Some groups protesting the war in Iraq stage a production of Lysistrata to support their protest. Examine if the ideas in the drama are aplicable to this modern context.

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jvbellon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that if this question is answered with literal interpretation, I say no - sexual and gender politics have shifted so much since ancient Greece...even Aristophanes himself was a self-admitted misogynist, and wrote the play as a sort of absurd comedy, not truly believing that women would ever have the power to throw down a sexual revolution. 

However, if we examine the play in regards to women's power in love and war, I'd say the play was so ahead of its time.  What Aristophanes didn't anticipate is that audiences much, much later would look at Lysistrata and see the idea of power dynamics - power is taken as long as it's allowed to be given.  These soldiers allowed women to have power over them - they claimed to be helpless.  But these women also gave themselves up to another power that is not nearly as discussed - the power of Pallas Athena.  Athena helps keep them 'pure' and focused on the task at hand, hoping for strongest possible outcomes to bring the war to a close and all parties involved to an agreement.  They are hoping for patriotism and divine intervention..not to mention that clear political strategy is involved to get men on all sides to an understanding. 

Let's do something funny - take gender out of the equation.  What you have left are trans-national negotiations, and a group of people saying "Let's exchange power."  Once everyone has what they need, they're happy.

Except that NOTHING is ever that easy.  Of course there are facets of this play that reflect modern warfare - how do armies get what they want, how do they accomplish objectives?  And yes, divisive gender politics do exist in the military, but if you take that out of the play, we still have a real problem to understand about the way conflicts are resolved.  As much as I enjoy this play, it all ends just a little too neat and clean for me to say it reflects modern military campaigns, especially those where it is difficult to declare an end to the war, much less whether or not victory or defeat was accomplished.




Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The original question had to be edited down. I certainly think that there is some power in seeing Lysistrata through the modern lens.  For example, women in Iraq protesting about the war and discontent that has ravaged that nation for so long could hold some modern relevance.  So much of Iraq has been decimated by wars that men in the position of power have waged.  The challenging element here is in how violence towards women is viewed both in the Classical setting and in the modern context.  Lysistrata argues that if women are physically violated or abused, this form of sexual conquest would not be as pleasing for the men.  Hence, she understands that there is some type of social boundary that men would not cross in their interactions with women.  Her assurance to the women is that they could fully rest assured with the idea that if they are beaten, they can surrender sexually to the men, who would not be pleased with sex at such a cost.  Given the condition of being in which violence against women is sadly evident, this boundary has been eviscerated in the modern setting.  Even if one could argue that withholding sex from men would be debilitating, there is little to indicate that they would not revert to violence and physical assaults against women to get what they want.  Whereas Lysistrata suggests to women that obtaining sex through physical compulsion is not as desirable to men of the Greek setting, I am not sure that this would be a boundary that the modern construction of men would avoid.  Certainly, if women are immersed in a condition where their rights are challenged, thinking that physical violence against women is a realm that would not be trampled upon is a critical difference between the drama's setting in the Classical setting and in the modern one. This might be one area where significant difference between the reception and effectiveness of the drama in the modern setting might be tested.