Study Guide

Magistrate in Lysistrata

By Aristophanes

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The Magistrate makes his first appearance on the scene when he comes to investigate the hullabaloo going on in the Acropolis. What he finds, of course, is that the women have taken over the Acropolis. As you can imagine, the Magistrate does not like what he sees. That's because the Magistrate is basically the representative of Athens's old-fashioned masculine power structure.

Yup. The Magistrate is The Patriarchy personified.

His Mr. Patriarchy persona mainly comes out during the Magistrate's head-to-head debate with Lysistrata. There, he argues that managing military funds is completely different from women's experience with managing household finances. Well, he doesn't actually argue that military spending is different from other kinds of spending, so much as he bloats up like a puffer-fish and says, essentially, "But…but…but!":

Magistrate: "But what do you plan to do?"
Lysistrata: "You're asking me that? We'll manage it for you."
Magistrate: "You'll manage the money?"
Lysistrata: "What's so strange about that? Don't we manage the household finances for you already?"
Magistrate: "That's different."
Lysistrata: "How so?"
Magistrate: "These are war funds!
" (493-496)

Work on your argumentative style a little more there, Magistrate.

This dude is basically the guy you love to hate. We imagine him as Ned Ryarson from Groundhog Day: the most annoying man on the planet. You want misogyny? The Magistrate has you covered. Whether he's arguing that women have no guts

Lysistrata: "Well, what did you expect? Did you think you were going up against a bunch of slave girls? Or did you think women lack gall?"
Magistrate: "Oh yes, they've got plenty of that, provided there's a wine bar nearby."

...or arguing that behind every woman's action there's a man holding the puppet strings:

When we ourselves abet our wives' misbehavior and teach them profligacy, these are the sort of schemes they bring to flower! Aren't we the ones who go to the shops and say this kind of thing: "Goldsmith, about that choker you made me: my wife was having a ball the other night, and now the prong's slipped out of the hole. Me, I've got to cruise over to Salamis, so if you've got time, by all means visit her in the evening and fit a prong in the hole." … That's the sort of thing that's led to all this, when I, a Magistrate, have lined up timber for oars and now come to get the necessary funds, and find myself standing at the gates, locked out by women! (403-430)

…you just know the Magistrate is going to say something offensive and idiotic. But thankfully, this being both a comedy (so you know the bad guy is going to get punished) and a super-feminist work of Ancient Greek literature, the Magistrate gets his comeuppance.

When Lysistrata keeps out-witting the Magistrate, he cracks and urges his henchmen to attack. When those henchmen get defeated by an onslaught of women, the Magistrate is left all alone. He makes his final appearance covered in the women's ribbons and garlands, running away to complain to the other magistrates.


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