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Lysistrata

Aristophanes

Character Analysis

Character List

Beginning–Inspection of Spartan Women

Lysistrata

Lysistrata is the ultimate MC (master of ceremonies) and director of the action of Lysistrata. Continually giving direction from behind the scenes of the action, Lysistrata not only instructs the women on how to act, but carefully observes and coaches the women. A good example of this "coaching" is Lysistrata's interaction with Myrrhine when Kinesias comes to the Akropolis. Before Kinesias arrives at the Akropolis, Lysistrata gives Myrrhine specific directions on how to act with her husband and then watches to make sure that Myrrhine doesn't give in to Kinesias. From her perch, Lysistrata is the overseer of the action. Lysistrata is also separate from the action of the play and the other women of the play because she does not participate in either the sex strike or the seizure of the Akropolis. While Lysistrata is the mastermind for both of these attacks, she does not take part in them.

The separation Lysistrata achieves from the other women is important to her rank and power with the male characters in the play. Because Lysistrata does not exhibit any sexual desire, has no obvious lovers or husbands, and does not purposely flirt with men, the Commissioner and the delegates seems to give her more respect. Lysistrata also uses different language than the other women; she is smarter, has more wit and has a more serious tone than the others. This too contributes to her ability as a leader of Greece. By the end of the play, the men call upon Lysistrata to make the treaty between Sparta and Athens. This scenario, a woman negotiating between states, is completely fictional; in reality, women had no voting privileges in Greece. Therefore, however put, the idea that women could end a war was probably very silly and ridiculous to the Greek audience members; nonetheless, Lysistrata's rejection of the stereotypical domestic female allows her to take the stage and achieve a real political voice in a male-dominated state.

It has also been suggested that Lysistrata was a representative of traditional religion which also may have allowed her to be somewhat separate or have a higher social ranking than the other women. This theory, developed by Papadimitriou and Lewis goes as follows. The priestess of Athena Polias was the most famous priestess in Athens. There is significant evidence that in the late fifth century BCE, a woman by the name of Lysimakhe held this post. Lysimakhe was the priestess of Athena Loias for sixty-four years. The name Lysimakhe means dissolving battles and is similar to Lysistrata (a name that means dissolving armies). Also, a woman by the name of Myrrhine was the priestess of the temple of Athena Nike during the same period. It has been suggested that the characters of Lysistrata and Myrrhine were based on real-life priestesses. A priestess in Ancient Greece had the privilege of performing rituals for a goddess. Evidence within the play, such as Lysistrata's ability to call a meeting of all the women of Greece and the fact that Lysistrata leads the women to the temple of Athena, supports this theory.

Kinesias

Aristophanes makes fun of women, but he also makes fun of his own sex. Kinesias, of course the prime example, is the unhappy target of the women's sex strike. In the infamous scene between Myrrhine and her husband Kinesias, Kinesias is fooled and tricked by his wife. Douglas M. MacDowell suggests that Myrrhine's husband Kinesias is the same gawky and cadaverous poet who is mocked in Aristophanes's Birds. Because Kinesias is a rare name, MacDowell believes that the audience of Ancient Greece would automatically assume it was the same poet, who was the "constant butt of comic dramatists" and the subject of an entire work by Strattis. In Lysistrata, Kinesias proves himself a buffoon, poor father and misogynist-extraordinaire. As many of the women of Greece exemplify the idealized or stereotypical female, Kinesias represents the stereotypical, dimwitted male figure; Kinesias only seeks out his wife because he has a painful erection, he is unable to care for his own children and is outwitted by his playful wife. Kinesias's character confirms that Aristophanes meant Lysistrata to be a play mocking the sexual desires and attributes of both sexes.

Chorus of Old Men & Chorus of Old Women

The Chorus of Lysistrata is split into two, the Chorus of Men and the Chorus of Women. The two choruses, both old and fragile, are incredibly comic elements of the text. As the members of the choruses have all reached and passed their prime, there is little sexual tension between the rival groups. It is obvious that Lysistrata sends the Old women of Athens to take the Akropolis because they will be of no use in the sex strike. Ironically, the Chorus of Women proves more useful than the younger groups of sex striking ladies. The Chorus of Women not only takes the Akropolis, but also is able to defend it against the Chorus of Men. The Chorus of Men, in the style of Kinesias, is rather dumb and is completely overwhelmed by the women who beat them physically and mentally. The action and relationship between the two choruses parallels the action of the story; as tensions between men and women increase, so does the fighting between the choruses. When peace is declared, the choruses join together as one. This dynamic between the male and female choruses also reveals the dependency between the domestic and political lives of the Athenian people. Like Sparta and Athens, like Myrrhine and Kinesias, like the Koryphaios of Men and the Koryphaios of Women, the choruses find reconciliation when the state declares peace. The Choruses also serve to place the events of the story within the Greek religious and historical tradition. The songs of the men and women constantly refer to other mythological and historical events that are like those that happen on stage.

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