed in Ancient Greece serves to further reinforce this view. Although the frivolity and the excessive sex drive of the women (save Lysistrata) do not render them as the superior beings within this story, they are ultimately triumphant when pitted against men from the Assembly and the Athenian military, as embodied by the physical and verbal embarrassment that they impose on the Magistrate and his guards. Only by transgressing the lines of gender, physical strength, as well as political and financial influence are women able to enact reform, and in so doing, Aristophanes acknowledges the limits which society imposes on Athenian women. In reality, Athenian women would have had no influence to spur widespread change in any capacity and the ability for them to successfully manipulate the actions and desires of men in Lysistrata helps to reinforce this norm.

Aristophanes plays off of the diminished position of Athenian women by introducing humor that is reflective of the subservient manner that men perceived them. The role of the married woman in Athens was to simply remain at home, weave and card clothes for the family, take care of the children, and maintain the household while their husband was gone. The actions that the women perform all point to a vast knowledge that far exceeds the expectations of men. The act of seizing the Acropolis and freezing the funds required for war points to their cognizance of money in enabling a war to be fought. From an ethical standpoint, the ability for them to effectively unite supports an understanding of the common good; something of which men, too immersed in fighting wars, have no notion. The epitome of the woman’s unappreciated role emerges in Lysistrata’s metaphor of removing the tangles within wool. Aristophanes utilizes the carding of wool, an act reserved to women, to speak about war and foreign affairs. While this would have had great comedic effect during its heyday as the intertwining of two gendered, and therefore opposed, actions, it serves to illuminate a very important political matter: As Calonice explains, “It’s hard for women, you know, to get away. There’s so much to do; husbands to be patted and put in good tempers: servants to be poked out: children washed or soothed with lullays or fed with mouthfuls of pap.” Unlike war that can simply be stopped, a woman’s work is never finished.

Through the humor of utilizing women to end war in such a swift manner, Aristophanes attempts to show the flaw in aggression among men and the choice to engage in war. From this perspective, the Peloponnesian war is represented as a frivolous war; one that was characterized more by the aggressive tendency of men, rather than a desire to fight for peace. It is the women, commonly perceived as being the weaker of the two genders, as the group that is successful because of their lean towards peace as opposed to conflict. Lysistrata demonstrates that the preservation of peace is most valuable and it can be achieved so easily that even Athenian women can do it. From a modern standpoint, Aristophanes’ play has the same noble message. While the Athenian stereotype of women is typically dismissed as an antiquated view, when applied to the context of current conflict, Lysistrata still speaks to a political slant that exists, especially within the United States, to react to foreign nations with militant mobilization. In spite of all the aggression, whether foreign or on the home front, that may stand in the way, Lysistrata serves as a reminder for how peace should be the end towards which all political action should strive.

What Aristophanes likely intended as a farcical comedy through the use of sexually charged Athenians and giant phalluses, functions today as a piece of social realism. This play, which was written immediately after the Peloponnesian War in which thousands of Athenian soldiers had fought to the death against Sparta, was a particularly sensitive time to release a production that served as an indictment of war. For all its inappropriateness, this play was tolerated by the Athenian public and has survived to be modernized in the present day because it was of a comedic format. Aristophanes deliberately pushed certain concepts beyond the bounds of what was credible at the time and the clearly conveyed absurdity of the play was essential to its positive reception.

Considering that comedy can be very polarized in its approach as compared to traditional written and spoken discourse, it may appear that humor cannot appropriately handle complex concerns. By virtue of the pleasure involved in watching a theatrical comedy, an audience more easily contemplates topics that may typically be difficult to navigate. The power of drawing the attention of a crowd through comedy also provides a powerful argument for the use of humor in the act of teaching others. People can certainly digest a serious lecture, but heavy thought alone can be very mentally taxing for an audience. If a lecture can be massaged with comedy, then the viewers may think they are just being entertained, while in fact, a valuable lesson can potentially be conveyed.

The value that comedy possesses in departing so far from conventional rhetoric is revealed through its ability to reshape the personal views of the audience. Comedy can make more extreme claims because it has greater value in what further thought it stimulates, rather than what is concrete about the play. The disruptive ideas that comedy can present move the audience to question their current outlook on the topic at hand. In the Boston College interpretation of Lysistrata, the manner in which the old women effortlessly defeated the Athenian guards was entirely unexpected to the audience and was met with great laughter within the theater. Although this interaction may have only registered with some viewers in terms of amusement, it is representative of how the effectiveness of comedy exists in the accessibility of its humor. This paradigm shift in which women have greater strength than men illuminates how comedy can topple mental barriers that we possess in regard to certain issues in order to bring important considerations into focus. In this situation, one might ask: For as easily as these guards were defeated, what makes men more worthy than women in having this role of authority?

As applied to the practice of rhetoric in general, comedy is a form that possesses a distinct role by providing a variation of speech and content that traditional discourse cannot. This is particularly useful within a political context, where a change in presentation can give politicians a competitive edge. The focus of the vast majority of political discourse involves the concern of policy, where candidates stand on important public issues such as the economy, governance, and reform. The interjection of humor serves to fragment the tedium of traditional political discourse. Using humor is very impactful in such a setting because it is so perceptible; a sudden breach of seriousness in political rhetoric stands in stark contrast with the upstanding and proper tone of political discourse. The entertaining quality of humor can draw the audience towards not only the discussion at hand, but also that orator’s opinion. Humor reveals a spontaneous and quick-witted characteristic about the speaker that gives them a more personal quality in the midst of the oversaturated political topics being addressed. In a system that allows for the presence of scripted and therefore premeditated speech, a person who uses humor in their rhetoric may strike the viewer as more organic and genuine. Humor validates the speaker in a personal sense by revealing a prowess in their ability to speak and their underlying intelligence in constructing humorous remarks. While humor has little to do with the politician’s personal views and may not authorize their perspective on certain issues, it allows for the dissemination of their political ideas on a larger scale because of the increased appeal of listening to them and is ultimately a positive effect.

Additionally, when it is used as a rhetorical strategy, comedy can function as an attractive force that can garner greater support from an audience. People prefer to see rather than to be told by others that someone is an individual of good character and comedy is a way that an individual can attempt to reveal a possession of character. When used by a political candidate, who may be perceived to have high social standing, humor has great value in its ability to express honesty. The use of honest or self-deprecating humor is appealing because it indicates that the speaker is both realistic and has an awareness and acceptance of oneself. For one to place themselves as the butt of a joke shows that a person knows their individual bounds, which helps to degrade the notion that there exist negative personality traits, such as arrogance, within their character. Especially in contentious contexts such as an election, it serves as a nice change of pace to see an individual poke fun at him or herself. From the perspective of the speaker, poking fun at oneself poses the risk of lowering one’s authoritative position. This honesty or truthfulness that their humor presents, however, functions to exalt one’s view of them because of their realistic take on themselves. While their message may serve as a reminder that the political candidate is not divine, it can improve our opinion of that person as an individual with whom we stand on equal ground. From this perspective, it is in the interest of the orator to use comedy because it incites the goodwill of others by exposing a grounded and lighthearted nature that cannot be revealed through traditional political discourse.

Humor can equally serve as a repulsive force against the words or the character of others. Just as the quality of one’s character can be bolstered by humor, the utility of humor is grounded in its positive nature. When properly crafted, one can shift the tone of conversation from negative, accusatory rhetoric to a more positive exchange. When considered in this manner, humor is often used to pivot from an uncomfortable comment to a point of superiority. Instead of returning slander with slander, humor diverts the power of an affront from a competing politician by not taking the comment seriously while entertaining the audience in the process. Conversely, because it is cloaked in laughter and amusement, humor can place an individual in a better position to criticize an opponent or another individual. By capitalizing on the universal appeal of what is amusing, humor can be implemented in an antagonistic way by helping to illuminate the shortcomings of others. The attractiveness of humor can frame an attack in a very memorable manner that serves to reinforce these deficiencies that certain candidates may possess or may be perceived to possess. Additionally, humor can allow us to exceed the normal use of rhetoric, as seen in Lysistrata, by providing us with the means of making more inflammatory remarks or political attacks against our enemies that normal discourse would permit. When introduced into political discourse for practical reasons, humor can be used as a tool to either unite or to divide people.

The presence of humor is necessary in the realm of communication because it articulates the person in a way that straight speech cannot. For all of its vulgar humor and sexual innuendo, Lysistrata communicates to its audience, whether past or present, in a very striking way. While the form of tragedy has been posited as the interaction between the human form and the divine, theatrical comedy brings human beings down to their most base level. Comedy forces people to think in a less idealized manner. In traditional discourse, we are often free to express things in the way that is most pleasing to us. The shortcoming of traditional discourse is that thinking in terms of what is ideal is not always in our best interest as people. When politicians present their approach to governance, for example, they tend to prescribe what they think is the best approach, rather than being realistic about their limits and, consequently, the reform that they are able to create. While it is not clear whether comedy presents a more or less accurate depiction of the world, it forces us to think more critically about the nature of things. There is nothing wrong with lofty thinking—it gives us a better idea of what we, as human beings, are capable. Alternatively, comedy functions as the logical lower bound of our thinking, one that makes us aware of both the good and the bad of human nature.

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The Aristophanes’ Representation of Gender Roles in Lysistrata

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

Lysistrata by Aristophanes is a play that takes place in Athens in the year 411 BC. During this time, the Polynesian war ensued. The leading lady in the comedy is Lysistrata, a bold Athenian woman, who contrived a plan to bring an end to the war. Her plan and its success, however, is a contrast to the role of women in Athens because they were almost viewed as subordinates.

Within the play, women fall into the general domestic spheres found in Western culture. Gender roles consist of the man being the breadwinner, or in their case, the one to go to war. They were not leaders. Women were supposed to stay home and “budget the household accounts” and raise their children and be ready to please their husbands upon their return in whatever manner they saw fit. The ladies did not question their roles, willingly playing their part. This changed when Lysistrata proposed a sex strike until a peace treaty was drawn. She said, “Go to bed with a god and then get rid of the baby- that sums us up!… if you stick by me, just you, we may still have a chance to win.” In the beginning, they were slow to come as Lysistrata impatiently stood at the gate to Akropolis, waiting for the others to arrive to the meeting she had called. Her neighbor, Kleonike, assured her that it was only because it was not easy for a woman to leave the house. One has to “fuss over hubby, wake the maid up, put the baby down, bathe him, feed him.” Lysistrata ranted that if her news were sexually related then they would make haste in their arrival. This short interaction between the two is telling of two points. One, it supports the argument that Athenian women knew their place within society and were comfortable, if not complacent, with it. The only reason they were making a change was because they were tired of the war.

The other point it suggests is that Lysistrata differed from other Athenian women. She was the one who took charge and made note of the differentiation in the positions men and women held. The contrast found in her is what allowed her to be a great leader. For one, she was single so she did not have to partake in the strike. Also, she was confident, witty, and intelligent. She influenced the other women. When the chorus of women say “the beast in me’s eager and fit for a brawl. Just rile me a bit and she’ll kick down the wall. You’ll bawl to your friends that you’ve no balls at all,” their strength is displayed because they not only spoke out, but spoke out in a manner that was not seen as fit for a lady . She had the brains to plot the plan as well as the ability to see the plan in action from a different perspective. Her character was probably intentionally created as a juxtaposition to the other women. Comedies were plays with happy endings, but they could also be used for satirical purposes; perhaps the intention was to shed light on women’s status. The Koryphaios of women said, “I admit to being a woman– but don’t sell my contribution short on that account. It’s better than the present panic. And my word is as good as my bond, because I hold stock in Athens– stock I paid for in sons.” In doing so, they call out how men and women are not so different. Being given the title woman does not make them incapable in the same way men were still capable of causing “causing the present panic.” Lysistrata was the catapult for women to raise their voices, and her leadership allowed them to carry out a successful campaign.

Lysistrata imagines a world where women had power. It may have been ahead of its time considering they were not allowed to vote until 1952 . In writing this, Aristophanes suggested that he was an early supporter of women’s rights. Although it is a comedy and could have been meant to show the absurdity of giving women power, just the image of them being in power and being successful was enough to take a step in the right direction.

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Lysistrata by Aristophanes: Common Misconceptions

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

Lysistrata Thesis Paper

In the play “Lysistrata”, it is often mistaken that due to the fact that it is a play written about powerful leading female characters, it is a feminist piece of work. This is a very common misconception as one would think that a play so centered around females would have feminist themes, yet in reality there weren’t actually many women playing the female characters; the cast was predominantly male. While the play does center around women trying to take control of their lives by attempting to cut their husbands off from sex, there is a lack of equality being fought for-which is what feminism is truly about- as well as constant oversexualization of women and categorizing them as objects whose only use is sex. Therefore, Lysistrata cannot be considered a feminist work based on its themes of power and control over the opposite sex contributing to lack of themes of equality among both genders, as well as oversexualization of female characters in a predominantly male cast.

One aspect of Lysistrata that proves to be non feminist is how there always seems to be the idea in the characters’ minds that one gender has to be in control of the other. There is never thought of the two genders being equal to each other. When Lysistrata is discussing with Kalonike her idea to withhold sex from their husbands, she describes how doing so would give power to the women, even though the men would still do what they wanted with them. Their conversation states, “‘…what if they grab us and drag us into the bedroom by force?’ ‘Hold onto the door.’ ‘And what if they beat us up?’ ‘Submit, but disagreeably: men get no pleasure in sex when they have to force you” (pg. 316). The idea of women “submitting disagreeably” to their husbands is very far from the idea of feminism. Feminism is described as the theory in which women are considered and treated equal to men, but if the Athenian women are simply letting their husbands do what they want with them-even if they don’t want it- that essentially goes against the ideas of women sticking up for themselves in order to not be controlled by the opposite gender, and ultimately, defying feminism.

While the opening of the play depicts Lysistrata as a sensible and strong woman with values that empower her fellow women, her reasoning behind withholding sex from their husbands is shown to have changed from what it was earlier in the play. What was originally thought of to be a movement of power for the women by gaining control over their husbands in order to get what they wanted, it is revealed that Lysistrata’s motives behind it were not as about empowerment for women as they seemed. She states, “Instead of enjoying the pleasures of love and making the best of our youth and beauty, we are left to languish far from our husbands, who are all with the army. But say no more of ourselves; what afflicts me is to see our girls growing old in lonely grief.” In this quote, Lysistrata is stating that she doesn’t actually care about the war, but more so about how the women will be nothing without their husbands; they will be forced to live lives in “lonely grief”. If there were feminist themes in the play the women wouldn’t be worried about what they’re lives will be like having to live without men, and they would be more focused on their independence and power without them.

Another area of the play that continues to defy feminism is how the women are constantly oversexualized throughout the whole play. They are more or less treated like objects whose only use to their husbands at all is sex. An example of where this is present is in a scene where a friend of Lysistrata, Myrrhine, is confronted by her husband, Cinesias at the Akropolis after noticing she had been gone from home for a long time. He confronts her solely for the purpose of sex, begging her to come home simply so they can “lay” together. When he approaches her at the Akropolis, he states, “Myrrhinikins, dearest, why are you doing this? Come down here!” “I’m positively not going down there!” “You won’t come down when I ask you, Myrrhine?” “You’re asking me, but you don’t really want me.” “Me not want you? Why, I’m in agony without you!” “Goodbye.” “No, wait! At least listen to the baby. Come on you, yell for mommy!” Cinesias is so desperate to take his wife home with him to have sex that he would go so far as to bring her her child to her as an excuse as to why she should come back with him. He doesn’t think of her as anything more than someone to have sex with, and by stating, “You’re asking me but you don’t really want me”, Myrrhine is showing Cinesias how she is aware he doesn’t want anything more with her than to have sex, proving that the roles of women in society during that time were equally viewed between both men and women that women were treated as objects to men.

Women being categorized as oversexualized objects to men takes away from the messages and points of feminism; although the female characters of Lysistrata were fighting to give themselves control over their husbands by withholding sex from them to get what they wanted, they were not advocating feminism, as they were portrayed by a predominantly male cast, and the play’s entirety showed a lack of fighting for equality between the genders, which is exactly what feminism stands for

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The Question of Gender Stratification in Lysistrata

October 23, 2020 by Essay Writer

On the surface, the play Lysistrata could appear to be a light-hearted comedy about a group of women who decide to refuse sex to the Greek men in order to end the Peloponnesian war. However, inside of this humor there exists a dangerous, hidden transcript: by refusing sex to the men and demanding the end of the war, the women are challenging the pre-existing patriarchal power structures in ways that were unheard of in Ancient Greece. In order to maintain their hegemony, the men try to assert their dominance by any means they can, including, in a very animalistic manner, demonstrating that they smell much worse than women and by taking off their clothes to show off their masculinity. Throughout the play, the men and women of Greece fight for power, and Aristophanes conveys this power struggle by using the sense of smell, by demonstrating that the differences between genders are entirely fictional, and by use of the image of the “woman on top.”

The men want to show off the way that they smell bad in order to assert their dominance over women in the Choral Debate on pages 66-68. However, the women reveal that they smell just as bad so that they can maintain the power they have already seized by refusing to have sex. The men’s leader says, “a man’s gotta smell like a man from the word go,” (67). The men wish to separate themselves from the women because they feel threatened by the power that Lysistrata and the other women have seized by refusing to have sex. However, the difference in smell between genders does not exist. On page 48 when the women from Sparta arrive, Lysistrata and Kalonike comment on how badly they smell, saying that they are “From Dungstown.” In addition, after the men take off their clothes to reveal their smell, the women respond by saying, “a woman’s got to smell like a woman” (67) and they take off their clothes to reveal their smell as well. In a very animalistic manner the two genders try to grapple for power and dominance by demonstrating the way that they smell. So, it becomes clear that men and women are not differentiated from each other by their stench, because they both attempt to use this smell to establish their dominance. Despite the fact that the men wish for their gender to give them the right to rule over women, they are unable to accomplish this because there are no gendered differences in the way men and women smell in Lysistrata.

The way that men and women do not smell different, and the way that they take off their clothes to reveal comical bodysuits instead of nudity, demonstrates the way Aristophanes portrays gender and gendered power structures as fictional.[1] The men’s leader says, “Let’s doff our shirts, ‘cause a man’s gotta smell like a man from the word go and shouldn’t be all wrapped up like souvlaki” (67). The way the he says that they must smell “from the word go,” means that the men feel they must always be ready to assert their patriarchal dominance. However, this dominance and the gender binary is fictitious and is created by culture, a fact that Aristophanes draws attention to by having the women wear very similar bodysuits. The women’s leader says, “Let’s also take off our tunics; a woman’s gotta smell like a woman, mad enough to bite!” (67). Here the women use very similar language as the men did when they took off there clothes, and they use very aggressive language in order to maintain the power that they have gained by refusing to have sex with the men. The humorous aspect of this is that they are both trying to establish their dominance by displaying their naked bodies and their stenches. This exemplifies the safe, releasing nature of humor. However, there is also a dangerous, hidden transcript: both genders are revealing the same thing to each other—the exact same odors and bodies, which threatens the gender binary. In this way Aristophanes challenges the patriarchal power structures of Greece by suggesting that the two genders are more similar to each other than cultural and gender roles want them to be.

The men in the chorus feel threatened by the idea of women literally and figuratively “on top,” and they are so hyperaware of this threat to their power that they can “smell” (66) this “tyranny” from a distance. At the beginning of the choral debate, the men announce that, “I think I smell much bigger trouble in this, a definite whiff of Hippias’ tyranny” (66). Jeffrey Henderson states, “there is an allusion here to the ‘equestrian’ position in sexual intercourse (woman on top)” (221). The image of the woman on top comes up throughout the work, and was a more taboo sex position during this time.[2] This image has multiple implications in the context of this work. First, the allusion to a taboo sex position suggests that what the women are doing—seizing power by refusing to have sex at all—is in itself a taboo act. Second, the image of the woman on top conjures up the idea of women figuratively on top of the power structures of Ancient Greece. So, this predominant image suggests that not only are women trying to seize power, but that they may actually be trying to flip the power structures upside down and dismantle the patriarchy completely. The men are so suspicious of these actions and the threat of the woman on top to their beloved patriarchy that they can smell these power-hungry women from far away. Thus, we see that the characters’ senses of smell and the image of the woman on top are profoundly connected to the power structures.

When Lysistrata and the Greek women refused to have sex with the Greek men until they end the Peloponnesian war, they ignite a power struggle that is portrayed in the play through the sense of smell, the examination of the fallacy of the gender binary, and the image of the woman on top. The men wish to show off their masculine, smelly bodies in order to assert their dominance. However, the women contend that their bodies are just as smelly and aren’t very different from those of the men. This, of course, reveals that gender and gendered power structures are fictional and imposed by society. In addition to the examination of gender, there are also multiple references to the image of “the woman on top.” The men in the play feel threatened by this sex position because they are wary of women being on top of the power structure of Greece, and they want to maintain their hegemony. Though it is unclear in the end whether men or women come out on top in the end, Aristophanes effectively portrays the way that both genders vie for power despite the fact that gender is fictional.

[1] The idea that the bodysuits show that gender is fictional was discussed in class and is not my original idea. [2] The idea that this was a taboo sex act was discussed in class.

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The Stench of Gendered Power Structures in Lysistrata

July 28, 2019 by Essay Writer

On the surface, the play Lysistrata could appear to be a light-hearted comedy about a group of women who decide to refuse sex to the Greek men in order to end the Peloponnesian war. However, inside of this humor there exists a dangerous, hidden transcript: by refusing sex to the men and demanding the end of the war, the women are challenging the pre-existing patriarchal power structures in ways that were unheard of in Ancient Greece. In order to maintain their hegemony, the men try to assert their dominance by any means they can, including, in a very animalistic manner, demonstrating that they smell much worse than women and by taking off their clothes to show off their masculinity. Throughout the play, the men and women of Greece fight for power, and Aristophanes conveys this power struggle by using the sense of smell, by demonstrating that the differences between genders are entirely fictional, and by use of the image of the “woman on top.”

The men want to show off the way that they smell bad in order to assert their dominance over women in the Choral Debate on pages 66-68. However, the women reveal that they smell just as bad so that they can maintain the power they have already seized by refusing to have sex. The men’s leader says, “a man’s gotta smell like a man from the word go,” (67). The men wish to separate themselves from the women because they feel threatened by the power that Lysistrata and the other women have seized by refusing to have sex. However, the difference in smell between genders does not exist. On page 48 when the women from Sparta arrive, Lysistrata and Kalonike comment on how badly they smell, saying that they are “From Dungstown.” In addition, after the men take off their clothes to reveal their smell, the women respond by saying, “a woman’s got to smell like a woman” (67) and they take off their clothes to reveal their smell as well. In a very animalistic manner the two genders try to grapple for power and dominance by demonstrating the way that they smell. So, it becomes clear that men and women are not differentiated from each other by their stench, because they both attempt to use this smell to establish their dominance. Despite the fact that the men wish for their gender to give them the right to rule over women, they are unable to accomplish this because there are no gendered differences in the way men and women smell in Lysistrata.

The way that men and women do not smell different, and the way that they take off their clothes to reveal comical bodysuits instead of nudity, demonstrates the way Aristophanes portrays gender and gendered power structures as fictional.[1] The men’s leader says, “Let’s doff our shirts, ‘cause a man’s gotta smell like a man from the word go and shouldn’t be all wrapped up like souvlaki” (67). The way the he says that they must smell “from the word go,” means that the men feel they must always be ready to assert their patriarchal dominance. However, this dominance and the gender binary is fictitious and is created by culture, a fact that Aristophanes draws attention to by having the women wear very similar bodysuits. The women’s leader says, “Let’s also take off our tunics; a woman’s gotta smell like a woman, mad enough to bite!” (67). Here the women use very similar language as the men did when they took off there clothes, and they use very aggressive language in order to maintain the power that they have gained by refusing to have sex with the men. The humorous aspect of this is that they are both trying to establish their dominance by displaying their naked bodies and their stenches. This exemplifies the safe, releasing nature of humor. However, there is also a dangerous, hidden transcript: both genders are revealing the same thing to each other—the exact same odors and bodies, which threatens the gender binary. In this way Aristophanes challenges the patriarchal power structures of Greece by suggesting that the two genders are more similar to each other than cultural and gender roles want them to be.

The men in the chorus feel threatened by the idea of women literally and figuratively “on top,” and they are so hyperaware of this threat to their power that they can “smell” (66) this “tyranny” from a distance. At the beginning of the choral debate, the men announce that, “I think I smell much bigger trouble in this, a definite whiff of Hippias’ tyranny” (66). Jeffrey Henderson states, “there is an allusion here to the ‘equestrian’ position in sexual intercourse (woman on top)” (221). The image of the woman on top comes up throughout the work, and was a more taboo sex position during this time.[2] This image has multiple implications in the context of this work. First, the allusion to a taboo sex position suggests that what the women are doing—seizing power by refusing to have sex at all—is in itself a taboo act. Second, the image of the woman on top conjures up the idea of women figuratively on top of the power structures of Ancient Greece. So, this predominant image suggests that not only are women trying to seize power, but that they may actually be trying to flip the power structures upside down and dismantle the patriarchy completely. The men are so suspicious of these actions and the threat of the woman on top to their beloved patriarchy that they can smell these power-hungry women from far away. Thus, we see that the characters’ senses of smell and the image of the woman on top are profoundly connected to the power structures.

When Lysistrata and the Greek women refused to have sex with the Greek men until they end the Peloponnesian war, they ignite a power struggle that is portrayed in the play through the sense of smell, the examination of the fallacy of the gender binary, and the image of the woman on top. The men wish to show off their masculine, smelly bodies in order to assert their dominance. However, the women contend that their bodies are just as smelly and aren’t very different from those of the men. This, of course, reveals that gender and gendered power structures are fictional and imposed by society. In addition to the examination of gender, there are also multiple references to the image of “the woman on top.” The men in the play feel threatened by this sex position because they are wary of women being on top of the power structure of Greece, and they want to maintain their hegemony. Though it is unclear in the end whether men or women come out on top in the end, Aristophanes effectively portrays the way that both genders vie for power despite the fact that gender is fictional.

[1] The idea that the bodysuits show that gender is fictional was discussed in class and is not my original idea. [2] The idea that this was a taboo sex act was discussed in class.

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The Harm of Stories

June 19, 2019 by Essay Writer

Throughout time, storytelling has evolved and changed with society. While oral storytelling is not as prevalent as it once was, the stories that were once passed down orally have now been written and passed through generations and cultures in this manner. However, the form that the story takes has not had an effect on storytelling as a whole. Storytelling has provided a way for tellers to pass along ideas on culture, ways of life, and traditions that may otherwise have died out. Oftentimes, stories can become convoluted after being passed on via word of mouth, yet, others keep their integrity. No matter the truthfulness of the story, storytelling has consistently proved to be harmful due to its ability to influence the listeners’ or readers’ thinking. In this paper, I will prove that stories are inherently harmful due to the ability the teller has to influence the listener through relatable or believable stories, whether they be fact or fiction, to solidify the gender hierarchy as shown in literary stories such as Sunjata, Lysistrata, and the Tale of Genji.

The solidification of the gender hierarchy through stories cemented women into a position below men, of which women were and still are unable to escape or to improve on. The gender hierarchy is commonly manifested through the objectification of women. This is exemplified through these stories, which have kept women from advancing in society, due to both society’s disapproval and the views that these ideas give women of themselves. Even though they are more than capable of playing a part in society, they believe that they are not able to or are shown that they are not welcome to. With the help of cultural norms, stories have promoted the view that women are less than men. All throughout time, stories have prevented women from being able to break out of these ideas and improve their status in society.

The societal ideas regarding women are demonstrated through Sunjata, the West African Epic of the Mande People. Within this poem, the societal norms of the Mande people are passed along through the words and actions of different characters when speaking of or to women. In this poem, after the hunters killed the buffalo, the Condé stated:

We said any hunter who kills this one,

We will bring out three age sets of girls,

And any girl they choose from among them will become his wife. (Sunjata, 28)

By offering these women, the Condé people demonstrate the societal objectification of women. This form of objectification portrays women as if they are not even truly people, but simply a gift or object that can be given to men as a reward. This is extremely harmful to women because it traps them into this societal idea and makes it close to impossible to escape or even want to escape. If society portrays women as only objects, then it is difficult for them to see themselves as anything else. This makes it impossible for women to improve their societal status or even to demonstrate that they are living, thinking, breathing humans.

Aristophanes’s Lysistrata helps to uphold the gender hierarchy by solidifying the idea that the main purpose of women is to serve and satisfy men. Throughout this play, the women of Greece use their sexuality in order to have a say in political affairs. In Athenian society, women do not have much of a say in political matters, even though they are both interested and capable. However, because the women cannot have a say in society, the supposed role of women comes into play. Due to the societal sexual objectification of women, the only way that women can affect the political world is through manipulation of their sex lives. When explaining this plan to the women, Lysistrata declares:

If we

Sit in our quarters, powdered daintily

The men will swell right up and want to boink,

But we won’t let them near us, we’ll refuse-

Trust me, they’ll make a treaty at a dash” (Lysistrata, 830).

By using a lack of sex to manipulate the men, Lysistrata and the other women of Greece demonstrate their want to have a say in society. However, because the only way that they get a say is by manipulating their sex lives, they reinforce the idea of women as sexual objects and the idea that the main job of women is to satisfy men. The sexual objectification of women is excessively harmful due to the way that such ideas affect both society and women themselves. The objectification of women in any way is dehumanizing. It is hard for women to gain respect from men, each other, or even themselves if it is hard for them to even see themselves as a part of society. This struggle kept women from moving beyond these roles or improving on their societal status.

The ideas involving the gender hierarchy and the objectification of women by society are solidified through the storytelling of Murasaki Shikibu in The Tale of Genji. This Japanese tale puts forth many ideas revolving around the place that women were to have in society, despite being the work of a female author. One example of this is the conversation between Genji, Tō no Chūjō, and the Warden in which they discuss women and their qualities. Within this section, the Warden declares, “we men should really consider picking a completely childlike, compliant woman… a woman we can mold into an acceptable and flawless wife” (Genji, 1175). With this, while acknowledging that women are, in fact, humans, the Warden suggests that they are not all good enough to be worth the time and effort of men. He suggests that instead, women should be molded and changed in order to fit the physical and emotional wants of men. This objectifies women in that it suggests that their worth is determined by men, which is extremely harmful to women due to the dehumanizing nature of such ideas. By displaying and passing along these ideas, stories such as this can cause women to feel as though society is right about their roles and values, which can prevent women from even wanting to break free from these constraints. These stories help to reaffirm societal ideas, such as the objectification of women, to men. This helps to support the continuation of the gender hierarchy and prevents women from making any progress to stop objectification.

Storytelling has been important throughout time in many cultures. Throughout these stories, from Greek plays to West African epics, the gender hierarchy and the objectification of women has played a large role. The West African Epic: Sunjata has supported this by putting forth the dehumanizing idea that women are no more than objects that men are to take care of. Through Aristophanes’s play Lysistrata, the gender hierarchy is shown through the sexual objectification of women and the only means through which they are able to have a say in society: the manipulation of their sex lives. In Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji, the gender hierarchy is demonstrated through the constant objectification of women through the idea that women are meant to satisfy their male counterparts, not only in a physical sense, but also in an emotional sense. Stories such as these demonstrate the harm that stories can do by reinforcing the ideas concerning the gender hierarchy and the objectification of women. Through the constant telling and retelling of tales that center around the societal norms regarding the role of women, it is impossible for women to escape such roles. These stories were especially harmful during their respective time periods due to their ability to constantly reinforce the gender hierarchy and ideas regarding societal norms of objectifying women. By having a constant reminder of these expectations, women were unable to break free from these ideas. This kept women from changing their place in society and instead forced them to fit into the mold that society created. Overall, storytelling is intrinsically harmful to women due to the teller’s ability to influence the listener and the society through stories that cement the place of women in society.

While these stories are all from past civilizations, they have lived on through modern times. As they are told again and again throughout different parts of the world, they help to pass along the gender ideas of older civilizations. This is harming to any progress being made on getting rid of the gender hierarchy. By constantly reinforcing the status of women as below that of men and the idea of women as objects whose purpose it is to satisfy men, it is much harder for women of the modern day to break out of these molds

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For What It’s Worth: Peace and Love In Lysistrata

May 25, 2019 by Essay Writer

For What It’s Worth: Peace and Love In Lysistrata

Did you ever wonder why Marilyn Monroe was painted on the side a fighter jet? It always seems a vulgar juxtaposition that the bombs dropped on Hiroshima were, from a visual perspective, dropped from between a pin-up girl’s legs. Incidentally, this tendency to make warefare sexy is not indicative of twentieth century America. In fact, the trend seems to have continued from the days when Helen’s faced launched one thousand ships through the modern era. It appears undebatable that a connection exists between sex and war. The task now is to find the genesis of this unlikely relationship and then to explain its longevity. History and literature contain countless examples of the sex- war dichotomy but when searching for a model, Aristophanes’ play Lysistrata proves particularly effective.

In this comedy, a matriarch named Lysistrata, and the other women of Athens, organize a sex embargo in an effort to force their husbands to end a long war. Surprisingly enough, they actually succeed. Much of the literary criticism surrounding this play has focused on this success, elaborating on the role of women as peacekeepers. Critic Mary Jane Fox claims that Aristophanes “unapologetically posits woman as humanity’s champion, and in no uncertain terms sets about elevating her to a status and capability well beyond ancient Greek (and perhaps even twenty-first century) expectations” (Fox 12). Likewise Christopher A. Farone focuses on the “rather positive images in this play of women as the bringers of salvation and civic order,” looking particularly to myths with similar thematic elements as sources of comparison (Farone 42). Moreover, journalist Katha Pollit has highlighted the contemporary relevance of this text, especially in regards to the “Lysistrata Project,” and anti-war effort of the new millennium that attempted to use this ancient play to influence American foreign policy.

None of these critics are incorrect in their analysis, but aside from Pollit’s slight implication that women are innately better peacekeepers than men, these critics have neglected to explore the possible reasons for the success of the women in Lysistrata and their sex embargo. Thankfully, scholars are beginning to study the relationship between sex and war found in this text and society at large. Hong Kong-based researchers led by psychologist Lei Chang of Chinese University collected quantitative data on this phenomenon and elaborated on their findings in the article “The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships: The Mating-Warring Association in Men”.

Furthermore, in their book Sex And War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism, Malcom Potts and Thomas Hayden tackle this conundrum from a historical perspective. Through combining the wisdom of these critics and contemporary research, I plan to demonstrate that Lysistrata, though an ancient text, evinces the merit of modern theories surrounding the relationship between sex and war, helping to both illuminate the problems inherent in this association, and to posit the potential for a solution.Initially, the use of language in this play highlights the close relationship between sex and war from the very first scene. For example, Lysistrata welcomes a Spartan girl named Lampito, complimenting her “delightful face” and “sleek slenderness” (Aristophanes 44). However, Lysistrata does not simply value these features because they are attractive, she instead recognizes the aesthetic appeal of Lampito as a source of strength, equating the girl’s “fresh” appearance with the ability to “strangle a bull” (46). This compliment may seem ridiculous because Lampito’s “sleek slenderness” would probably not enable her to “strangle a bull”, but the irony here is purposeful, suggesting that Lysistrata understands the political capital of sex appeal. Lampito’s strength is intangible, yet powerful. Furthermore, Lysistrata’s organization of a sex embargo emphasises her understanding. This is demonstrated when the women take Lysistrata’s pledge, acknowledging that in order to “bow to Peace” they “must refrain from every depth of love (120). Although, the women struggle comically with the terms of this pact, under the leadership of Lysistrata they succeed, ultimately bringing their husbands home from war and peace to Athens.

Even though this text originated in antiquity, its portrayal of sex and war contains universal relevance. In her book Homeward Bound: America In the Cold War Era, Elaine Tyler May focuses on the role of female sexuality during WWII. May explains that though women experienced “increasing sexual and economic emancipation” during wartime, like Lysistrata and her female cohort, their sexuality had a dangerous connotation (May 95). The historian cites a pamphlet from 1972 in which radioactive rays were personified as sexy women as well as the use of the slang term “bombshell” used to describe a “sexy woman outside of the home” as examples of the parallels between danger and female sexuality (May 97). This portrayal of women as volatile sexual entities is echoed in Lysistrata in which the title character quotes men who refer to women as “slippery rogues”, though they “stay at home” and are, by their own admission “naturally coy”(Aristophanes 467). Katha Pollit believes that the “positive aspect” of this vision is that it “gives ordinary women a platform-as mothers and homemakers-from which to demand attention as significant social actors” (Pollit 1). Her optimism is warranted, especially from an ancient Grecian perspective. The women of this play are not diplomats or even royalty, instead they are weavers. Aristophanes is progressive by ancient Greek standards when he implies that conventional and domestic women can use their sexuality to end a war. Nevertheless, why does sexuality have this type of power?

Both Aristophanes and modern scientists suggest that, for men, sex and aggression are biologically linked. Lysistrata herself states that “war is Man’s sole affair” and Hong Kong scientist Lei Cheng seems to agree (Aristophanes 486). The scientist conducted a study of 111 students (60 men) who viewed twenty pictures of members of the opposite sex. Half of the men and women surveyed viewed images of people who were considered attractive while the other half looked at pictures of those considered unattractive (Cheng 670). Afterward, “participants responded to 39 questions about having wars (Cheng 673). The survey found that male participants “showed more militant attitudes” if they had seen the pictures of attractive women. This same effect was not found in the female participants. Chang and his colleagues explained these results, suggesting that there is a “mating-warring association” that propels men to “to engage in organized lethal aggression” (Cheng 674). The role biology plays in male aggression can also be observed in Lysistrata, in which the sexual stimulus of female bodies without the prospect of release makes men more aggressive. In fact, at the beginning of the sex strike the attitudes of the men are positively militant. These attitudes are best evinced through the catalogue of military diction employed by Aristophanes in this speech given by the male chorus:

Let each one wag

As youthfully as he can,

And if he has the cause at heart

Rise at least a span.

We must take a stand and keep to it,

For if we yield the smallest bit

To their importunity.

Then nowhere from their inroads will be left to us immunity

(Aristophanes 520).

The use of the phrase “take a stand” and the term “yield” imply that the men plan to face the sex embargo as they would a military offensive. Furthermore Farone cites these “angry torch-bearing” men and their use of fire as a threat as a common trope of ancient literature that adds to the interpretation of men as “rash, angry characters” (Farone 41). In contrast, the women of this play are typically portrayed in an opposite light, as evinced through Lysistrata’s tendency for diplomatic negotiation. Critic Mary Jane Fox believes that Lysistrata demonstrates the “more positive attributes with which women have been stereotyped” such as the tendency for discussion, avoidance of more aggressive alternatives and an overriding compassion about the injustices of war” (Fox 13). This disparity between the sexes is affirmed in the discourse of Potts and Hayden who searched history to find instances of female “team aggression” but found such instances “starkly absent” (Potts 136). When one examines the evidence it seems as though male aggression is a biological imperative that is enhanced in the presence of sexual stimulus, which essentially connotes that men are responsible for the existence of war.

Naturally, the explanation should not and cannot be reduced to this syllogistic form. In other words men do not shoulder all of the blame in this scenario. The biological imperative men have for aggression is a socialized adaptation that has been perpetuated by women. Potts and Hayden explain that, for most of history, “men who were prepared to attack their neighbors…and who could seduce or coerce women for sex, ended up having more offspring” (Potts 2).

Women, meanwhile, were more likely to “improve their reproductive success…by aligning themselves with successfully violent men rather than by joining raids and risking death themselves”(2). Therefore, it is not necessarily true that women are inherently less aggressive. Lysistrata acknowledges aggressive tendencies within women when she tells the magistrate that he “didn’t guess the thirst for glory ardent in our blood” (Aristophanes 443). Nevertheless, women have learned to satisfy their “thirst passively” because the type of behavior that enables war- making is not considered an asset to the female sex. This explains why Lysistrata’s offensive tactics are examples of resistance rather than aggression, at one point labeling “disregard” as her weapon of choice (103).

The opposite is true for men, who are historically rewarded by women for displays of aggression, particularly with sexual attention. Men need sex with women for reproduction and evolution has conditioned them to believe that aggressive behavior will help them to fulfill this need. Meanwhile women are biologically conditioned to find aggression attractive, in order to enable successful procreation. This logic makes it seem as though the aggression that creates war is a necessary evil that is responsible for the perpetuation of the human race however Potts and Hayden suggest that while evolution has “linked sex and violence over millions of years, civilization has given us the tools to separate the two again”. It is through Lysistrata that we can see a realistic and ancient application of this contemporary suggestion. When the women of this play abstain from having sex with their soldier husbands, the men end the war and peace is established.

Of course, this play is a comedy and therefore its solution to the sex and war problem is a bit ridiculous. Primarily, it is too simple of an equation; (if sex causes aggression than abstinence will eliminate it). In reality, the soldiers would have satisfied their sexual desires with women of rival nations or prostitutes. Moreover, it is questionable whether or not the embargo was really a long-term solution. During wartime, women have historically enjoyed heightened social mobility and power that is then diluted when their husbands return home (May 95). This is demonstrated in the ending of the play in which society reverts to the “natural” domestic order in which men are dominant and aggressive and women submissive and docile. It is entirely possible that a return to the natural order would also entail a regression back to the established relationship between sex and aggression. This possibility is acknowledged by both Mary Jane Fox and Christopher Farone who feel as though Aristophanes is not as entirely progressive as we would like to believe. Moreover, it would be an oversight to not acknowledge the existence of motivations behind war that do not entail sex.

Nevertheless, Lysistrata is an important text because it illuminates problems surrounding sex and war that we are just now beginning to understand. Moreover, it shows us that we have the power to change this negative dichotomy, and perhaps make a more peaceful world a reality. We do not live in a society in which women need men for protection from the caveman next door and therefore men should not feel the need to be aggressive and warlike for the sake of their female counterparts. Thus, it is time to progress beyond the social climate of ancient Greece and to stop sexualizing aggression and glorifying war. Lysistrata is not the “Miss America” of texts, it does not soliloquize the hope for “world peace,” in fact it satirizes it. Still, it makes this idealism seem a bit more realistic, providing us not with a solution but with a step in the right direction.

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The Heroics of Antigone and Lysistrata

May 4, 2019 by Essay Writer

Through the many tales of heroic deeds that have been told over the centuries, a picture has been painted as to the appearance and interpretation of the archetypical character of the hero. This character has been portrayed as a masculine figure who conquers all monsters and challenges in his path through strength, will, and determination, usually having to call upon a super-human ability, be it physical or intellectual, to defeat an oppressor. However, this typical view of the hero does not suit all characters who still can be classified under this archetype. In fact, through many ancient Greek plays, women have taken on the roles of the hero, having a much different quality and approach to their problem-solving than their male counterparts. Two such women who show great heroic qualities through their respective plays are Antigone and Lysistrata, who serve as the heroines of their tales. Through an analysis and comparison of the actions of the characters of Antigone and Lysistrata in the plays Antigone by Sophocles and Lysistrata by Aristophanes, respectively, clear conclusions can be drawn as to the stature of these female protagonists as heroic female characters.

Antigone follows the Oedipus trilogy, wherein Oedipus has already found out the seeds of his sins, and has put out his eyes and renounced his rule of Thebes. Jocasta, Oedipus’ mother and wife, is dead, and her brother Creon claims the throne as his own. After the bloody mess that Oedipus left in his wake, his daughter Antigone is left to weigh the horrific aftermath, including preparing for the burial of her brother Polynices. However, in light of the conflict that emerges even after the death of Oedipus, Antigone by law is not allowed to bury her family member, thus starting her heroic quest for a proper humane burial for her brother: “I will As for me, I’ will bury him; and if I die for that, I am content. I shall rest like; a loved one with him whom I have loved, innocent in my guilt” (Sophocles 160-162). This statement by Antigone is truly what gives the heroic nature to her quest, for she wishes only to complete that which is right by humanitarian law, not by rule of the king, even if doing so means self-sacrifice.

Lysistrata has a much more straightforward battle to fight than Antigone did. Rather than having to battle against injustice emanating from her own family, Lysistrata is faced with injustice against her entire gender, wherein the women of Athens have become nothing more than meat-sacks for their men as they return from battle and leave and leave again as they please. Lysistrata sees this for what it is, the abuse of women through the patriarchal society in which she lives, and she addresses this with the other woman in Athens. Lysistrata is convinced that should she and the other women band together in a strike against sex, then they can gain control over the males in society, in an essential reversal of power. To accomplish her heroic goal, of improving the lives of women across Athens, she has them take Oath to her purpose, “I have nothing to do with husband or lover; Even when he approaches me upright and ready” (Aristophanes). Through this mantra, Lysistrata is able to rally the women of Athens to her cause as she pursues a better societal status for her gender.

Although the burial of a family member, or the beginning of a civil movement, may not seem like a heroic deed, the characters of Antigone and Lysistrata further their status through their inherent devotion to their cause. The mark of a truly devoted person, or a hero, is a willingness to sacrifice personal comfort to accomplish greater goals. This quality is shared by both of these female characters, and indeed perhaps is their most heroic quality. In Antigone this is seen in in two simple lines, after being lectured by the King as to the illegality of her actions, “I am ready; for there is no better way I could prepare for death than by giving burial to my brother” (Sophocles 402-403). These lines and indeed the entire speech from Antigone truly show her devotion to her brother, and thereby solidify her position as a hero; she is doing no wrong, but instead seeking to accomplish a moral and just act, to which ends she is willing to die to complete. Similarly Lysistrata is forced to take this same aggressive stance in front of the rule of Athens: “LYSISTRATA You would kill me here in Athens—birthplace of discourse and reason? MAGISTRATE Athens is a city of laws. LYSISTRATA –The laws of a barbarian. MAGISTRATE Submit to me now or I use this. LYSISTRATA kneels” (Aristophanes). In the same way that Antigone is willing to sacrifice her life to be allowed to bury her brother, Lysistrata is willing to sacrifice her status to show that women should no longer be used as objects of sex. Although death for a cause such as Antigone’s classifies as textbook martyrdom, in these cases the possibility is much more.

To be a martyr is to die willingly for your cause; however, the cause which is being fought over becomes the defining principle. Martyrs can be of any faith, religion, or purpose; however, a hero will always fight for and advocate that which is just, moral, and right. In this way, a hero is more noble than a martyr, as a hero is both a leader and an example of how others should act, and how others should aspire to respond to social and civil injustices. Although Antigone was not successful in completing her goal, and Lysistrata more so was, their results do not change their classification or level of heroics; it is not the result that matters, but the purposes and means through which goals are accomplished that create and classify heroes.

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Medea v. Lysistrata: Matriarchs in Patriarchal Greece

April 15, 2019 by Essay Writer

The plays Medea and Lysistrata both portray title characters that are women in Ancient Greece. In each of these plays the title characters feel they must confront the patriarchal society in which they live. The men of Ancient Greece see the women as the lesser gender. The women’s place is at home taking care of her husband or father; there are no places of influence for women in Ancient Greece, outside the home. This impotence is a major factor of Medea’s slip into mindless revenge, and also on Lysistrata’s grand idea for achieving peace in Greece. Both of these women use the weaknesses of the men around them to work against the patriarchal society in different ways and for different goals. These two plays can be used together to gather a sense of how women were considered in Ancient Greece.

In Medea, gender inequality is immediately exposed by Jason’s betrayal of Medea. When Jason discards Medea, out of hand, for no reason other than to further his own name, by marring a rich princess, it is shown how little attention is paid to the needs of the woman. Medea tells Jason that if he “were honest, [he] ought first to have won [her] over, not got married behind [her] back” (ℓℓ 533-534). Jason feels that Medea should just go along with the divorce so that he can make himself rich and share his wealth with her and their children. He tells Medea, “[A]s for your scurrilous taunts against my marriage with the royal family, I shall show you that my action was wise, not swayed by passion, and directed towards your interests and my children’s” (ℓℓ 495-499). Jason insults Medea’s intelligence, showing that not only does Jason not consider Medea’s feelings for him, but he also thinks her simple and tries to convince her that it was in her best interest to be divorced from him. What is a woman to do? In Ancient Greece there is little recourse for Medea. She comes up with a plan to rob Jason of everything that his position affords him.

At first Medea decides to kill Jason, his new wife, and his new father-in-law. Medea eventually realizes, after killing the king and princess, the only way for Jason to pay is for him to lose everything but his life. Although she could have taken her children with her and not killed them, Medea realizes that as long as women have no power she will have no true sway over her sons. The sons of Jason will never forgive their mother for killing him. Medea decides that Jason must live and the boys must die. This way she will eliminate Jason’s name and his future supporters all at once. After Medea kills her sons, she tells Jason, “[Y]ou were mistaken if you thought you could dishonor my bed and live a pleasant life and laugh at me” (ℓℓ 1227-1229). Medea feels this is a great insult to her and her only recourse to get even with Jason is to kill their sons. Jason just illustrates the Greek man’s opinion of women by saying, “[N]ow, out of mere sexual jealousy, you murder them” (ℓℓ 1213-1214). Jason’s statement just shows his opinion of women: they are more affected by sex than by the betrayal of love. If women were allowed to bring grievances to the courts in Ancient Greece, these tragic events may have never occurred.

Lysistrata finds herself in a completely different situation, but with the same controlling factors, as Medea has to face. In Lysistrata’s case it is not an unfeeling husband that is her problem, but all the uncaring men of Athens. Lysistrata’s response is much different than Medea’s, because she is not discouraged by her lowly status but inspired instead. The reason for Lysistrata’s distress is that all of Athens’ men are being sent of to war and killed. This is causing problems for the women of Athens, because “as for lovers there’s not even a ghost of one left” (Lysistrata, 1052). Lysistrata realizes that the men of Athens will never listen to her, because the men feel “women must never defeat us” (Lysistrata, p.1060). She decides a better way to stop the war and bring the men back to Athens.

The women are told to withhold sex from their lovers and husbands until a peace treaty has been signed. Lysistrata is successful in getting all the women of Greece to participate in her protest. She has realized that even though women have no political power they do have one undeniable power to wield, the male libido. Since they have no way to lobby the lawmakers and military leaders of Athens, the women must find another way to affect the men. The lack of power of the women, has given them no recourse but to “torture” their men into the peace Lysistrata feels is necessary. The women swear that even if they are forced to have sex they “shall do it badly and keep from moving” (Lysistrata, p.1054).

When they can take it no longer, leaders from all over Greece gather to strike a peace treaty. With unusable erections and plenty of sexual frustrations, the men are now ready to hear the logic of Lysistrata’s pleas. She shows them the wisdom of all Greece joining forces, so that they will not be overpowered by invasion. After some time of the men of Greece not having sex, they all decide that it is time to listen to this woman and make peace with each other. Even though the men of Greece are in power Lysistrata has figured out how to make them do as she pleases. This shows both that the men of Ancient Greece see women as sex symbols and that the women know how to exploit this fact.

Medea and Lysistrata combine to give a picture of a woman’s place in Ancient Greece. Both of these women went against this patriarchal structure, but they were not the average Greek woman – they were exceptions to the rule. It is clear that the Greeks cared little for their women’s views, desires, or feelings, and cared more for the things that a woman can give the man. Living under these oppressive conditions, it is no wonder that Medea and Lysistrata had to do something to improve their situation. These powerful women should still be seen as role models, if not for their actions then for their desire to take action at all.

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