Student Question

How does Aristophanes incorporate the theme of love in Lysistrata?

Quick answer:

Aristophanes is treating love in a very superficial way in Lysistrata, and his treatment of the theme bears no resemblance at all to actual relationships between husbands and wives.

Expert Answers

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Lysistrata is more a comedy about married sex than about married love, and this observation in and of itself may contain some ideas about how Aristophanes treats the theme of love in this play.

In this play, wives withhold sex from their husbands as a way of protesting their husbands' participation in the Peloponnesian War; they insist that the men stop fighting and killing each other. The theme of love is easy to trace in this description, as the play focuses on the relationships between husbands and wives. As the wives do not want their husbands to get hurt or get killed, that must be some proof of affection, attachment, and even love. Aristophanes does not treat love as a clearcut romantic emotion between wives and husbands, however; it is not loving, for example, to use sex as a means of manipulation (even though the manipulation is meant to be life-saving).

Love is not treated very seriously in Lysistrata, which plays on traditional and historical views of sex and gender roles: the men are more interested in sex than the women, and the women use this to get what they want from the men.

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