BOOK REVIEW – ARISTOPHANES – LYSISTRATA c.411 BCE Various editions.
A comedy play of considerable importance by a contemporary of Plato and Socrates. There is some debate among philosophers as to whether or not the work is to be considered as a study in feminism or not.
Frustrated that her husband constantly goes off to war with his friends, and comes home for a few days of love making to her before going back to battle, Lysistrata rallies round as many women as she can muster who have similar concerns. Though many choose not to attend, she has considerable support for a very bold plan.
Her revolution amounts to strike action in which all the women will refuse to offer themselves willingly as lovers to their husbands and boyfriends. In effect, the men will face endless forced abstinence until they stop fighting and risking their lives.
The women themselves capture the Acropolis and trick men of both armies into meeting them there.
The men are shocked and try everything that they can to stop he women’s crusade. The soldiers strip naked to show the women their physiques. Several women give up, citing lame excuses for having to go home. One tells Lysistrata that she is heavily pregnant and due to go into labour at any time, though she obviously is not remotely pregnant.
By sheer will power, Lysistrata gets most of the women to stand firm. If the men resort to rape, the women are to offer no resistance or sign of liking the experience. The men will realise that they get sex but no love.
One man produces his son in a desperately low attempt at emotional blackmail. , Lysistrata resorts to extremes herself. She has the women seduce their men, get them heated up for sex, and then refuse them favours at the very last instant. Before long, the armies of Greece and Sparta (their opponants0 decide to settle on peace. Lysistrata has saved the day, but Aristophanes makes her scheming and manipulative in the extreme. She takes control of her husband’s purse strings as well as his love life. This is not so much a feminist polemic, as a way of showing men how dangerous women can be. It remains however a very exciting, funny and perceptive political satire.
LINK - The text of the play. http://aristophanes.classicauthors.net/Lysistrata/Lysistrata2.html
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