Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 470
Lysistrata summons to Athens women from Sparta and the other city-states involved in the Second Peloponnesian War. She proposes to them that they use their feminine wiles to force an end to the prolonged conflict. Specifically, she suggests that they all swear an oath not to have sexual relations with their men until the armistice is achieved.
The women are horrified at the suggestion, except for Lampito, a Spartan woman, who agrees with Lysistrata that this solution is a workable one. Lampito helps Lysistrata persuade the women to take a sacred oath not to have physical relations with their husbands or lovers until the war is over.
Many of the women return to their native lands, but Lysistrata and a group of her female followers seize the Acropolis and lock themselves inside. The old men of Athens, the magistrates, build fires around the base, trying to smoke the women out, but the women retaliate by dumping water on the old men and holding their ground.
Eventually the sexually deprived men from the opposing sides gather but are reluctant to sign the treaty. Soon, however, they are enticed into doing so by the resolute women.
LYSISTRATA is high comedy, as popular and timely today as it was when it was written. The humor is broad and bawdy. Like much good comedy, the play holds up to ridicule contemporary conditions and situations.
Bowie, A. M. Aristophanes: Myth, Ritual, and Comedy. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1993. An interesting structural anthropological approach that places Aristoph-anes’ plays in their contemporary context. The analysis of Lysistrata includes a discussion of earlier myths and rituals that demonstrate feminist power.
Dover, K. J. Aristophanic Comedy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972. A tribute to Artistophanes’ plays in their cultural context by a distinguished classical Greek scholar. A separate chapter on Lysistrata provides a synopsis and examines the lyrics and characters. Also includes a discussion of war and incorporates useful notes on transliteration.
Reckford, Kenneth J. Aristophanes’ Old-and-New Comedy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987. Six essays on interpreting Aristophanes. The author, who views Lysistrata as living theater, offers unusual staging possibilities and discusses the play within the context of loyalty to comic truths, ritual, and sexual equality. Lengthy bibliography included.
Solomos, Alexis. The Living Aristophanes. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1974. The author, the director who first staged all of Aristophanes’ plays at the classic theater at Epidaurus, discusses Lysistrata as Aristophanes’ first attempt at comedy as popular entertainment. Argues that Aristophanes was indulging his theatrical fancies rather than moralizing as a social reformer.
Spatz, Lois. Aristophanes. Boston: Twayne, 1978. Sound introduction to Aristophanes’ plays. A separate chapter on Lysistrata examines the political and historical background, secondary role of women in Athenian society, and the elusive and idyllic quest for peace. Also includes chronology, notes, and selected bibliography.