Discussion Topic

Alternative titles for Lysistrata reflecting its main themes and their relation to contemporary issues


Alternative titles for Lysistrata could include "Women Against War" or "The Power of Unity," reflecting its main themes of anti-war sentiment and gender solidarity. These themes resonate with contemporary issues like peace movements and gender equality, highlighting the timeless relevance of Aristophanes' play in advocating for social and political change.

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What could be an alternative title for Lysistrata reflecting its theme?

The first thing you need to do in order to complete this assignment successfully is to think about the major ideas of Aristophanes's Lysistrata. Although some modern critics think about the play in terms of female empowerment, that is probably anachronistic. For Aristophanes, the idea of females acting in unison to affect affairs of state was inherently comic, rather like the idea of a man flying to Olympus on a dung beetle or birds and humans allying together against the gods. Much of Aristophanes's literary technique involves portraying the fantastic or absurd for comic effect while nevertheless making an important political or social point.

The central point of the play, as of many other plays by Aristophanes, was to oppose the Peloponnesian wars. An important aspect of this opposition, and again something consistent across several works by Aristophanes, was that war tended to harm ordinary citizens, especially farmers and people who were not members of the political elite. 

While you are the only person who can determine your own personal response to the play, the key issue you might look at is the effect of constant war on the citizens of countries in which the fighting is occurring. For example, you might look at news reports about daily life in Somalia, Libya, or Syria. You might also look at Lysistrata's actions and think about what sort of actions private citizens can take to oppose wars. 

While actually writing a title for you would be a form of academic dishonesty, I would suggest that you think about something related to this major theme of war and what ordinary women (or average citizens in general) can do to prevent or end wars.

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What could be an alternative title for Lysistrata reflecting its theme?

Lysistrata is an appropriately named play. It is titled after the play's main protagonist, and this is something that is quite common. John Wick, Rocky, Donnie Brasco, Jerry Maguire, and Annie Hall are all movies that have been named after the title character. Choosing a title that is reflective of themes is less common, because themes tend to be more obscure than title characters or even main plot points or conflicts, such as The Hunger Games.

Lysistrata has a lot of potential themes to work with, but most of them are focused on sex, the power of sex, power struggles between men and women, and how sex and politics can influence each other. Generally speaking, a title also serves as a hook. Boring titles don't create audience interest, and a title can create interest by being somewhat vague. For this play, a potential title that reflects present themes could be "Sex and Politics." The play most definitely deals with the power of sex, absence of sex, and political fallout from sexual frustrations. "Sex and Politics" could work quite well, and there is precedent that using the word "sex" in the title is an effective hook. Take Sex and the City as an example. Sex Tape, Sex Education, and Sex & Drugs, & Rock & Roll also work as examples. The list of book titles that use the word "sex" as a hook is massive, so I think that word should definitely be in your title. "Sex and Politics" is a title that reflects Lysistrata's actions within the play. She wants the war to stop, and she is willing to use sex to make it happen. The twist is that she and the other women use the absence of sex to control the political climate. Maybe an alternative title could be "The Power of Abstinence" or "Abstinence and Politics."

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What new title would you suggest for Lysistrata that reflects its main themes, and how do these themes relate to contemporary issues?

This is an interesting prompt and while you need to write 500 words for this, my response is a bit shorter, but should provide you with a good start.

In the 1960s in America there was a popular anti-war saying that might make a strong alternative title for Lysistrata: Make Love, Not War.

One of the most significant themes of the play is sex. The women in Lysistrata use sex as a means of controlling the men in their lives. The women withhold sex from them so long as the men are at war. The title character, Lysistrata, uses this late in the play as a means of trying to negotiate peace. When that doesn't work, she gets the men drunk and it is then that they are seduced into calling a truce. If we think about the new title, Make Love, Not War, one could see how the women are enticing the men to do just that. The message they are sending to the men is that if they stop the war, they will again be allowed to make love.

So how does this theme or main idea connect to our world today? The argument could be made that sex can and is still used by women as a bargaining chip, whether it be to convince men not to go to war or simply to do something else the woman wants or needs. One other theme of the play is that men viewed women of the time as powerless, yet the one thing that men did value women for (sex) was so powerful that without it, the men were powerless. That carnal need has not changed. Men still desire sex and women can still withhold it from them in order to get their way.

In terms of your personal response to the theme or main idea, you should probably think about the motivations of Lysistrata and the other women in the play. Why is it they are withholding sex? Is their cause noble? Is it justified? Keep in mind that the women in this play are the ones left behind during this war. They are raising the children, they are abandoned for the most part by their husbands and fathers, and the young women have no young men left to even marry because they are off at war dying. As a result of their extreme solution to ending the war, critics have often described the women in this play as strong and brave. You might think about whether or not you agree with this. Consider how the men in the story are portrayed as you craft your own response to the theme. If you must connect your response to the world today, the reasons why the women in the play withhold sex will probably be very different than real-world examples you may find in 2016, so your opinion might be based on the theme of the play, where you see these connections in the real world, or both. Ultimately, you will need to consider the motivations of the women in the play (and they were responding to extreme circumstances) as you think about how women might use this same tactic today.

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