Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 515
Praxagora (prak-SA-goh-ruh), a housewife of Athens who has become disgusted with the dishonesty of public officers, the fickleness and greed of the people, and the mismanagement of domestic and foreign affairs. She encourages a number of her female friends to disguise themselves as men, pack the assembly, and vote for her proposal that the government of the state be turned over to the women. Although not above occasional vulgarity, she is quick-witted and courageous. An accomplished orator, she carries her plan to success and finds herself designated dictator. She quickly institutes a program of reform, evidently based on the playwright’s knowledge of an early version of Plato’s Republic. In Praxagora’s utopian society, crime will become impossible because property will be held in common; meals will be taken in communal dining halls, marital restrictions will be abolished (with the proviso that the old and ugly have first claims on desirable sexual partners), and courtesans will be done away with so that honest women may have their choice of young men. Praxagora fears that her reforms are too extreme for adoption, but she is assured that “love of novelty and disdain for the past” among the Athenians will secure the cooperation of the people.
Blepyrus (bleh-PI-ruhs), Praxagora’s husband, some years her senior. He, like his neighbors, dabbles in thievery, lechery, and bearing false witness, but he is reasonably good-natured, if a little dense. Pleased that his wife has been elevated to the dictatorship, he plans to bask in her reflected glory.
Chremes (KRAY-meez), a friend of Blepyrus who brings him the news that the assembly has voted to turn the rule of Athens over to the women.
A man, a neighbor of Blepyrus who awakens to find that his wife and his clothing, in which she went disguised to the assembly, are missing from his house.
Two citizens, one of whom hastens to deliver his property to the common store, as has been decreed. The other wishes to retain his property but still to get his part of the common feast.
A young girl
A young girl, who desires her lover.
A young man
A young man, the lover, who because of the new law must be relinquished to the first old woman.
The first old woman
The first old woman, who is ugly, but who must relinquish the young man to the second old woman.
The second old woman
The second old woman, who is even uglier, but who must share the young man with the third old woman.
The third old woman
The third old woman, who is as ugly as it is possible to be.
A group of women
A group of women, who go disguised as men with Praxagora to the assembly. Each is prepared to speak in favor of women’s sovereignty, but each betrays herself in a practice session, one by bringing wool to card, another by calling for neat wine to drink, and another by swearing by the two goddesses. Praxagora is finally chosen as their spokesperson.