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Books

Depiction Of Gender Roles In Aristophanes’ Lysistrata And Euripides’ Medea

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

In Ancient Greece, women were considered to have uncontrollable impulses, because they were often controlled by ecstatic emotions and wild passions, and this is reflected in many Greek pieces of literature. Nothing was more common in the dramas of that era than female characters who were jealous, troublesome, controlling and obsessed with sex. At that time, women should stay away from men’s affairs and be loyal to their husbands in everything, no matter what happens, they should only try to please him, such as having children, taking care of the children and maintaining the family. In this essay, I will compare Aristophanes’ Lysistrata with Euripides’ Medea in an attempt to show how these works reinforce these ideas.

First of all, the first work of ancient Greek literature that I want to mention was Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. It is a comedy created in 411 BC by Aristophanes, an ancient Greek playwright. It mainly tells the story that the women in the main city of ancient Greece, led by Lysistrata, an Athenian woman, tried their best to oppose the war and finally forced the men to give up the force and sign a peace agreement. The play is the third part of Aristophanes’ series of war and peace. There is no doubt about the anti-war peace thought embodied in it. As for the fact that it is called ‘the first anti-war female drama’, it is because of the female thought contained in it. Female sexuality is often viewed as negative. Although women had jobs both at home and outside the home, their main purpose in classical Greece was to have children; Any notion of a wife with sexual thoughts or desires is assumed to be nonexistent. The story highlights the idea that women are troublemakers and sexual perverts.

Further into the play as the conversation about the idea Lysistrata has comes into play we are once again introduced to the sex-crazed nature of women. Before the idea is published, women spoke of their willingness to sacrifice their lives for peace, but all of this change once Lysistrata mentions that they must, “give up all male penises.” There are women in the play who start crying at the thought of it. They would rather die for peace than give up the temptation of the flesh. Calonice herself only a few lines down states that she would rather walk through fire than “give up screwing,” with another character very quickly agreeing with her. The conversations between these women reveal a lot about how women at the time were perceived as unable to control their desires. After all, if one is unwilling to give up sex for the sake of peace and the life of one’s loved one, what does this mean for you and your kind? Women did not have the right to vote, and men had the opportunity to arouse their sexuality elsewhere. So, to the audience of the time, this idea given in Lysistrata would have been considered very ridiculous. The idea that women could end the war by establishing a sexual ban was ludicrous, so it was considered a comedy in its creation.

Switch to the story of Medea, which also provides many examples of women’s inability to control themselves and their desires. In fact, from the Greek point of view, women were controlled by emotions and had no place in the affairs of men.

Medea is a tragedy written by Euripides. It is based on the myth of Medea and Jason, especially Medea’s revenge on Jason. Medea, a descendant of Helios. She fell in love with prince Jason, who came to the island in search of the golden fleece. In order to help Jason, get the golden fleece, Medea used her magic to help Jason complete the impossible task set by her father, on the condition that Jason marries her. After obtaining the golden fleece, Medea and Jason set out on a journey back to Greece. Later Jason fell in love with another woman, Medea becomes jealous and hateful and kills her own two children. At the same time, she kills Jason’s new lover with poisoned clothes, and Jason dies of depression. Medea in this story is a woman with extreme emotions and behavior. She is first held in check by her passion for Jason and later plans to exact revenge on her former lover and his new family, which becomes an extreme version of uncontrollable anger.

Around line 290 of Euripides’ Medea, we see the protagonist talking to her companions, trying to get sympathy from those around her. The fact that she was the cause of her danger, that she had no home, no brothers, no reason to comfort her in her country and in her family, escaped her lips and enabled her to get the effect she wanted from them. She proved to be very deceptive and manipulative in her search for revenge. This and her future behavior prove that she is a troublemaker in the eyes of the Greek audience. When she states, “but when she’s hurt in love, her marriage violated, there’s no heart more desperate for blood than hers,” she began to show how she was overcome by her emotions and how they were destined to control her behavior. In line 410, when she speaks of not caring about her exile but “weeping” for her children she once again uses manipulation to gain what she desires.

In this story, we see women’s desire for sex again. While speaking to Medea, Jason states “if you weren’t so upset about the sex. But you women are so idiotic — you think if everything is fine in bed, you have all you need, but if the sex is bad, then all the very best and finest things you make your enemies.” This is yet another attempt to portray women as sex-driven creatures who don’t care about other related issues. Medea flew into a rage and refused to accept help from Jason or anyone else who would help her. This further describes her emotions, her anger being driven by her husband’s betrayal and her jealousy of his new marriage, which completely controls her and will not allow any outcome, including a peaceful outcome.

By reading these stories, and many others like them, we can see clearly how ancient Greek men viewed women. Instead of trying to sugarcoat their ideals, they are happy to shape them as they see fit. Even the goddesses in their stories, though respected and respected, found themselves portrayed like many of the women in those stories. Ancient Greek literature contains some of the greatest stories, poems, plays, and characters of all time, but unfortunately their ideas about women are clearly written into their works, and I often can’t imagine how this wouldn’t make Greek women proud of themselves. 

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