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Lysistrata by Aristophanes - Essay Example

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Lysistrata by Aristophanes

Lysistrata then decides to summon all women and ask them to turn down any sexual requests from their husbands until the men decide to end the war. The heated conversation between the Commissioner and Lysistrata only highlights Lysistrata's sensibility. The women's power is further emphasized when they manage to scare away the Commissioner's police officers. Attempting to convince the Commissioner that war has cost women dearly and that a city should not be run with abrupt violence, Lysistrata uses an analogy of wool spinning-a common activity for women. The play approaches its reconciliation when the kings of Sparta and Athens both have an erection but are unable to have sex with their wives. The play then ends on a comic note with every man having an erection and desiring Lysistrata's naked maid while Lysistrata lectures them and has them sign the peace treaty.
Although women in Lysistrata are able to influence war in Greence, they can only rely on their feminine sexuality and their husband's sexual desire to achieve such a political goal. In other words, on one hand Lysistrata wants women to assert their autonomy; on the other hand she exploits their sexuality. Thus, Lysistrata's only means to challenge men's authority is by using women as sexual objects. Lysistrata may be seen as a feminine figure as she arouses solidarity among women and takes the initiative to challenge the gender status quo in the country. On the surface, Lysistrata defies against the stereotypes of women set by men: domestic, docile, and obedience. However, by asking the women to refuse sex with their husbands to achieve the political goal, Lysistrata is in fact encouraging women to view their sexuality as a mere instrument, or a tool for them to achieve status quo with their husbands. Lysistrata displays her tendency to objectify women, just like their husbands do. For example, she gazes at Lampito and makes her feel like "a heifer come fair time." Lysistrata also scrutinizes Ismenia's vagina and the buttocks of the Korinthian Girl. Ironically, Lysistrata is examining the bodies of women as if she is a man while her goal is to define the gender inequality in Greece.
While exploiting other women's sexuality, Lysistrata denies her femininity and she may be the most masculine character in the play. Lysistrata instructs the women to play on male stereotypes, that is, men have boundless sexual desire, while becoming more masculine herself. The only way Lysistrata can gain and retain her power is by rejecting not only the frailty, but also the femininity of women. In other words, Lysistrata can only empower herself as a woman by not acting like one. This complicates the argument that Lysistrata is a feminist play.
According to the historical context of Ancient Greece, all characters in the play will be played by male actors in front of male audiences. This will inevitably affect the sexual tension of the play. In this particular context, the play may be viewed as a piece of male-oriented instead of feminist work as it allows the male audience to mock the "empowerment" of women with the overall comical tone of the play. The fact that there are no real women on stage and that Lysistrata is a masculine character suggests that Aristophanes does not intend to make the play an advocacy for female political autonomy. Ultimately, it is the men who have the power to change the ...Show more

Summary

Aristophanes's Lysistrata may be seen as one of the earliest pieces of feminist literature that empowers women, though in a rather ironic way. The play opens with the introduction of Lysistrata, raging about the inaction of women in her country because they seem to be either oblivious or resigned regarding the war in Greece…
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Lysistrata by Aristophanes essay example
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