The intent of Aristophanes to present women in a powerful light is confirmed by analysis of his character and the wellspring from which the play emanates. Comparing him to Sappho and “...the [her] fiery and lucid directness,” Lindsay suggests a balance of male-female characteristics present in both genders, pointing to “the profoundly balanced humour of Aristophanes, at once tenderly human and cruelly hard” (Lindsay par 3). Lysistrata to Cleonice mourns the absence of her fellow women, whom she has called to discuss her plan, mocking their absence and suggesting the lure of sex as first as remedy [after as weapon, a symbol of power].
The question becomes, can Lysistrata, the obvious main female character, convince the other women in the play to go on a sex strike until the men cease fighting a meaningless war. In the process of her quest, we discover through analysis of the character, and characters, the essence of what society perceives as the role of women and how women perceive themselves, versus their actual potential. In doing so we make the astounding discovery that issues pertaining to gender were as controversial then as they are today.
Since the development of the concept of gender power occurs throughout the play, it is important to understand Lysistrada as a woman with ideals, determined in the face of resistance [by both the men and at first, women] to pursue them. It is clear here that “Aristophanes is not content to [simply] turn the tables and present purely virtuous women and venal men” (Study Guide, Temple, par 3). In essence, this is not about good or evil but about courage [of women] in the face of resistance--about Lysistrada as a woman character to not only “speak to men” but “to women” as well with the authority normally attributed to men. Her first challenge: how to convince other women, who have accepted their nature as frivolous and passive in political matters, to use their power to exact political ...
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