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Characterization of "Lysistrata" Essay

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Lysistrata, first produced in 411 B.C. is a play that represents the frustrations that Athenian women faced due to the Peloponnesian War. Lysistrata, an Athenian woman is the play's heroine; her name is significant in itself, as it means "she who disbands the armies" (Page 467, footnote 2). With the aide of other Athenian women, Lysistrata organizes a "sex strike" in an effort to cease further violence and bring peace between Athens and Sparta. Eventually, her campaign is adopted by the women of Greece, and the efforts of the Athenian women are successful. Lysistrata is not only a leader for Athenian women; she is also bold and does not represent the stereotype of traditional, domestic Athenian women.

First, Lysistrata is clearly identifiable as a leader for Athenian women. In the beginning of the play, Lysistrata secretly organizes a meeting between all the women of Greece to discuss a strategy to end the Peloponnesian War "if the women will meet here - the Spartans, the Boeotians, and we Athenians - then all together we will save Greece" (Page 468, 40-42). During the meeting, which Lysistrata leads, Lysistrata suggests to the women of Greece to withhold sex from their husbands. The women are hesitant and some refuse "I won't do it! Let the war go on" states Myrrhine, an Athenian woman (Page 470, 132). However, with Lysistrata' encouragement, the women swear an oath to withhold sex from their husbands until a treaty of peace is signed. Also, throughout the play, Lysistrata continuously directs, instructs and coaches the women of Athens on how to behave. Furthermore, the men call upon Lysistrata to make the treaty between Sparta and Athens "Only Lysistrata can arrange things for us; shall we summon her?" (Page 494, 1...


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...tics. Her function in society as a heroine is portrayed throughout the play. However, the reader must consider that the play is representative of a fictitious comedy and offered no relief from war "the war continued for seven more exhausting years, until Athens's last fleet was defeated" (Page 467, Paragraph 2). Furthermore, Lysistrata is the "mastermind" of the "sex strike;" however, she does not take part in it other than directing orders. Also, due to her apparent lack of sexual desire, Lysistrata is given more respect by the men of Athens. The play's actions, characters and Lysistrata's actions all indicate her demonstration of a bold leader, unrepresentative of a traditional Athenian woman.

Works Cited

Aristrophanes. "Lysistrata." The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Maynard, Mack. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997. 466-469.


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