Aristophanes' Satire in Lysistrata

Aristophanes takes up the issue of war in the cities of ancient Greece and satirizes war for the loss of life and property it has caused. Through a conflict between the sexes, he exposes the futility of war and the devastation it has brought about. The woman uses sex as a weapon to stop men from making war.

Aristophanes (448BC-388BC)

Though the hilarious situation sounds farcical it has been advantageously employed to discuss a serious issue of war. The meaninglessness and futility of war are brought home with the bitterness of a lesson.

The city states of ancient Greece had forged a unity for defeating the Persians. After these states got victory under the leadership of Athens it began to misuse its position as a leading state. Sparta, another powerful city state resented it and a war between these states ensued. The Athenian and the Spartan women were the ones to suffer the most because of the war. They had sent their husbands and sons to the war. At home, they were lifting without manpower and money to run the house. Under the leadership of Lysistrata the women of Athens and Sparta decided to hold a sex strike to help bring the war to an end. It shows how the women have suffered due to the internecine and violent wars. The conflict between the men and the women has largely to do with the issue of politics and war, but Aristophanes brings the whole discussion to a biological level to expose the senselessness of the wars between Athens and Sparta. The treasuries have been emptied to finance the war. The women are finding it difficult to manage life in the absence of sons and husbands. Violence and blood sheds has paralyzed the cities. This situation has brought about anarchy and chaos all over. Life has become difficult for the people. The friendly relation between the city states has been poisoned. When the situation was too much for the women to bear they felt it necessary to do something to make the men stop the war. It is striking to note that it is women who have a leading role in ending the war the males have waged. The idea of the sex strike contains great potential for causing laughter. The ingenuity of the plan is admirable. The tantalization exercised by Myrrnine is so humorous. By withholding from men what is most necessary to them, the women can make the men listen to them. The women are militant too. They capture the Acropolis and take control of the treasury so that there won’t be any war without money. When denied the fulfillment of their biological needs the men suffer and are tormented so much that they move around with painful erections. The situation is highly hilarious. Making the weakness of the men a laughing stuff, Aristophanes has succeeded in dramatizing the absurdity of war. Satire primarily aims at reforming society by presenting an attitude of amusement to the vanities, follies and absurdities in the external world. The target of the satire here is the futile war. The purpose is to bring home the message of the absurdity of war so the people will say no to it and the society as a whole can be reformed and made a better place to live in. The men are defeated and vow to stop the war. In the battle between the sexes the women have triumphed and the senseless war will come to an end.

Thus, Aristophanes reduces the whole debate about war and politics to elementary level and through it brings to light the futility of war using satire as a device to convey the message.

Aristophanes Study Center

Introduction of Lysistrata

Summary of Lysistrata

Themes of Lysistrata

Biography of Aristophanes