the third and concluding play of Aristophanes' War and Peace
series, was not produced till ten years later than its predecessor,
the Peace, viz.
in 411 B.C. It is now the twenty-first year of the War and
there seems as little prospect of peace as ever. A desperate
state of things demands a desperate remedy, and the Poet proceeds
to suggest a burlesque solution of the difficulty.
The women of Athens, led by Lysistrata
and supported by female delegates from the other states of Hellas,
determine to take matters into their own hands and force the
men to stop the War. They meet in solemn conclave, and Lysistrata
expounds her scheme, the rigorous application to husbands and
lovers of a self-denying ordinance--"we must refrain from
the male altogether." Every wife and mistress is to refuse
all sexual favours whatsoever, till the men have come to terms
of peace. In cases where the women must yield 'par force
majeure,' then it is to be with an ill grace and in such a way
as to afford the minimum of gratification to their partner; they
are to be passive and take no more part in the amorous game than
they are absolutely obliged to. By these means Lysistrata assures
them they will very soon gain their end. "If we sit indoors
prettily dressed out in our best transparent silks and prettiest
gewgaws, and all nicely depilated, they will be able to deny
us nothing." Such is the burden of her advice.
After no little demure, this plan of campaign
is adopted, and the assembled women take a solemn oath to observe
the compact faithfully. Meantime as a precautionary measure they
seize the Acropolis, where the State treasure is kept; the old
men of the city assault the doors, but are repulsed by "the
terrible regiment" of women. Before long the device of the
bold Lysistrata proves entirely effective, Peace is concluded,
and the play ends with the hilarious festivities of the Athenian
and Spartan plenipotentiaries in celebration of the event.
The drama has a double Chorus--of women
and of old men, and much excellent fooling is got out of the
fight for possession of the citadel between the two hostile bands;
while the broad jokes and decidedly suggestive situations arising
out of the general idea of the plot outlined above may be "better
imagined than described."
This article is reprinted
from Aristophanes: The Eleven Comedies. Trans. Anonymous.
London: The Athenian Society, 1922.