Lysistrata Summary and Humour Notes

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Historical Context
Peloponnesian war:
Between Athens and Sparta.
Driven by jealousy for supremacy on Greek mainland and Island states.
There was a true, but was broke again in 431BC
Athens was defeated in 404 and forced to accept Spartan control
The Play:
Produced in 411
Athens suffered heavily in war and the Spartans annually occupied Athenian land and
laid waste to it
Athens had undertaken the Sicilian expedition which they lost ­ This is relevant to the
play as it has an underlying message for peace.
Character List
Lysistrata ­ Athenian woman who is tired of the war. Pioneers the plan to stop the
war.
Calonice ­ Athenian next door neighbour of Lysistrata. Embodies `feminine'
stereotypes.
Myrrhine ­ Athenian woman, strong woman. Wife of Cinesias.
Lampito ­ Spartan woman. Contrasting build and accent to the Athenian characters.
Ismenia ­ Boeotian woman. Stereotypically seen as lacking intelligence. She is
possibly mute.
Chorus of Old Men ­ Stereotypical `old men' characters. Try to keep the women in
order, create humour through their msyognstic ideas.
Chorus of Old Women ­ Seize the acropolis from the Old Men. Fight against the
old men.
Magistrate ­ Comissioner of public safety but is overwhelmed by the women. Ends
up being dressed as a woman himself.
Cinesias ­ Myrrhine's husband, first man to be affected by the sex strike.
Summary
Prologue ­
Setting: the skene, at this point, represents the neighbouring houses of
Lysistrata and Calonice.

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Characters: Lysistrata, Calonice, Lampito, Myrrhine, Ismenia, Corinthian woman
Summary: Lysistrata is annoyed that the women are late to her celebration. Allows
for humour through stereotypes, `if it had been a Bacchic celebration...you
wouldn't have been able to move'. Calonice appears. Their dialogue allows for more
stereotypical humour, `clever villains' and sexual innuendo through double
entendre `big and meaty'.…read more

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Magistrate Scene ­
Setting: same as previous.
Characters: Magistrate, mens leader.
Summary: Begins with magistrate reaffirming stereotype of women as sex-mad.
The speech focuses on the evils of women, their promiscuity and is full of double
entendres.…read more

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The women then proceed to dress the magistrate as a corpse, scope
for visual humour.
Pseudo-Parabasis-
Note: As the chorus is split, a typical parabasis is not possible so instead we get 4 blocks performed
by the men and women alternately.
Setting: same as previous
Characters: Men's leader, Men, Women's leader, Women.
Summary: The men's leader tells the men to remove their clothes, they do so and
remove their outer garments. Reference to Cleisthenes typical of Aristonphanes.…read more

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Summary: The men make up a variation on a myth so it suits their point, that women are
detestable. The women do the same but that men are detestable.
Cinesias Scene:
Setting: same
Characters: Lysistrata, Calonice, Myrrhine, Cinesias
Summary: Lysistrata is delighted as she sees a man approaching, meaning her plan is
working. It turns out to be Cinesias, Myrrhine's husband and so Lysistrata tells her to
tease him and Myrrhine agrees. Cinesias arrives (with an erection, visual humour)
with a slave and a child.…read more

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Spartan and Athenian Delegations ­
Characters: Leader, Spartan, First Athenian, Chorus, Lysistrata, Reconciliation
Summary: The Spartan and Athenians meet to discuss their problem, both men have
erect phallus. Joke at the expense of Cleisthenes, `We'll all end up shagging
Cleisthenes!' known for being effeminate, topical reference. Lysistrata comes out
with Reconciliation who is beautiful and naked. Lysistrata tells them of their
wrongdoings and asks them to make peace. Meanwhile, the men have been fixed on
Reconciliation, making sexual comments.…read more

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