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Lysistrata: An Anti-War Play Essay



Aristophanes’ Lysistrata discloses not only social relations, reconciliation, and salvation through protest; it also represents anti-war motives achieved through woman’s remonstration as the only means to safe Greece from destructions.

The action evolves around the idea to come about the salvation of Greek people that is hatched by the main heroine of the play Lysistrata who encourages all women of Greece to withhold their marriage obligations if men do not put an end to the war. Agreeing upon the plan, all women take control of Acropolis and seize the treasure gained by men during the war.

Enormous efforts are made by women to take advantage of their husbands and stop enmity between the belligerents. Initiating the struggle between sexes and striking against violence and war, Lysistrata makes men agree to women’s terms to stop the fight and arrange a peace agreement.

The main heroine manages to bring salvation and reconciliation while negotiating with males and representing herself as a Reconciliation’s body. She proves close connection between sexual desire and political negotiation being intertwined as the ambassadors whose tandem contributes to peace making.

In this respect, Lysistrata is seen as an exceptional heroine whose intelligence, wisdom, and feministic inclination help overcome aggressiveness, violence, and injustice initiated by men. She, therefore, can be presented as a symbol of peace, pleasure, and reconciliation at the same time.

Presenting Lysistrata as an Exceptional Character in Peace Making

Presenting Lysistrata within Historical Context

Interestingly, heroine’s name literary translates as the arms disbander, which emphasizes the scope of her mission in the war. Lysistrata’s methods cannot be called purely pacifist because not all of her deeds are subject to non-violent approaches. This creates a certain ambivalence of the anti-war characters of the play without distorting its main idea of peace-making.

In this respect, the heroine’s resolute steps taken to stop the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens can be regarded as nothing more but a women’s attempt to return her husband to home. As such, Lysistrata can considered as an exceptional character who manages to present the concept of peace as being closely associated with natural order of things where human welfare depends on mundane needs and pleasures (Dillon 98).

Despite the fact that there is a rigid confrontation between the Spartans and the Athenians whose identities are quite associated and, within this context, Lysistrata unites those two identities to unite Greece.

All her deeds are directed at preserving common cultural and national heritage of Athens and Sparta: “Protector, we hold thy temple;/ And I entreat thine aid, Athene,/ If any set fire to use done here” (Aristophanes 20).

In this song, Lysistrata is compared with the goddess Athena because both figures contributed to the war prevention, acting as the protectors. Both heroines are intelligent and wise as they acknowledge their erudition and realize the violence can be substituted by a common sense.

Introducing Reconciliation through Protest

Lysistrata’s method can be considered quite contradicting because she gains peace both through revolt and through reconciliation. When the heroine finally manages to bring the conflicting parties to the negotiation table, Reconciliation’s body is introduced to the stage where Lysistrata is presented as a powerful instrument for making peace between the Spartans and the Athenians.

According to O’Higgins, “Reconciliation literary embodies Greece in their eyes, and their claims on individual parts of her evoke the grotesqueries of civil war” and “Lysistrata redirects their sexual desire away from destructive dreams of territorial monopoly toward the legitimate sexual monopolies of the marriage bed” (167).

Struggling parties are now under the influence of female opportunism where the heroine’s beautiful body symbolizes the powerlessness of males in the face of pleasure and sexual desire that bring together all men when opposing political views on war.

Beside the heroine’ body, the author attains importance to Lysistrata’s monologues where she calls men and women to reunite and dance: “Let every man with his beloved dance for joy and bless the god for this event…Dance then, oh dance for joy.” (Aristophanes 72). Like in previous representations, the heroine expresses her superiority over men as she can restore the previously existing harmony of male-female relationships.

Interpreting Attitudes to War through Gender and Battle of Sexes

Feministic Approaches to Reaching Peace

Some aspects and key points of the play underscore some feministic tendencies in resolving the conflict. Lysistrata, in this respect, is often represented in the feminist light due to the rise of gender battles aimed at achieving women’s interests and interest of society.

In fact, this point of view is partially mistaken. According to Deats, Lenker, and Perry, “the balance between sexes…has certainly been adjusted in the women’s favor, during the course of the action, the comedy returns to the status quo and the comfortable restitution of an idealized patriarchy” (57).

In this regard, no matter how beneficent the female conspire is for the Greece, it is still presented as the outbreak of discrepancies within the polis and family, and femininity is correlated with tyranny and bestiality. Despite this, the play should be regarded as a feminist text because it sustains it status of an anti-war text because here female energy is represented as life giving and nurturing (Deats, Lenker, and Perry 57).

Exaggerated accent on femininity of the play is still misconceived because sexist thinking here is underscored in terms of achieving harmony in human relations. In particular, the concept presented in the play only emphasizes the idea of equal role of men and women in making the world better and more peaceful.

Aristophanes also makes use of irony to underline that some male’s decisions are, one way or another, influenced by women and, therefore, the patriarchal way of thinking should be subject to doubt in Roman and Greek history.

According to Scolnicov, the play can be fairly called the most feminist because the main heroine manages to rebel against women and create an absolute cultural upheaval (35). The incredible wisdom, militancy of female provides a picture of a general sex-strive against the male hegemony.

In the play, Aristophanes explains the nature of the adversities standing on the way to Lysistrata’s attempt to reach the upheaval: “Oh, women, women! Are we nothing but a frail sex!” (Aristophanes 29). The line reveal that women’s determination and strength is limited to many social commitments and obligations that prevent them from taking advantage of their conditions and from taking steps against war.

Battle of Sexes for the Sake of Peace

Beside feminist tendencies and sex-strike, the play also represents the exaggerated concepts of femininity and masculinity. In particular, any displays of gender are parodied by the playwright to show how hopelessness men are in the face of women’s naked body. The depiction of women dressed like a man only emphasizes Lysistrata’s intention to show female superiority over males (Deats, Lenker, and Perry 58).

Hence, by reducing women and men to their most basic, biological characteristics proves men’s close connection to domesticity and to civil society. In such a manner, the comedy breaks the existing stereotypes about men and women as well as their salient characteristics.

The women taking the initiative in the struggle as well as the men that are challenged by the existing protest create the reversal of social roles for the sake of making peace and harmony and re-uniting the Greek people.

What is more, female pacifism is largely motivated by the sexual domain because there no mentioning of women’s sufferings as wives and mothers. Femininity and gender confrontation, therefore, is presented as both civilizing and aggressive.

Under the circumstances initiated by main heroine, neither men and nor women are no longer stereotypical. Hence, the Athenians are not perceived as warriors igniting their powers and resources while fighting with the Spartans. Women are no longer loyal wives that are staying at home and waiting for their husband. For example, Myrrhine’s husband is fished out of water having no home to come back to and no fight to stand.

Lysistrata together with other women, hence, rises up against men to achieve the peace; she sacrifices herself to the altar of social welfare. Hence, sex stereotypes are put in question to change the course of history and reverse the fight between the Athenians and the Spartans. Aristophanes intentionally prioritizes gender concerns to highlight their considerable impact on political decisions while negotiating the peace.

Political Negotiation and Sexual Desire

Women’s strategies and “weapon” against male political decisions turn out to be much more effective and they preside over existing political regime. Hence, women headed by Lysistrata makes an important declaration of war against their husbands for the sake of establishing peace. In their turn, men assess the women’s plot as a potential threat to their plan, which is highly mocked by the playwright.

They began suspect women of all political horrors and disruptions, including collaboration and conspiracy with the Spartans: “The women are the pawns of those Spartan dogs./ They have betrayed us and for no cause./ Without sex what will happen to our great State?/ Democracy will end if we can’t copulate. ” (Aristophanes 93) The political perversion introduces sexual perversion as well.

Women ironically demonstrate that they can freely handle political issues and that they are able to stand against violence, injustice and war. They contribute to the established chaos, playing an essential rile in public affairs that build expression to the sense of Athenian community (Deats, Lenker, and Perry 58).

In this respect, the main heroine is described as a spinning and carding figure because she dares to impose all males’ duties and obligations on her shoulders. In this respect, by capturing the political and domestic space, women prove that they are able to take control of any situation without men’s help. Thus, they emphasize the uselessness of starting wars and spreading hostility because everything can be resolved amicable.

The art of negotiation is sophisticatedly represented by Lysistrata who selects tricky methods for persuading men to put an end to war (Deats, Lenker, and Perry 58). Intertwining sexual desire and political strategies, women manage to achieve the desirable results as men have to reconcile with their aggression and ambitions and re-unite with their rivals.


In conclusion, the play under analysis can be considered as a peace play because it introduces struggle between men and women for the sake of establishing peace. Introducing the struggle between genders and protesting against war and violence, the main heroine makes men agree to stop the struggle and arrange peace in Greece.

Lysistrata also manages to bring reconciliation when negotiation with men about the peace and representing herself as Reconciliation’s body. While applying to resolute measures, she provides the connection between political negotiation and sexual desire being closely intertwined in a tandem for peace making.

In this respect, the main heroine together with other female characters are represents are the one considerably deviating from existing stereotypes and the one that break stereotypes about men. Moreover, Lysistrata is also considered as a symbol of peace, happiness, and pleasure that are incorporate in physical desires and domesticity.

With regard to the above-stated arguments, Aristophanes’ play can be considered as a classical anti-war play that ironically represents males’ attempt to resist the adversities created by women. Establishing a rigid confrontation between the sexes, the playwright emphasizes close interdependence between human nature and communities goals where biological and physical needs significantly influence people’s decisions.

In addition, the play also proves that women are capable of sustaining peace and control men’s decision. Their main strength in their concealed wisdom and intelligence and, in this respect, Lysistrata is embodiment of all those features; she is the messenger of peace and harmony in Greece.

Works Cited

Aristophanes. Lysistrata. US: Nick Hern Books, 1996. Print.

Deats, Sara Munson, Lenker Langretta Tallent, and Merry Perry. War and Words: Horror and Heroism in the Literature of Warfare. US: Lexington Books, 2004, Print.

Dillon, Matthew. The Lysistrata as a Post-Deceleian Peace Play. Transactions of the American Philosophical Association. 117 (1987): 97-104.

O’Higgins, Laurie. Women and Humor in Classical Greece. UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.

Scolnicov, Hanna. Women’s Theatrical Space. UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Print.

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