Lysistrata | Study Guide

Aristophanes

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Lysistrata | Stasimon 1 | Summary

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Summary

The two choruses, who have remained naked onstage throughout the last episode, now begin to sing, taunting each other with threats to kiss, kick, and punch, and making fun of each other's pubic hair. The Chorus of Old Men sing about a youth named Melanion who, fleeing a marriage, went to live in the wild, renouncing civilization because of his hatred of women. The Chorus of Old Women respond with the tale of Timon, who also renounced civilization, though he loved women.

Analysis

Here again, Aristophanes juxtaposes high and low language. Both the male and female choruses use mythical allusions—to Melanion and Timon, respectively—to assert their sexes' superiority. Mixed with these well-turned verses are threats and insults involving pubic hair. Hairiness was associated with masculinity; Greek women removed their pubic hair.

Scholar Bernard Freydberg, in Philosophy & Comedy: Aristophanes, Logos, and Eros, suggests these outrageous scenes between the old men and women aren't just played for laughs. Although the two groups hurl insults and threats at each other, they have also made themselves naked and vulnerable. He suggests passionate fights between the old men and women belie a real sympathy and affection. And there is something bittersweet about the fighting between these elders. Though the men were once soldiers, they are past their prime and dependent on the state. Though the women are upper class, they too are past their prime—perhaps widows and certainly past child-bearing age. Stripped down to their skins, their shared decrepitude becomes an undeniable fact, and their almost joyous wrangling foreshadows their eventual reconciliation.

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