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Genazzano FCJ College Year 12 Literature
Text: Lysistrata Aristophanes
The Play
Lysistrata was produced early in 411 BC. It is the third and last of Aristophanes’ ‘peace plays’. It is a dream about peace, conceived at a time when Athens was going through the most desperate crisis she had known since the Persian War. All that most Athenians could see was that the war was going on as usual and there seemed to be no way out of it other than the unthinkable option of capitulation. But comedy specializes in doing the impossible, and in Lysistrata fantasy supplies a way out. Even in fantasy, though, it is recognised that Athens cannot end the war on its own: in the play women of all the warring states have to co-operate in forcing peace upon the men as it is clear that the war is bringing ruin to the whole Greek people. Peace was seen as preferable to war but to some, mostly men, it presented the only way to safeguard a community. For men war also presented an opportunity to display courage, to win prestige, etc. Women it seems were not attracted to such desires. They did not fight or they did not compete for the prizes of politics. Men could have, at worse a glorious death, for women it could mean decades as a bereaved wife or mother or even not having the chance to become a wife and mother in a society that that had no role or place for the unmarried woman. If women across all the warring states could unite could they not impose a sensible compromise peace? In this play this is exactly what they do. That such a boycott could work to make men change their behaviour was not how the mainly male audience would view the situation. The plot requires us to assume that consensual marital sex was the only kind of sex available to the Athenian male. It does not acknowledge that a man’s female slaves will be sexually available to him. It also requires us to assume that women are or can be persuaded to be better able to endure sexual deprivation. It was generally an...
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