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The portrayal of Women in The Trojan Women and Medea by Euripides and in Lysistrata by Aristophanes.

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Introduction

In The Trojan Women and Medea by Euripides and in Lysistrata by Aristophanes the harsh and debasing treatment of women is portrayed by the playwrights' use of the chorus's commentary. In all three plays, women are shown, in the conventional attitudes of the time, as beings made for the household and subordinate to men. In The Trojan Women, the captive women become hopeless slaves to the Achaean captors after the fall of Troy and in Medea, the husband appears as the dominant force in marital decisions in a play when Medea murders her children and the new wife of the adulterous Jason. Accordingly, Aristophanes shows that women are unfit to leave the protection and controlling hands of their husbands through Lysistrata whereas the women revolt against the men in a war of the sexes. In general, these three plays emphasize that Greek men are unjustly more important to society as women hold a lower stature. In the first of the three Greek tragedies, The Trojan Women takes place in front of the sacked city of Troy, which has been defeated by the Achaeans and the husbandless Trojan women are waiting to be enslaved. The chorus in this play is composed of the Trojan women who uniformly despise the Greek captors and wish to return to Troy and their husbands. Euripides uses the chorus to reveal the horrible treatment of the fearful and hopeless women who have lost their city, their husbands, and their children, and are awaiting slavery to their enemies. ...read more.

Middle

In contrast to The Trojan Women, where the chorus plays the character of the women of Troy, the chorus in Medea, also women, takes a sympathizing role, emphasizing the base treatment by her husband when he pursues another woman. The chorus tries to comfort Medea by stating: "If your husband worships a new bride, it is a common event; be not exasperated" (Euripides, Medea 193). The chorus offers advice to try to dissuade Medea from inconceivably killing her children at the end of the play and also shows how women could have held little importance to men in Greece. If husbands normally found new brides, then the previous brides must not have had much significance, illustrating again the concept that women were lower in society than men. The chorus also reveals the women's feelings about men, bemoaning that "the hearts of men are treacherous; the sanctions of Heaven are undermined. The voice of time will change, and our glory will ring down the ages. Womankind will be honored. No longer will ill-sounding report attach to our sex" (Euripides, Medea 199). According to the chorus, women do not want to be second to men anymore but equally important and valued. Women do not want to be the unequal companion that is tossed aside when the man finds another like Jason did to Medea. ...read more.

Conclusion

Aristophanes satirizes how basely women were treated by basically saying that their place was cooking food or washing clothes. However, later, Aristophanes also alludes to an old proverb that says, "Life with women is hell. Life without women is hell, too" (96). Ironically, although women were considered less than men, Aristophanes adds that they still held some power in society in the fact that they were women and therefore unique and special to men. Women could give men what men couldn't give themselves, which gave them some leverage to stand on according to Aristophanes. Nevertheless, women were still subordinate to men and especially during times of war and suffering, they were expected to support and aid men in battle instead of possibly participate themselves. In conclusion, all three plays develop the idea that women are subordinate physically and socially to men through the use of the chorus. Euripides used the chorus in his two plays, The Trojan Women and Medea, to play the special character of the hopeless women and to deepen the morality of the women's treatment in the plot while Aristophanes used the chorus in Lysistrata to show the conflict between the two sexes and the war that developed between them. Both of the playwrights used a chorus of women to portray the defiling treatment of women to the effect that only a chorus of women could establish. Finally, both playwrights held similar views towards society and the maltreatment of women, and they both alluded to a necessity to change the way the social ladder was constructed. ...read more.

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