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Lysistrata by Aristophanes

Download Lysistrata ebook. Lysistrata (/laɪˈsɪstrətə/ or /ˌlɪsəˈstrɑːtə/; Attic Greek: Λυσιστράτη, Lysistrátē, “Army Disbander”) is a comedy by Aristophanes. Originally performed in classical Athens in 411 BCE, it is a comic account of a woman’s extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War by denying all the men of the land any sex, which was the only thing they truly and deeply desired. 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. Additionally, its dramatic structure represents a shift from the conventions of Old Comedy, a trend typical of the author’s career.[2] It was produced in the same year as the Thesmophoriazusae, another play with a focus on gender-based issues, just two years after Athens’ catastrophic defeat in the Sicilian Expedition. At this time, Greek theatre was a profound form of entertainment, which was extremely popular for all audiences as it addressed political issues relevant to that time.

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 and social 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 the Spartan Lampito, 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.

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About the Author

Aristophanes (/ˌærɪˈstɒfəniːz/ or /ˌɛrɪˈstɒfəniːz/;[2] Greek: Ἀριστοφάνης, pronounced [aristopʰánɛːs]; c. 446 – c. 386 BC), son of Philippus, of the deme Kydathenaion (Latin: Cydathenaeum),[3] was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his forty plays survive virtually complete. These, together with fragments of some of his other plays, provide the only real examples of a genre of comic drama known as Old Comedy, and are used to define it.[4]

Also known as “the Father of Comedy”[5] and “the Prince of Ancient Comedy”,[6] Aristophanes has been said to recreate the life of ancient Athens more convincingly than any other author.[7] His powers of ridicule were feared and acknowledged by influential contemporaries; Plato[8][9] singled out Aristophanes’ play The Clouds as slander that contributed to the trial and subsequent condemning to death of Socrates, although other satirical playwrights[10] had also caricatured the philosopher.

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