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What picture does Aristophanes give us in Lysistrata of the character of Ancient Athenian women and their role within Athenian society? Do you think this picture is true to life?

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Introduction

What picture does Aristophanes give us in Lysistrata of the character of Ancient Athenian women and their role within Athenian society? Do you think this picture is true to life? Within 20 lines of the play opening we discover how a woman's typical role in life is played. Calonice explains it's hard for women to get to Lysistrata's meeting because they will be "hanging round their husbands, waking up the servants, putting the baby to sleep or washing and feeding it." From this it's immediately clear women spend the majority of their time inside, doing household things. This is true to life because women did spend the majority of their time inside because it was frowned upon for women to be outside their house without their husbands, and as their husbands were at war, they were expected to stay indoors. The role of women is brought to attention again when Lysistrata explains to Calonice how she wants to stop the war with the help of other women. "If all the women join together...then united we can save Greece." Calonice justifiably responds with cynicism "How can women achieve anything so grand or noble?" Calonice feels that women don't have the ability to do anything, because they spend their time "at home looking pretty, wearing saffron gowns and make up and Cimberic shifts and giant slippers" and she is right to believe this because up until Lysistrata's plan is introduces, that is all the women spend their time doing. ...read more.

Middle

They weren't allowed to go out without their men, who were all fighting anyway, so they were all confined to their homes. And of course there were few other forms of entertainment; television and radio were still 2,500 years in the making, and so sex was really the only way of passing the time for women, so if they had to give that up, they would have nothing to do at all. Their sexual reliance is again illustrated when they have finally consented to give up sex, and they are making the oath. The cup and jar that are going to be used in the oath, are both of comically enormous size, and so Calonice then says "Cheers you up even to touch it", because she enjoys clutching 'big and meaty' things of course. Within the same scene, Myrrhine's sexual enslavement is made clear again when she nearly faints, falling weak at the knees at the prospect that she's about to relinquish sex. The women in Lysistrata clearly lived for sex and nothing else; and this isn't far from the truth in reality, as it's already been said, they didn't have anything else to do with their time. However, the idea of Ancient Greek women coming together from 'enemy' races, conspiring against men and renouncing sex is something I don't think would be ever have been true in Ancient Greece, because I don't believe that women would actually have had the valour to challenge the men in those times, because of their poor social status. ...read more.

Conclusion

"I'll hit you so hard you'll shit all over the place," "you'll soon be nursing a black eye," and "I'll tear out your hair till you scream and scream." I don't think the women would've been quite so brutal and persistent in their fighting and arguments. I think perhaps this particular characteristic has been exaggerated to some extent. The exaggeration is more apparent when Lysistrata demands "Silence!" from the Magistrate. I don't believe a woman in Ancient Athens would've had the courage to tell a man, especially a man with power, to be quiet. Then she further exacerbates things by embarrassing the Magistrate, adorning him with a veil, a tiara and other various women's jewellery. This is an act of great bravery, or perhaps stupidity, but it pays off and the women end up the victors. In summary, I feel that Aristophanes describes the women's role in Ancient Athenian society clearly and accurately, and for the most parts, the characteristics of them are accurate, in terms of their sexual nature, for example, when they're in the acropolis and many of the women keep trying to escape, with ridiculous excuses about moth balls and pregnancy, just so that they can get home to their husbands and lovers. However I believe certain traits have been exaggerated to suit the story, for example how brutal and courageous the women are at certain points. Nevertheless I don't think the characteristics have been exaggerated that much because it's still very believable, and could very easily be true of Ancient Athenian women. ...read more.

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