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Examples of farce and satire in Aristophanes' Lysistrata

Summary:

In Lysistrata, Aristophanes uses farce and satire to critique societal norms. Farcical elements include exaggerated actions, such as the women withholding sex to end the war. Satirical aspects target gender roles and political conflict, mocking the foolishness of war and the dynamics between men and women in Athenian society.

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What are some examples of farce in Lysistrata?

One major example of farce in Lysistrata is Lysistrata's plan to stop the war. She believes that if all the women decide to stop having sex with their husbands, it will bring things to a close. This is clearly highly exaggerated and meant to be humorous. However, the women ultimately decide to go with the plan after a Spartan woman supports it, despite their initial misgivings. This sets the stage for the rest of the tale.

Another example of farce is the way that women punish men who oppose them. After they take the Acropolis, the men of the community decide to start a fire so that the smoke will force the women to emerge. They aren't having that, though. The women dump pots of water on the men's heads. Later, the magistrate who tries to go against the women also has a pot of water dumped on his head.

The use of a nude woman to convince the sex-starved men to finally sign a peace agreement is also farcical. As Lysistrata tries to convince the Athenian and Spartan men that fighting together isn't the right way to move forward, a nude woman is standing there. She's meant to be the goddess of peace. Since the men haven't been able to have sex with their wives, the sight of the nude women frustrates them and pushes them closer to peace. The final push of a little liquor is all that's needed to finally make peace between Athens and Sparta a reality.

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Can you provide an example of satire in Aristophanes' Lysistrata?

The introductory passage of Lysistrata contains the first element of satire in Aristophanes' play. Lysistrata and Calonice are wittily discussing the absence of the neighboring groups of women who were summoned by Lysistrata to a council. The women are tardy in coming, in fact, Lysistrata seems to wonder if they will come at all: "But now there's not a woman to be seen." As the two women discuss the general nature of Lysistrata's urgent business, Lysistrata begins the satirical passage that wittily protests the vain and frivolous nature of women's mentality (making ancient women sound a lot like contemporary women in the process!). Lysistrata answers Calonice's question about why the other women haven't arrived by saying:

No man's connected with it;
If that was the case, they'd soon come fluttering along.

Lysistrata tells Calonice that her object is no less than rescuing Greece, "Greece saved by Woman!" to which Calonice replies that woman is a "Wretched thing, I'm sorry for it." Calonice then asks how the women can do such a thing. It is here that Aristophanes details a satirical criticism of the mentality of women of his day. Calonice says:

How could we do
Such a big wise deed? We women who dwell
Quietly adorning ourselves in a back-room
With gowns of lucid gold and gawdy toilets
Of stately silk and dainty little slippers....

The satire deepens as Lysistrata persuades Calonice that

These are the very armaments of the rescue.
These crocus-gowns, this outlay of the best myrrh,
Slippers, cosmetics dusting beauty, and robes
With rippling creases of light.

To each of Lysistrata's persuasive assertions, Calonice responds by satirically (and ironically) exclaiming that she will take up each of the items they have just disparaged:

LYSISTRATA

No man will lift a lance against another--

CALONICE

I'll run to have my tunic dyed crocus.

LYSISTRATA

Or take a shield--

CALONICE

I'll get a stately gown.

LYSISTRATA

Or unscabbard a sword--

CALONICE

Let me buy a pair of slipper.

The point being made by Aristophanes through this opening satire is criticism of the way women lived in Aristophanes' time and of what they accomplished in or participated in in terms of aspects of the larger life of society. Of course, this satirical opening gambit is part of the larger point Aristophanes is making regarding the latent, potential, and realized powers of women.

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