Using Aristophanes' Lysistrata, discuss the notion that comedy arises from improbable people in probable situations.

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Aristophanes' Lysistrata first came to the stage in Athens in 411 BCE. At the time, Athens was two decades into a war with the people of Sparta and its allies. Given this historical background, Aristophanes once again brings up the issue of peace between the two city-states.

In Acharnians of 425, Aristophanes' hero Dicaepolis had made a personal peace treaty with the Spartans. In Peace, which appeared just before the Peace of Nicias in 421, Trygaeus had flown to heaven on a dung beetle to bring the goddess Peace to the Athenians and Spartans. Now, a decade after the Peace of Nicias had disintegrated and war and erupted again, Aristophanes proposes a new comic solution to the war between Athens and Sparta.

In Lysistrata, Aristophanes brings some other unlikely heroes into the peace process: a group of women led by the title character. Whereas in our modern society, it is not surprising that women have the right to vote and it is not uncommon to see women as leaders of nations, in ancient Athens, women could not vote.

Thus, Aristophanes' audience would have been quite surprised to see a group of women attempting to bring an end to the war. The method that Lysistrata advocates is perhaps even more surprising. Lysistrata proposes that the women of Greece refuse to have sexual relations with their husbands until they men make peace. By the end of the play, Lysistrata and her fellow women have compelled the sex-starved men to make peace. Thus, as is typical in Aristophanes, an unlikely hero resolves a situation that Aristophanes has taken up in at least two earlier plays.

Read the study guide:
Lysistrata

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