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Lysistrata

Aristophanes

Wool Metaphor–Myrrhine's Seduction

Gates of the Akropolis–Wool Metaphor

Myrrhine's Seduction–Play's End

Summary

The Koryphaios of Men addresses the audience and tells them that they must act to preserve their freedom from the women. The Chorus of Old Men also advances toward the audience and, with the Koryphaios of Men, the chorus strips its clothing off until the men wear only short tunics. The Koryphaios of Men and the Chorus of Old Men lament that the women have caused great disorder in Athens. The Koryphaios of Men sneaks up next to the Koryphaios of Women, knocks her in the jaw and runs back to the men. The women also remove their mantles, revealing tunics much like those of the men. The Chorus of Old Women also advances toward the audience and makes its plea. The Koryphaios of Women tells the audience that she is not ashamed to be a woman, that women's leadership is better than the present state of Greece. The Koryphaios of Women hits the Koryphaios of Men in the jaw with her slipper. The Koryphaios of Men leads the Chorus of Old Men in the removal of their tunics to make the women smell their foul odor. The women also remove their tunics to give the men a whiff of the "Femme Enragee," or the enraged female's odor. The Koryphaios of Women then grabs the Koryphaios of Men by the ankle and trips him.

Lysistrata comes out of the Akropolis, visibly distraught. Lysistrata complains that the women are escaping from the temple to have sex with their husbands. At that moment, the one of these women attempts to escape from the Akropolis across the stage. The woman explains that she must get back to her weaving at home and runs on despite Lysistrata's orders. Another woman then runs across the stage telling Lysistrata that she must pluck the fibers from unpeeled flax and, finally a third woman crosses the stage who pretends that she is pregnant. Other women filter out of the Akropolis and crowd around Lysistrata who tells the women they must be a united front or that everything will fail. Lysistrata reads from the oracle, which tells the women that if they do not work together they will suffer great shame and embarrassment. Encouraged, the women go back to the citadel.

As the women exit, the choruses reassemble. A fight ensues between an old man and an old Woman, who unsuccessfully swing at each other with fists and sexual slander. In the midst of this struggle, Lysistrata mounts a platform and looks over the horizon where she sees an approaching male. Myrrhine identifies the man as Kinesias, her husband and assures Lysistrata that she can take care of him. All of the women exit, except for Lysistrata, who is on the platform, and Myrrhine, who is hidden from the view of her husband. Kinesias has a visible erection and is followed by a slave who carries a baby boy. Kinesias is in visible pain and demands that Lysistrata bring out Myrrhine to him. Myrrhine appears at the wall and Kinesias begs her to come down to him. Kinesias has brought the couple's son who begs for his mother. Pitying the child, Myrrhine comes down from the wall.

As Myrrhine descends, Kinesias soliloquizes about the beauty and temper of his wife. When Myrrhine enters she takes the baby and refuses to let Kinesias touch her. Kinesias explains the problems at home—the weaving has come unraveled, the house has gone to hell and he, himself, is desperate for sex. Myrrhine solidly refuses to have sex with him until there is a peace treaty. Kinesias apparently wants to have sex with Myrrhine immediately and Myrrhine takes advantage of his neediness. Myrrhine pretends she is suddenly willing and gets a cot from inside the Akropolis. While the desperate Kinesias lies down, Myrrhine goes to get more and more essential items for sex (a pillow, a blanket, perfume) from inside the Akropolis until she finally disappears after asking her husband to remember to vote for the truce.

Analysis

After another formidable choral interlude between the old men and old women, the sex-strike is played out in full. In the infamous scene between Myrrhine and her husband Kinesias, a woman is finally seen tempting the male as plotted by the women earlier in the play. 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 but of comic dramatists" and the subject of an entire work by Strattis.

Lysistrata gives Myrrhine careful directions about how to tempt her husband. Atop her perch, Lysistrata remains the spectator and director of the scene between husband and wife. Myrrhine acts as the female seductress in this scene and positions herself as an idealized female or subject to male attraction. Myrrhine plays at the woman her husband desires. The comedy lies in Myrrhine's exploitation of Kinesias's ideal female and the audience's knowledge that Kinesias will not get what he wants. The seductress has a long history in Greek mythology. Possibly two of the most famous actual tribes of women who used men for power were the Amazons and the story of the Lemnian women.

The Amazons are known as a tribe of women who excelled in war craft and lived near the southeastern coast of the Black Sea. The Amazons rejected all men from their tribe. After getting pregnant, women would kill their mates and only keep female children. Many critics have pointed out how women like the Amazons are used as the representative female threat to male power. Like the myth of the Amazons, the women of Lysistrata refuse sexual relations with the men and occupy the Akropolis. The Amazon women over took the Akropolis as survived in the painting on the Stoa Poikile and the metopes on the Parthenon. The Lemnian women are seen various times in Greek literature. Aphrodite made the Lemnian women have an odor to repel their husbands. When the husbands took Thracian women captives and concubines, the women murdered all the men on the island of Lemnos. The daughter of the king, Hysipyle, did not kill her father, but sent him out to sea. Hysipyle became ruler of the women. When Jason and the Argonauts ventured to Lemnos, Hysipyle married Jason and restored heterosexuality to the island. Like the battle of the choruses, the women of Lemnos battle the men. Also the chorus of women attempts to repel the men of the chorus with their odors (unfortunately not made putrid enough by Aphrodite).

The similarity between these mythic tribes and the women of Lysistrata symbolically equates the women with their threatening ancestors. The women pose a great threat to the men of Athens; the similarity of the women of Lysistrata to the actual mythological women who defeated men make the women's threats more potent. It is interesting, however, that in the mythology of the Amazons and the women of Lemnos the women control their own governments. For a while this is somewhat true in Lysistrata, but ultimately the women do not include themselves in the future social and political scheme of Athens (Lysistrata's wool metaphor), but have merely taken over as a temporary fix to restore order to the country.

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