(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Praxagora, who had stolen her husband’s clothes and escaped from the house before dawn, was waiting in the street for her fellow conspirators to appear. As they arrived she inspected them to see if they had made all the preparations that had been agreed upon at the feast of the Scirophoria. Had they let the hair under their armpits grow? Had they darkened their complexions by rubbing themselves thoroughly with oil and standing all day in the sun? Had they prepared false beards? Had they stolen their husbands’ shoes, cloaks, staffs, and clubs? Assured that they had done everything possible to disguise themselves as men, Praxagora opened the discussion of their plot to save Athens by taking over the government from the men. This was to be achieved by invading the assembly disguised as men and dominating the vote. The first problem was to select a spokesman. When woman after woman failed the practice test by invoking goddesses or addressing the audience in feminine terms, Praxagora herself took on the responsibility of speaking for them. At dawn they departed for the assembly.

Meanwhile, Blepyrus, Praxagora’s husband, had awakened with a need to relieve himself, only to find both his wife and his clothes missing. His need was so great, however, that he dressed in his wife’s saffron robe and rushed outdoors. Before he could return to the house, he was accosted by his friend Chremes, who gave him a detailed account of the strange proceedings at the assembly. He told how, after several citizens had proposed stupid suggestions for curing the economic plight of the city, a rather fair young man had taken the floor to urge that the government be hereafter entrusted to the women. The speaker had been enthusiastically applauded by a large crowd of strange shoemakers. Chremes himself was rather in favor of the idea, since it was the one and only solution that had hitherto not been tried.

After supervising a secret change back to feminine dress among...

(The entire section is 806 words.)