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Aristophanes' Assemlywomen And Lysistrata Essay

1615 words - 6 pages

Aristophanes' Assemlywomen and Lysistrata

Typically in Athenian society, women took care of the things in the household while men, although still retaining the final say over matters of the household, focused most of their attention on the world outside the home. In the plays Assemblywomen and Lysistrata, Aristophanes explores roles of men and women in society, specifically what would happen if women were to take on the roles of men. Looking at these two plays about Athenian society as metaphors for marital life, it shows that men and women were incapable of having balanced power in their relationships. In both of these plays, the men were unable to keep their own sense of power when the women took over politics, and they eventually moved into the submissive role of women. In Lysistrata, the women used their seduction to gain power. Similarly, in Assemblywomen, the women came into power through deception and clever planning. This paper explores why women rarely stepped up to take power; how they would gain power when they would step up to claim it; and how the men would respond once confronted with a woman in power. This all serves to show that in Athens, a marriage of man and woman could not exist with mutuality of power – rather, one (typically the man) would dominate, while the other (typically the woman) took the submissive role.

Throughout both Lysistrata and Assemblywomen, both the men and women were convinced, to varying degrees, that the women were incapable of handling any kind of authority or challenging task. In fact, only the dominant, leader women (Lysistrata and Praxagora) of the two plays had enough confidence to handle a position of power. These women have been brought up in a society that tells them they are not good enough to do anything but serve a man. This message has been enforced in the minds of these women until they even preach the message to each other. The tone is set when Lysistrata tells her friend Kalonike about her plan to stop the war, “(My idea is) smart enough that the salvation of all Greece lies in the women’s hands!” to which Kalonike replies, “In the women’s hands? That’s hardly reassuring!” (Lysistrata, ln. 29-31). One of the first lines of a play primarily about women saving the city from war by cunning and supporting each other enforces the message that women aren’t capable. This doubt in their abilities continues also into Assemblywomen when a woman asks, “But how can a congregation of women, with women’s minds, expect to address the people?” (Assemblywomen, ln. 101-102). These women have been taught that they are most valuable for marriage as empty vessels, and are then to retain only what their husbands teach them. Women are not valued for themselves, but rather for the wives that they make for their husbands (Assemblywomen, ln. 490-491). It is no wonder that these women are so hesitant to step out and lead (in marriage as well as the polis), as they...

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