Lysistrata: a Comedy of Stereotypes

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LYSISTRATA, a comedy of stereotypes

The playwright Aristophanes wrote about an ancient Greece, Athens in particular, during a time of constant warfare. His play "Lysistrata" is an attempt to amuse while putting across an anti-war message. In fact even the naming of the play is an anti-war message of sorts. The word "lysistrata" means, "disband the army" (Jacobus 162). Aristophanes was a crafty writer; he creates a work of art that causes his audience to think about the current state of affairs in their city. He points out that there is a major threat to Athens when all the good, young fighters are sent off to war. Aristophanes achieves this aim by using stereotypical characterizations of women to show how utterly defenseless Athens is without their young men at home. His message is a bit subliminal in nature but still a heady one. Aristophanes realized that audiences don't come to plays to be preached at but to be entertained. To this end, he uses comedy and comical characterizations to delight the spectators/readers. The principal form of comical characterization he depended on was stereotyping. As the main theme of the play, the female stereotype of woman's only power base being sex was strongly employed. The main character Lysistrata and all the women in Greece band together to essentially take over the city states to end the Peloponnesian war. They do this by exploiting their stereotypical power source, sexuality. This "power source" would not be successful if not for the women of "Lysistrata" playing into the male stereotype that men cannot control their lust for women and will do anything for sex. The character, Lysistrata, encourages all the women to use their attractiveness and "feminine wiles" to make the men want them sexually. They even use a naked statue to finally get the men to agree to a treaty. An interesting note, during Lysistrata's speech at the peace treaty conference, the men don't pay any attention to her words. Rather,...
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