Study Guide

Lysistrata Quotes

By Aristophanes

  • Women and Femininity

    Lysistrata: "Now if someone had invited them to a revel for Bacchus, or to Pan's shrine, or to Genetyllis' at Colias, the streets would be impassible, what with their tambourines. But as it is, there's not a single woman here. (the far door opens) Except that my neighbor here's coming out. Good morning, Calonice!"

    Calonice: "And you, Lysistrata. What's bothering you? Don't frown, child. Knitted brows don't become you."

    Lysistrata: "But my heart's on fire, Calonice, and I'm terribly annoyed about us women. You know, according to the men we're capable of any sort of mischief—"

    Calonice: "And so we surely are!"

    Lysistrata: "But when they're told to meet us here to discuss a matter of no trifling importance, they sleep in and don't show up." (1-15)

    Lysistrata is frustrated with the women of Athens; she thinks they're more interested in partying and having a good time than helping out with her cause. But she does note that women are "capable of mischief." And this isn't pulling-the-cat's-tail, or finger-painting-the-walls-style mischief. This is the kind of mischief that makes streets "impassable." This is pretty cool, and an awesomesauce statement for an Ancient Greek playwright to make: women ain't angels (they like a good party) but they do have serious power.

    Lysistrata: "But if the women gather together here—the Boeotian women, the Peloponnesian women, and ourselves—together we'll be able to rescue Greece."

    Calonice: "But what can mere women do that's intelligent or illustrious? We sit around the house looking pretty, wearing saffron dresses, and make-up, and Cimberic gowns, and pleasure-boat slippers."

    Lysistrata: "Exactly! That's exactly what I think will rescue Greece: our fancy little dresses, our perfumes and our slippers, our rouge and our see-through underwear!" (39-48)

    Let's hear it for see-through underwear. It may be sheer, but it sure isn't "mere." Despite Calonice's stuck-in-the-dark-ages approach to feminism, Lysistrata is playing to win. She's going to use women's value (as sex objects, which: vomit) to stop the war. This is peaceful protest where it hurts the most.

    Lysistrata: "Oh what a low and horny race are we! No wonder tragedies get written about us: we're nothing but Poseidon and a tub. But my dear Spartan, if you alone would side with me, we might still salvage the plan; give me your vote!"

    Lampito: "By the Twin Gods, it's difficult for females to sleep alone without the hard-on. But no matter, I assent; we need peace."Lysistrata: "You're an absolute dear, and the only real woman here!" (137-145)

    Wow. Just wow. Who knew the Greeks were so dirty? This exchange shows Lysistrata bemoaning the fact that women are "low and horny" and can't stick out a simple sex strike. Lampito agrees: women need sex like plants need water, but peace is worth it. This leads Lysistrata to tell Lampito that she's the only "real woman" around, implying that realness and womanliness are contingent on a willingness to stop knockin' boots. Hmm. This could mean a) that women are supposed to have more sexual willpower than men (certainly a belief that's still around today) or b) that real women—as opposed to immature girls—can restrain themselves for the greater good.

    Lysistrata: "Meanwhile, let's go inside with the other women on the Acropolis and help bar the gates."

    Calonice: "But don't you think the men will quickly launch a concerted counterattack on us?"
    Lysistrata: "I'm not worried about them. They can't come against us with enough threats or fire to get these gates open, except on the terms we've agreed on."

    Calonice: "No they can't, so help me Aphrodite! Otherwise we women wouldn't deserve to be called rascals you can't win a fight with!" (245-253)

    Calonice is agreeing with men's opinion of women; after all, when she suggests that women "deserve to be called rascals," who else but men could be doing the name-calling? But check it out: doesn't it seem like, on both occasions, Calonice takes what men intend as an insult and turns it into a badge of pride. The way she seems to see it, if women are annoying, that's just awesome, because it will enable them to get what they want. Can you think of any other times in history when a group that lacks power has taken a term used to insult them and turned it into a badge of pride?

    Magistrate: "So the women's profligacy has flared up again, has it, the tomtoms, the steady chants of 'Sabazios,' this worship of Adonis on the rooftops? I heard it all once before while sitting in Assembly. Demostratus (bad luck to him!) was moving that we send an armada to Sicily, while his wife was dancing and yelling 'Poor young Adonis!' Then Demostratus moved that we sign up some Zakynthian infantry, but his wife up on the roof was getting drunk and crying 'Beat your breast for Adonis!' But he just went on making his motions, that godforsaken, disgusting Baron Bluster! From women, I say, you get this kind of riotous extravagance!" (386-398)

    So far we've only been getting women's view of women (or women's view of men's view of women—which makes us dizzy just thinking about). Here we get a man's opinion of women, and it isn't all that flattering. The Magistrate is focusing on one detail of women's lives: the fact that, in Athens in the 5th century BCE, a bunch of weird new religions enjoyed a wave of popularity among the city's women and slaves. Basically, you can think of this as sort of like Beatlemania—except with gods like Sabazios and Adonis instead of John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

    Magistrate: "By Poseidon the Salty, it serves us right! 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.' Another husband says this to a shoemaker, a teenager sporting no boyish cock: 'Shoemaker, about my wife's tootsy: the thong is squeezing her pinky winky, where she's tender. So why don't you drop in on her sometime and loosen it up so there's more play down there?' 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)

    These words are the Magistrate's attempt to explain how the women of Athens have suddenly gotten it into their heads to take over the Acropolis. He thinks that men are to blame for encouraging their wives to commit bad behavior. He uses the example of infidelity—his talk about "fitting prongs in holes" is pretty filthy and hilarious—and basically thinks that any female misbehavior must be a dude's idea. So wrong, Magistrate. Dead wrong.

    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." (463-466)

    Badoom-ching. The Magistrate thinks that women are only gutsy when they're boozing. He's a clever one, that Magistrate… if by "clever" we mean "misogynistic." Oooh, we'd love to punch him right in the mouth.

    Women's Chorus: "Citizens of Athens, we begin
    by offering the city valuable advice,
    and fittingly, for she raised me in splendid luxury.
    As soon as I turned seven I was an Arrephoros;
    then when I was ten I was a Grinder for the Foundress;
    and shedding my saffron robe I was a Bear at Brauronia;
    and once, when I was a fair girl, I carried the Basket,
    wearing a necklace of dried figs."

    Women's Leader: "Thus I owe it to the polis to offer some good advice. And even if I was born a woman, don't hold it against me if I manage to suggest something better than what we've got now." (638-650)

    Here, the Women's Chorus starts off by portraying themselves as members of the highest social class in Athens: all of the events they describe themselves as participating in were high honors for young women. The moral of this little story gets expressed by the Women's Leader: these women have always been at the forefront of the city's politics, so it only makes sense for them to make their voices heard when the city is in trouble. What do you think about the last sentence of this quotation? Does it show that the Women's Leader is, herself, a bit prejudiced toward women? Or is she just thinking ahead to the prejudices of her audience, and catching them out before they can raise any objections?

    Men's Leader: "You've certainly helped me out, because that thing's been digging wells in me for a long time, and now that it's out, my eyes are streaming copious tears."

    Women's Leader: "Then I'll wipe them away—though you're quite a rascal—and kiss you."

    Men's Leader: "Don't kiss me!"

    Women's Leader: "I'll kiss you whether you like it or not!"

    Men's Leader: "The worst of luck to you! You're natural sweet-talkers, and that ancient adage is right on the mark and no mistake: 'Can't live with the pests or without the pests either.'" (1033-1039)

    This short exchange shows the Women's Leader taking on a traditional female role—that of helper. Maybe she's a bit more aggressive than your average helper, like when she insists on kissing the Men's Leader "whether you like it or not," but she still wants to wipe away his tears, which is pretty dang sweet. We think this at least shows that the men and women of Athens still need each other, even if they don't always get along. This seems to be what the Men's Leader is trying to say at the end of this passage, when he gives us an Ancient Greek version of the famous saying, "Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em."

    Lysistrata: "Now listen to what I have to say. It's true I'm a woman, but still I've got a mind: I'm pretty intelligent in my own right, and because I've listened many a time to the conversations of my father and other elders, I'm pretty well educated too. Now that you're my captive audience I'm ready to give you the tongue-lashing you deserve—both of you." (1124-1129)

    Lysistrata is as serious as a heart attack. Unfortunately, because she is a woman in male-dominated Athenian society, she has to go the extra mile to get people to listen. But here's a question: why do you think Lysistrata only mentions what she has learned from her male family members. Didn't she learn anything from her Mommy? Do you think this shows that Lysistrata has internalized some of the prejudice from her environment, or is she just speaking in terms that her male listeners will be able to relate to?

  • Sex

    Calonice: "Well, Lysistrata dear, what exactly is this business you're calling us women together for? What's the deal? Is it a big one?"

    Lysistrata: "It's big."

    Calonice: "Not juicy as well?"

    Lysistrata: "Oh yes, it's big and juicy."

    Calonice: "Then how come we're not all here?"

    Lysistrata: "That's not what I meant! If it were, we'd all have shown up quickly enough. No, it's something I've been thinking hard about, tossing it around night after sleepless night."

    Calonice: "After all that tossing it must be limp by now." (21-28)

    These lines come from near the beginning of the play. And, in every sense, this is just the beginning. The play is simply packed with sexual references, many of them in the form of double-entendres like these lines here. One thing that shows up loud and clear in these lines is that it isn't only the men of the play who are portrayed as sex-mad; in fact, the women of Aristophanes' might even have the edge on them.

    Lysistrata: "Here goes, then; no need to beat around the bush. Ladies, if we're going to force the men to make peace, we're going to have to give up—"

    Calonice: "Give up what? Tell us."

    Lysistrata: "You'll do it, then?"

    Calonice: "We'll do it, even if it means our death!"

    Lysistrata: "All right. We're going to have to give up—the prick. Why are you turning away from me? Where are you going? Why are you all pursing your lips and shaking your heads? What means your altered color and tearful droppings? Will you do it or not? What are you waiting for?"

    Calonice: "Count me out; let the war drag on."

    Myrrhine: "Me too, by Zeus; let the war drag on." (119-130)

    In case you didn't believe us the first time, these lines prove that Aristophanes' play shows that women are just as crazy-horny as men are. And Lysistrata knows it. Just look how she tries to trap the women into siding with her by getting them on board before they know all the details. But her plan doesn't work: apparently, these women would rather have war than go without sex.

    Calonice: "Well, what if we did abstain from, uh, what you say, which heaven forbid: would peace be likelier to come on that account?"

    Lysistrata: "Absolutely, by the Two Goddesses. If we sat around at home all made up, and walked past them wearing only our diaphanous underwear, with our pubes all plucked in a neat triangle, and our husbands got hard and hankered to ball us, but we didn't go near them and kept away, they'd sue for peace, and pretty quick, you can count on that!"

    Lampito: "Like Menelaus! As soon as he peeked at bare Helen's melons, he threw his sword away, I reckon." (146-156)

    In these lines, Lysistrata reveals that sex isn't all fun and games: it can also be used for political purposes. The way she sees it, if women want to get men to listen to them, they shouldn't stop being sexy—far from it. Instead, they should make themselves as sexy as possible, and then refuse to sleep with their husbands. That way, the poor saps won't have any other choice than making peace. Lampito, the Spartan, backs up Lysistrata's argument with an example from mythology.

    Magistrate: "By Poseidon the Salty, it serves us right! 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.' Another husband says this to a shoemaker, a teenager sporting no boyish cock: 'Shoemaker, about my wife's tootsy: the thong is squeezing her pinky winky, where she's tender. So why don't you drop in on her sometime and loosen it up so there's more play down there?' 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)

    Did we mention that Aristophanes portrays women as lustful? Well, here we get some more evidence of that. This time, though, it isn't the women themselves who are providing the evidence, but the Magistrate. According to him, the women of Athens can't be trusted; the moment their husbands are out of sight, they're bound to end of having sex with some tradesman or other. And yet, the Magistrate shows a little bit of prejudice here: he thinks that the men are the ones ultimately to blame for their wives' behavior. From what we've seen already in the other quotations from this section, we think the women of Athens are perfectly capable of cheating on their hubbies all by themselves.

    Lysistrata: "If Eros of the sweet soul and Cyprian Aphrodite imbue our thighs and breasts with desire, and infect the men with sensuous rigidity and bouts of truncheonitis, then I believe all Greece will one day call us Disbanders of Battles." (551-554)

    Did we mention that sex isn't all fun and games? Here, once again, Lysistrata points out that their ability to turn men on gives the women of Athens tremendous power. This time around, Lysistrata goes so far as to appeal for help to the gods—Eros, the god of desire, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love and sex.

    Women's Leader: "O mistress of this venture and stratagem, why come you from the palace so dour of mien?"

    Lysistrata: "The deeds of ignoble women and the female heart do make me pace dispirited to and fro."

    Women's Leader: "What say you? What say you?"

    Lysistrata: "'Tis true, too true!"

    Women's Leader: "What dire thing? Pray tell it to your friends."

    Lysistrata: "'Tis shame to say and grief to leave unsaid."

    Women's Leader: "Hide not from me the damage we have taken."

    Lysistrata: "The story in briefest compass: we need a f***!" (706-715)

    The Greek in these first lines is a parody of the fancy-pants lingo of Greek tragedy. This is what the English translation tries to capture with its weird phrasing and old-fashioned words like "O" and "venture" and "dour of mien." (Uh, yeah.) So what's the big tragedy all about? Unfortunately, we at Shmoop are far too modest to use such language—but you can read the quotation and see for yourself. These show that even though the sex strike is designed to make men change their ways, the women are suffering from it as well.

    First Wife: "I want to go home. I've got some Milesian woolens in the house, and the moths are chomping them all up."

    Lysistrata: "Moths indeed! Get back inside."

    First Wife: "By the Two Goddesses, I'll be right back; just let me spread them on the bed!"

    Lysistrata: "Don't you spread anything, or go anywhere."

    First Wife: "So I'm supposed to let my woolens be wasted?"

    Lysistrata: "If that's what it takes."

    Second Wife rushes from the Acropolis.
    Second Wife: "Oh my god, my god, my flax! I forgot to shuck it when I left the house!"

    Lysistrata: "Here's another one off to shuck her flax. March right back here."

    Second Wife: "By our Lady of Light, I'll be back in a flash; just let me do a little shucking."

    Lysistrata: "No! No shucking! If you start doing it, some other wife will want to do the same."(728-741)

    Wait, where's the sex in this? We thought this was nothing more than a clean, family-friendly discussion from some housewives who want to go home and attend to some chores: you know, the chores of "spreading" and "shucking." Once again we see that the women of Lysistrata sure love sex, and the strike is every bit as hard on them (pun intended: we take our pun cues from Aristophanes) as it is on the men. Fortunately, they've got Lysistrata around to keep them in line—otherwise all hell would break loose. All we want to know is: how come Lysistrata is immune to the sex fever that seems to be affecting everyone else?

    Myrrhine: "Lift up now, upsy daisy. There, is that everything?"

    Cinesias: "Everything for sure. Now come here, my little treasure!"

    Myrrhine: "I'm just getting my breastband off. But remember: don't break your promise about a peace settlement."

    Cinesias: "So help me Zeus, I hope I die if I do!"

    Myrrhine: "You don't have a blanket."

    Cinesias: "It's not a blanket I want—I want a f***!"

    Myrrhine: "Don't worry, that's just what you're going to get. I'll be back in a flash."

    Cinesias: "That woman will drive me nuts with all her bedding!"

    Myrrhine (returning with a blanket): "Get up."

    Cinesias: "I've already got it up!" (929-937)

    So close and yet so far! Here, Cinesias thinks he is finally about to get some relief from the painful swelling that has been tormenting him. The problem is, Myrrhine, his wife, is only leading him on; for all her seductive behavior, she has no intention of actually sleeping with him. (Not right now, at least.) These lines of dialogue show Lysistrata's plan in action (make that, inaction), and the pain and frustration it causes to the men of Athens.

    Cinesias: "Ah, what shall I do? Whom shall I screw,
    cheated of the loveliest of them all!
    How will I raise and rear this orphaned cock?
    Is Fox Dog out there anywhere?
    Lease me a nursemaid!"

    Men's Leader: "Yes, frightful agony, you wretch,
    does rack the soul of one so sore bediddled.
    Sure I do feel for you, alas!
    What kidney could bear it,
    what soul, what balls,
    what loins, what crotch,
    thus stretched on the rack
    and never getting a morning f***!"

    Cinesias: "Ah Zeus! The cramps attack anew!" (954-967)

    These lines give us a bit more of the men's perspective on the goings-on in Athens. As you can see, they are seriously ticked off, and are desperate for some relief. For example, Fox Dog was the name of a notorious pimp of Aristophanes' day, and the nursemaid that Cinesias thinks he can "lease" is, in fact, a hooker. Is it any surprise that, for that all the Magistrate's talk earlier about how women are eager to commit infidelity, we now learn that men are interested in sleeping around as well? In fairness, we never actually see Cinesias stray from the bonds of matrimony—but that might just be because the peace treaty gets concluded before his "cramps" become too excruciating.

    Spartan Delegate: "What's the use of wasting lots of words? It's plain to see how we're faring." (They open their cloaks.)

    Chorus Leader: "Wow! This condition has grown terribly tense, and looks to be inflamed worse than before."

    Spartan Delegate: "Unspeakable! What can one say? Just let someone come and make peace for us on any terms he likes."

    Enter Athenian Delegates
    Chorus Leader: "Look, now I see these native sons holding their cloaks away from their bellies too, like men wrestling! Looks like a bad case of prickly heat."

    First Athenian Delegate: "Who can tell us where Lysistrata is? Because we men are present, and palpably so." (They open their cloaks.)

    Chorus Leader: "Their condition seems to jibe with these others. Now, does this cramping seize you in the wee hours?"

    First Athenian Delegate: "Yes, and what's worse, we're worn absolutely raw by being in this condition! I mean, if someone doesn't reconcile us soon, there's no way we won't be f***ing Cleisthenes!"(1074-1092)

    These lines show the Spartan delegation showing up at Athens to make peace. As they compare notes (and more) with their Athenian counterparts, they realize that the men of both nations are suffering from the same unrelenting sexual desire. If things don't get resolved soon, the First Athenian Delegate says, the men of his city will have to start thinking outside the box—by turning to homosexuality. (Cleisthenes was a man.)

  • Men and Masculinity

    Men's Leader: "By god, if someone had socked them in the mouth a couple of times, like Bupalus, they wouldn't be making any noise!"

    Women's Leader: "Okay, here's my mouth; someone take a sock at it; I'll stand here and take it. But then I'm the last b**** that ever grabs you by the balls!"

    Men's Leader: "If you don't shut up, I'll knock you right out of your old hide!"

    Women's Leader: "Come over here and just touch Stratyllis with the tip of your finger."

    Men's Leader: "What if I give you the one-two punch? Got anything scary to counter with?"

    Women's Leader: "I'll rip out your lungs and your guts with my fangs."

    Men's Leader: "No poet's wiser than Euripides: as he says, no beast exists so shameless as womankind!" (360-369)

    These lines show the Leader of the Men's Chorus trying to hang onto some old-fashioned patriarchal authority. He doesn't seem to stand much of a chance, though: that Women's Leader is easily a match for him. But maybe that's exactly what's got the Men's Leader so riled up. If he weren't afraid of the women taking over, would he really have to resort to such threats of violence? Could his anger show some anxiety about his own masculine prowess?

    Lysistrata: "Before now, and for quite some time, we maintained our decorum and suffered in silence whatever you men did, because you wouldn't let us make a sound. But you weren't exactly all we could ask for. No, we knew only too well what you were up to, and many a time we'd hear in our homes about the bad decision you'd made on some great issue of state. Then, masking the pain in our hearts, we'd put on a smile and ask you, 'How did the Assembly go today? Any decision about a rider to the peace treaty?' And my husband would say, 'What's that to you? Shut up!' And I'd shut up."

    First Old Woman: "I wouldn't have shut up!" (507-515)

    These lines show men desperately trying to hold onto their masculine authority. Once again, they end up revealing more anxiety than confidence. Sure, men hold all the political power in the city, and prevent women from having a voice in the assembly—but if they're so confident in their power, why do they get so ticked off when their wives point out their mistakes? Could this be because their wives' intelligent remarks reveal that the idea of male superiority is nothing more than a myth? (Answer: yes.)

    Magistrate: "If you hadn't shut up you'd have got a beating!"

    Lysistrata: "Well, that's why I did shut up—then. But later on we began to hear about even worse decisions you'd made, and then we would ask, 'Husband, how come you're handling this so stupidly?' And right away he'd glare at me and tell me to get back to my sewing if I didn't want major damage to my head: 'War shall be the business of menfolk,' unquote."

    Magistrate: "He was right on the mark, I say." (516-521)

    Here we see, yet again, how the men maintain their power in the city through the threats of violence against their wives. When the Magistrate approves of this behavior, he shows not only that he's unenlightened when it comes to women's rights, but also that he's just plain stupid: if the men had taken the advice of Lysistrata a long time ago, the city wouldn't find itself in the horrible mess it's currently in.

    Lysistrata: "How could he be right, you sorry fool, when we were forbidden to offer advice even when your policy was wrong? But then, when we began to hear you in the streets openly crying, 'There isn't a man left in the land,' and someone else saying, 'God knows, there isn't, not a one,' after that we women decided to lose no more time, and to band together to save Greece. What was the point of waiting any longer? So, if you're ready to listen in your turn as we give you good advice, and to shut up as we had to, we can put you on the right track." (522-528)

    With these words, Lysistrata winds up her lecture on the stupidity of male dominance in Athens. Now, we're not blaming the men in her story from reacting badly to the news that many young men of the city have been killed in war; after all, Lysistrata and her fellow women are largely motivated by grief at these senseless deaths, too. But doesn't it show just a little self-centeredness that men only come to realize their mistakes when lots of other men have been killed, even though their neglected wives have been warning them about the truth all along?

    Magistrate: "Me shut up for you? A damned woman, with a veil on your face no less? I'd rather die!"

    Lysistrata. "If the veil is a problem for you, here, take mine, it's yours, put it on your head, and then shut up!"

    First Old Woman: "And take this sewing basket too."

    Lysistrata: "Now hitch up your clothes and start sewing; chew some beans while you work. War shall be the business of womenfolk!" (530-538)

    Clearly, women aren't the only ones in this play who have their priorities screwed up. Back in lines 119-130, we saw some women initially react to Lysistrata's plan by saying they would rather die than give up sex. Well, now we see that the men—or, one man, at least, the Magistrate—would rather die than take advice from a woman. Which of the two is stupider? We don't know about you, but we have our money on the Magistrate.

    Lysistrata: "If Eros of the sweet soul and Cyprian Aphrodite imbue our thighs and breasts with desire, and infect the men with sensuous rigidity and bouts of truncheonitis, then I believe all Greece will one day call us Disbanders of Battles." (551-554)

    Throughout history, one of the main symbols of masculine authority has been, well, men's "manhood." Doesn't this make it all the more ironic that Lysistrata and her fellow women's plan is to turn the very source of men's symbolic power into a weapon against them? Even the man who's proudest of his potency wouldn't want to endure "bouts of truncheonitis," would he? From Ancient Athens to the present day, the message of those Viagra commercials rings true: "If erection lasts more than 4 hours, consult your doctor." Aristophanes says pretty much the same thing—but with a lot more pizzazz.

    Lysistrata: "…to begin with, we can stop people from going to the market fully armed and acting crazy."

    First Old Woman: "Paphian Aphrodite be praised!"

    Lysistrata: "At this very moment, all around the market, in the pottery shops and the grocery stalls, they're walking around in arms like Corybants!"

    Magistrate: "I say a man's got to act like a man!" (555-559)

    Here, once again, we see the Magistrate resisting a very sensible request by the women, because he sees it as a threat to his masculinity. Before, he said that he would rather die than take advice from a woman. This time around, he insists that walking around the marketplace in full military regalia is simply the proper way for a man to act. If the Magistrate were transplanted to the present day, what behavior do you think he would insist on as the way to "act like a man"?

    Lysistrata: "Then, when we should be having fun and enjoying our bloom of youth, we sleep alone because of the campaigns. And to say no more about our own case, it pains me to think of the maidens growing old in their rooms."

    Magistrate: "Men grow old too, don't they?"

    Lysistrata: "That's quite a different story. When a man comes home he can quickly find a girl to marry, even if he's a graybeard. But a woman's prime is brief; if she doesn't seize it, no one wants to marry her, and she sits at home looking for good omens."

    Magistrate: "But any man who can still get a hard-on—"

    Lysistrata: "Why don't you just drop dead?" (591-599)

    In these lines, Lysistrata calls the Magistrate out on the inequalities between men and women. The Magistrate thinks it isn't a big deal that women have to spend their youth alone; after all, growing old sucks for everyone, right? But Lysistrata points out that an old man can find a young wife, while a woman who gets past marriageable age is likely to remain lonely. Then the Magistrate starts to make some comment about men's sexual prowess, but Lysistrata cuts him off. What do you think the Magistrate was about to say?

    Men's Chorus: "Now doesn't this behavior of theirs amount to extreme hubris?
    And I do believe the situation will only get worse.
    Every man with any balls must stand up to this threat!

    Men's Leader: "Let's doff our shirts, because a man's got to smell like a man form the word go, and shouldn't be all wrapped up like souvlaki." (They remove their shirts.)

    Men's Chorus: "Come on, Whitefeet!
    We went against Leipsydrium
    when we still were something;
    now we've got to rejuvenate, and give wing
    to our whole bodies, and slough off this old skin!" (659-670)

    These lines show the Men's Chorus preparing to do battle with the Women's Chorus. For them, doing battle is all about showing their masculine prowess—as you can see from their reminiscing about their soldier days, towards the end of this passage. Why do you think they place such importance on letting their male B.O. waft out? Could this be a classic case of (as they say in the tech field) turning a bug into a feature? Putting it another way, do you think they would be so tolerant if they had to smell the women's body odor?

    Cinesias: "Ah, what shall I do? Whom shall I screw,
    cheated of the loveliest of them all!
    How will I raise and rear this orphaned cock?
    Is Fox Dog out there anywhere?
    Lease me a nursemaid!"

    Men's Leader: "Yes, frightful agony, you wretch,
    does rack the soul of one so sore bediddled.
    Sure I do feel for you, alas!
    What kidney could bear it,
    what soul, what balls,
    what loins, what crotch,
    thus stretched on the rack
    and never getting a morning f***!"

    Cinesias: "Ah Zeus! The cramps attack anew!" (954-967)

    Here we see the classic symbol of masculine (an erect penis) prowess turned into a liability. We're willing to bet that, under ordinary circumstances, these geezers from the Men's Chorus would be highly proud of their potency. But there's only so long they can be all dressed up with nowhere to go. Thus, it is inevitable that they will make peace—making Lysistrata's plan a success. Clever girl.

  • Warfare

    Lysistrata: "[The] salvation of all Greece lies in the women's hands."

    Calonice: "In the women's hands? A precarious place to be!"

    Lysistrata: "Yes, our country's future depends on us: whether the Peloponnesians become extinct—"

    Calonice: "Well, that would be all right with me!"

    Lysistrata: "… and all the Boeotians are annihilated—"

    Calonice: "Not all of them, please—do spare the eels!"

    Lysistrata: "I won't say anything like that about the Athenians; you get the point." (29-38)

    In these lines, Lysistrata reveals how incredibly high the stakes are. The way she sees it, if she and the other women can't make Sparta and Athens agree to a peace treaty, all of Greece is likely to be destroyed in the war. Calonice's mind is more fixed on the material discomforts caused by war; the fact that international trade has been interrupted. Calonice is totally fine with massive bloodshed and the horrors of war, as long as she can have her tasty eels.

    Lysistrata: "That's exactly what I think will rescue Greece: our fancy little dresses, our perfumes and our slippers, our rouge and our see-through underwear!"

    Calonice: "Just how do you mean?"

    Lysistrata: "They'll guarantee that not one of the men who are still alive will raise his spear against another—"

    Calonice: "In that case, by the Two Goddesses, I'll have a dress dyed saffron!"

    Lysistrata: "… nor hoist his shield—"

    Calonice: "I'll wear a Cimberic gown!"

    Lysistrata: "… nor even pull a knife!"

    Calonice: "I'll go shopping for slippers!" (46-53)

    Calonice is still generally kinda small-minded: she thinks that the suffering inflicted by war is fine, so long as it happens to somebody else—especially if that somebody else is one of the enemies of Athens. But just because she's somewhat narrow in her views doesn't mean Calonice thinks that war is a barrel of laughs. We can see that in this passage. The very second that Lysistrata suggests some way of putting an end to the war, Calonice jumps at the opportunity—no matter how crazy it sounds.

    Lysistrata: "Don't you all pine for your children's fathers when they're off at war? I'm sure that every one of you has a husband away from home."

    Calonice: "My husband's been away five months, my dear, at the Thracian front; he's guarding Eucrates."

    Myrrhine: "And mine's been at Pylos seven whole months."

    Lampito: "And mine, whenever he does come home from the regiment, is soon strapping on his shield and flying off again."

    Calonice: "Even lovers have vanished without a trace. Ever since the Milesians revolted from us, I haven't even seen a six-inch dildo, which might have been a consolation, however small." (99-110)

    Even though their main purpose is to be funny, these lines also show the terrible toll of war. The burden of war isn't just borne by the men who actually go out to the front lines and do the killing and dying; the women who are left behind also suffer, because they miss their husbands… and yeah, their Milesian dildos. The city of Miletus, which used to be under Athens's power, until it revolted, was renowned for manufacturing dildos (yup, you read that right). Now that it is Athens's enemy, this hot commodity is hard to come by.

    Calonice: "Well, what if we did abstain from, uh, what you say, which heaven forbid: would peace be likelier to come on that account?"

    Lysistrata: "Absolutely, by the Two Goddesses. If we sat around at home all made up, and walked past them wearing only our diaphanous underwear, with our pubes all plucked in a neat triangle, and our husbands got hard and hankered to ball us, but we didn't go near them and kept away, they'd sue for peace, and pretty quick, you can count on that!"

    Lampito: "Like Menelaus! As soon as he peeked at bare Helen's melons, he threw his sword away, I reckon." (146-156)

    Lysistrata's point here is that, even if the war seems necessary, it's actually something the men are choosing to do. However impossible peace seems right now, it would suddenly seem a lot more possible if the men knew that they wouldn't get any more sex until they had put an end to the war. Make love not war indeed.

    Men's Leader: "That's the way I laid siege to that fellow—savagely! We camped before the gates in ranks seventeen deep. And now shall I stand by and do nothing to put down the effrontery of these women, enemies of all the gods and of Euripides? Then my trophy in the Tetrapolis may as well disappear!" (281-285)

    In these lines, the men's leader is recalling an old war he fought against the Spartan king Cleomenes. But how relevant is it to what's going on now? All the Men's Leader seems to be saying is that he fought bravely in the past, and therefore would lose self-respect if he didn't fight bravely now. These lines show that war is often waged for stupid reasons, like pride.

    Magistrate: "We're at war on account of the money, is that it?"

    Lysistrata: "Yes, and that's why everything else got messed up too. It was for opportunities to steal that Pisander and the others who aimed to hold office were always fomenting some kind of commotion. So let them keep fomenting to their hearts' content: they'll be withdrawing no more money from this place." (489-492)

    In this argument with the Magistrate, Lysistrata sticks to her guns, and insists that the war isn't necessary. The way she sees it, the war is only being fought so that the powerful people in the city can become rich. History fact: one of the causes of the Peloponnesian War was the Athens wanted to maintain its domination over various other Greek cities, who were forced to pay them tribute money.

    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)

    The always-thick Magistrate's attitude seems to be "but…but…but…war funds are for boys!" Lysistrata's point is that women already act as treasurers for the household, and have proved that they know their way around a budget. But the Magistrate, with his "boys rule and girls drool" mentality, seems to think that war budgeting is totally beyond the ability of tiny ladybrains.

    Lysistrata: "How could he be right, you sorry fool, when we were forbidden to offer advice even when your policy was wrong? But then, when we began to hear you in the streets openly crying, 'There isn't a man left in the land,' and someone else saying, 'God knows, there isn't, not a one,' after that we women decided to lose no more time, and to band together to save Greece. What was the point of waiting any longer? So, if you're ready to listen in your turn as we give you good advice, and to shut up as we had to, we can put you on the right track." (522-528)

    These lines come at the end of a long story, in which she tells how the women of the city listened patiently as their husbands came home every day from the assembly. Even though the women knew the men were making bad decisions that would inevitably plunge the land into war, they kept their mouths shut. And now that there are no dudes running around the streets of Athens (because they're getting killed at war) the women have to speak up.

    Magistrate: "Isn't it awful how these women go like this with their sticks, and like that with their bobbins, when they share none of the war's burdens?"

    Lysistrata: "None? You monster! We bear more than our fair share, in the first place by giving birth to sons and sending them off to the army—"

    Magistrate: "Enough of that! Don't open old wounds."

    Lysistrata: "Then, when we ought to be having fun and enjoying our bloom of youth, we sleep alone because of the campaigns. And to say no more about our own case, it pains me to think of the maidens growing old in their rooms." (587-593)

    War is hell on the home front, too. So you can see why Lysistrata reacts with such outrage ("None? You monster!") when the Magistrate suggests that men are the only one who have to bear the burdens of the war. Lysistrata then gives the Magistrate an earful, showing him that the decisions about war taken by the men of the city affect everyone who lives in it.

    Lysistrata: "Now that you're my captive audience I'm ready to give you the tongue-lashing you deserve—both of you. You two sprinkle altars from the same cup like kinsmen, at Olympia, at Thermopylae, at Pytho—how many other places could I mention if I had to extend the list—yet when enemies are available with their barbarian armies, it's Greek men and Greek cities you're determined to destroy." (1128-1134)

    So, after all that talk about how horrible war is, you might be thinking that Aristophanes is trying to teach his audience a pacifist message. Nope. In this passage, Lysistrata is arguing that the main problem is that the Greeks are fighting the wrong people: instead of fighting each other, they should be turning their attention to defeating the Barbarians (non-Greeks) who threaten them.

  • The Home

    Lysistrata: "But my heart's on fire, Calonice, and I'm terribly annoyed about us women. You know, according to the men we're capable of any sort of mischief—"

    Calonice: "And so we surely are!"

    Lysistrata: "But when they're told to meet here to discuss a matter of no trifling importance, they sleep in and don't show up."

    Calonice: "Honey, they'll be along. You know, it's a lot of trouble for wives to get out of the house: we're giving hubby a hand, or waking up a slave, or putting the baby to bed, or bathing it, or feeding it a snack." (9-19)

    One reasons why women weren't able to speak out against war was that is was considered proper for women to be quiet and cute and ornamental. Another reason was that they were simply too busy. In these lines we get a hint of the wide range (and sheer freaking quantity) of women's responsibilities as managers of the household.

    Men's Chorus: "If you live long enough, you'll get many surprises, yes sir!
    Well, Strymodorus, who in the world ever thought we'd hear
    that women, the blatant nuisance we've reared in our homes,
    now control the Sacred Image
    and occupy my Acropolis,
    And to top it all, with bolts and bars
    close off the citadel gates?" (257-265)

    To hear the Men's Chorus describe it, the home isn't a place of peace, love, and harmony. It's a place of conflict. Why else would they refer to women as "the blatant nuisance we've reared in our homes"? They seem to feel especially betrayed that these women—whom they saw as being under their thumbs—are now asserting themselves on the political level. But do you think these old geezers actually had much of a hand in "rearing" these women?

    Women's Chorus: "Fly, fly, Nicodice,
    before Calyce and Critylla go up
    in flames, fanned all around
    by nasty winds
    and old men who mean death!
    I'm filled with dread: am I too late to help?
    I've just come from the well with my pitcher;
    I could hardly fill it in the dim light of dawn,
    in the throng and crash and clatter of pots,
    fighting the elbows of housemaids
    and branded slaves; zealously
    I hoisted it onto my head, and to aid the women,
    my fellow citizens faced with fire,
    here I am with water!" (321-335)

    When the women of the Women's Chorus go to the well, they fight against housemaids and "branded slaves," who have been sent to bring it back for their households. This gives a hint at the range of people who were employed in rich Athenian homes. The wife was essentially the manager of the workforce. Later in the play, Lysistrata will argue that this managerial experience in the home makes women qualified to play a managerial role in the affairs of the city. You tell 'em, Lysistrata.

    Magistrate: "By Poseidon the Salty, it serves us right! 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.' Another husband says this to a shoemaker, a teenager sporting no boyish cock: 'Shoemaker, about my wife's tootsy: the thong is squeezing her pinky winky, where she's tender. So why don't you drop in on her sometime and loosen it up so there's more play down there?' 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)

    These lines by the Magistrate portray husbands as dunderheads who constantly give their wives the opportunity to commit infidelity—and wives as sex fiends who will jump at the opportunity. What does this say about the typical home-life among the Athenians? Do these people have warm and loving marriages with plenty of communication between husbands and their wives? Probably not so much.

    Women's Leader: "Well, sir, you shouldn't lift your hand against your neighbors just anytime you feel like it. If you do, you're going to end up with a black eye. You see, I'd rather be sitting modestly at home like a maiden, bothering no one here, stirring not a single blade of grass. But if anyone annoys me and rifles my nest, they'll find a wasp inside." (471-475)

    Here, the Women's Leader says that she doesn't mean to make trouble; really, she thinks traditional home life is just fine, and she wouldn't be bothering anybody if the men didn't bother her first. Do you take her at her word? Or is she being sarcastic when she talks about how she would much rather play a traditional feminine role in the home?

    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)

    In middle- and upper-class households (which could afford slaves and housekeepers) women were essentially managers of a large domestic workforce. Even in smaller households, however, women often had the role of managing the finances—as Lysistrata points out here. In fact, did you know that the word "economics" comes from the Ancient Greek word for "household management" (originally from oikos = "house")? Knowledge is power folks… and so is financial savvy. Based on her experience, Lysistrata thinks it's natural for women to take over managing the economics of the city, as well.

    Lysistrata: "Before now, and for quite some time, we maintained our decorum and suffered in silence whatever you men did, because you wouldn't let us make a sound. But you weren't exactly all we could ask for. No, we knew only too well what you were up to, and many a time we'd hear in our homes about the bad decision you'd made on some great issue of state. Then, masking the pain in our hearts, we'd put on a smile and ask you, 'How did the Assembly go today? Any decision about a rider to the peace treaty?' And my husband would say, 'What's that to you? Shut up!' And I'd shut up."

    First Old Woman: "I wouldn't have shut up!"

    Magistrate: "If you hadn't shut up, you'd have got a beating!" (507-516)

    These lines shed light on the power dynamic that existed in ancient Athenian homes. Not only do the men think they are in charge, but they maintain their dominance with threats of violence. Under these circumstances, the women put up with a lot more trouble than they should. And yet, as we can also see from these lines—especially the First Old Women's—women sometimes stood their ground against their husbands. Fight The Man, Old Woman.

    Lysistrata: "Hey you! What's your hurry?"

    First Wife: "I want to go home. I've got some Milesian woolens in the house, and the moths are chomping them all up."

    Lysistrata: "Moths indeed! Get back inside."

    First Wife: "By the Two Goddesses, I'll be right back; just let me spread them on the bed!"

    Lysistrata: "Don't you spread anything, or go anywhere."

    First Wife: "So I'm supposed to let my woolens be wasted?"

    Lysistrata: "If that's what it takes."

    Second Wife rushes from the Acropolis.
    Second Wife: "Oh my god, my god, my flax! I forgot to shuck it when I left the house!"

    Lysistrata: "Here's another one off to shuck her flax. March right back here."

    Second Wife: "By our Lady of Light, I'll be back in a flash; just let me do a little shucking."

    Lysistrata: "No! No shucking! If you start doing it, some other wife will want to do the same." (728-741)

    Okay, so it's super-obvious there are some sexual double-entendres here. The women clearly don't really want to go do domestic chores—those are just code words for various forms of hanky-panky. That said, even if the women aren't telling the truth about what they want to do, their lies still tell us something about them. That's because their lies reveal the types of activities the women normally do around the home; this gives us a window into their day-to-day existence.

    Cinesias: "Myrrhinikins, dearest, why are you doing this? Come down here!"

    Myrrhine: "I'm positively not going down there!"

    Cinesias: "You won't come down when I ask you, Myrrhine?"

    Myrrhine: "You're asking me, but you don't really want me."

    Cinesias: "Me not want you? Why, I'm in agony without you!"

    Myrrhine: "Goodbye."

    Cinesias: "No, wait! At least listen to the baby. Come on you, yell for mommy!"

    Baby: "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"

    Cinesias: "Hey, what's wrong with you? Don't you feel sorry for the baby, unwashed and unsuckled for six days already?"

    Myrrhine: "Him I feel sorry for; too bad his father doesn't care about him."

    Cinesias: "Come down here, you screwy woman, and see to your child."

    Myrrhine: "How momentous is motherhood! I have to go down there." (872-884)

    Remember how the Magistrate was saying how women have it easy? Well, maybe if he had to spend a few days in his wife's shoes, he'd think differently. Just ask Cinesias, Myrrhine's husband. In these lines, we see how completely beleaguered the poor guy is after Myrrhine goes on a sex-strike and holes up with Lysistrata and the other women in the Acropolis. At the end of this exchange, it looks like Myrrhine has given in to her sense of domestic duty and is going down to take care of their baby. Do you think this reflects her true emotions? Or is this just part of her process of teasing Cinesias—as if she were saying, sure, I'll take care of the baby, but still no sex for you?

    Myrrhine: "My sweetie, my bitty baby, that's got such a bad father, let me give you a kiss, mommy's little dearest."

    Cinesias: "What do you think you're doing, you naughty girl, listening to those other women and giving me a hard time and hurting yourself as well."

    Myrrhine: "Don't you lay hands on me!"

    Cinesias: "You know you've let our house, your things and mine, become an utter mess?"

    Myrrhine: "It doesn't bother me."

    Cinesias: "It doesn't bother you that the hens are pulling your woolens apart?"

    Myrrhine: "Not a bit."

    Cinesias: "And what a long time it's been since you've celebrated Aphrodite's holy mysteries. Won't you come home?"

    Myrrhine: "I certainly will not, not until you men agree to a settlement and stop the war." (889-901)

    Here, we get the continuation of the exchange between Myrrhine and Cinesias. Cinesias seems shocked that Myrrhine wouldn't care about how the house is becoming a mess. What's really telling is that he lumps "hen pulling woolens apart" and "Aphrodite's holy mysteries," suggesting that Myrrhine should view sex as yet another (ugh) domestic chore.

  • Politics

    Magistrate: "We're at war on account of the money, is that it?"

    Lysistrata: "Yes, and that's why everything else got messed up too. It was for opportunities to steal that Pisander and the others who aimed to hold office were always fomenting some kind of commotion. So let them keep fomenting to their hearts' content: they'll be withdrawing no more money from this place." (489-492)

    Unless you've been living in a cave, you'll know that a lot of people think that politicians are untrustworthy, and just interested in money. Newsflash: this isn't just a problem in modern democracy; such problems also were found in Ancient Athens, the birthplace of the whole democratic system. You can hear that frustration ringing out loud and clear in these lines by Lysistrata, where she accuses prominent Athenian politicians (like Pisander) of waging war so that they can make themselves rich.

    Lysistrata: "Before now, and for quite some time, we maintained our decorum and suffered in silence whatever you men did, because you wouldn't let us make a sound. But you weren't exactly all we could ask for. No, we knew only too well what you were up to, and many a time we'd hear in our homes about the bad decision you'd made on some great issue of state. Then, masking the pain in our hearts, we'd put on a smile and ask you, 'How did the Assembly go today? Any decision about a rider to the peace treaty?' And my husband would say, 'What's that to you? Shut up!' And I'd shut up."

    First Old Woman: "I wouldn't have shut up!"

    Magistrate: "If you hadn't shut up, you'd have got a beating!" (507-516)

    Isn't the whole point of democratic politics supposed to be—as Abraham Lincoln put it—that it's government "of the people, by the people, and for the people"? But how can that be the case when at least half the people (women) don't get to make their voices heard? In these lines, Lysistrata and the First Old Woman express their anger at being shut out of the political decision-making process. The Magistrate, however, seems to think that's just as it should be. Women making their voices heard threatens his own long-standing power.

    Lysistrata: "Imagine the polis as a fleece just shorn. First, put it in a bath and wash out all the sheep dung; spread it on a bed and beat out the riff-raff with a stick, and pluck out the thorns; as for those who clump and knot themselves together to snag government positions, card them out and pluck off their heads. Next, card the wool into a sewing basket of unity and goodwill, mixing in everyone. The resident aliens and any other foreigner who's your friend, and anyone who owes money to the people's treasury, mix them in there too. And oh yes, the cities that are colonies of this land: imagine them as flocks of your fleece, each one lying apart from the others. So take all these flocks and bring them together here, joining them all and making one big bobbin. And from this weave a fine new cloak for the people." (574-586)

    In this extended metaphor, Lysistrata critiques Athenian politics as it currently stands. And she does not mince words. First of all, there are those references to the "riff-raff" and other people mooching off the political system. These people have to be kicked out. Then, she talks about the "thorns" of corrupt politicians, and takes a very Queen Of Hearts stance by essentially shouting "Off with their heads!"

    Men's Leader: "No free man should be asleep now! Let's strip for action, men, and meet this emergency!" (They remove their jackets.)

    Men's Chorus: "I think I smell much bigger trouble in this,
    a definite whiff of Hippias' tyranny!
    I'm terrified that certain men from Sparta
    have gathered at the house of Cleisthenes
    and scheme to stir up our godforsaken women
    to seize the Treasury and my jury pay,
    my very livelihood." (614-625)

    The Hippias the old men are talking about was the tyrant of Athens in the 6th century BCE. In 510 BCE—in other words, about a century before Lysistrata takes place—Hippias got kicked out of power, paving the way for the new Athenian democracy. The men of Athens here think that the women's sex-strike must be a Spartan plot to bring back the days of tyranny, and put an end to democracy. The men decide to take patriotic action to defend their freedom. And what do they see as the most important part of that freedom? Getting paid to sit on juries—a popular source of income among poor old men. Hmm. Maybe these guys aren't so patriotic after all.

    Women's Leader: "I owe it to the polis to offer some good advice. And even if I was born a woman, don't hold it against me if I manage to suggest something better than what we've got now. I have a stake in our community: my contribution is men. You miserable geezers have no stake, since you've squandered your paternal inheritance, won in the Persian Wars, and now pay no taxes in return. On the contrary, we're all headed for bankruptcy on account of you! Have you anything to grunt in rebuttal? Any more trouble from you and I'll clobber you with this rawhide boot right in the jaw!"

    With these words, the Women's Leader shows that she has every right to play a role in politics. The Men's Leader was saying that women have no stake in the community: that the men's decisions don't affect them, and they don't contribute anything anyway, so they should just butt out. And boy, does the Women's Leader let him have it. At the very least, that rawhide boot should get his attention.

    Herald: "All Sparta rises, and our allies all have hard-ons. We need Pellana."

    Cinesias: "Who caused this calamity to befall you? Was it Pan?"

    Herald: "No, the one who started it, I reckon, was Lampito, and then the other women in Sparta all together, as from a starting place, excluded the men from their pork pies."

    Cinesias: "So how are you faring?"

    Herald: "We're hard up! We walk around town hunched over, like men carrying lamps. The women won't let us even touch their cherries till all of us unanimously agree to make peace with the rest of Greece."

    Cinesias: "So this business is a global conspiracy by all the women! Now I get it! Very well, you go back to Sparta as quick as you can and tell them to send delegates here with full powers to negotiate a treaty. And I'll arrange for our Council to choose their own ambassadors; this cock of mine will be Exhibit A." (995-1006)

    What would have happened if only Athens had been inflicted with endless sexual excitement, but not Sparta? We think it's likely the Spartans would have showed up and cut the Athenians into pieces. Once everyone's in the same boat, however, it gives everyone an incentive to come to the bargaining table. This shows the importance of political organization and collective action. If the women from all the different cities hadn't been acting together in their sex-strike, they never would have been this successful. Lysistrata's leadership and the other women's stick-to-itiveness provided the key ingredients for political change. Wow. That's so stirring we can almost forget that "pork pies" was just used as a euphemism.

    Chorus Leader: "Their condition seems to jibe with these others. Now, does this cramping seize you in the wee hours?"

    First Athenian Delegate: "Yes, and what's worse, we're worn absolutely raw by being in this condition! I mean, if someone doesn't reconcile us soon, there's no way we won't be f***ing Cleisthenes!"

    Chorus Leader: "If you've got any sense, you'll cover up there: you don't want one of the Herm-Docker clan to spot you."

    First Athenian Delegate: "That's certainly good advice." (1088-1095)

    Aristophanes has worked in a reference to contemporary politics (contemporary for him, anyway) into this quote. The first thing you need to know is what a "herm" is. Basically, a "herm" is a special type of ancient statue sacred to the god Hermes. What made this statue special was that it was actually just a rectangular pillar, with a sculpture of Hermes's head on top… and an erect phallus at waist level. You can see a picture of these weird doohickeys here. These statues were used on the streets for various purposes, as boundary markers, sign-posts, and so on.

    What's this all have to do with Athenian politics? Oddly enough, one night in 415 BCE (4 years before Lysistrata's theatrical debut), some hooligans went through the streets and smashed the faces and genitals of the herms. This was considered especially bad luck because it was right before Athens sent a massive naval expedition against its enemies in Sicily—an expedition that ended in total failure. When Lysistrata was performed, the culprits in the "Herm-Docking" had not all been identified, and Aristophanes is hinting that some of them might be in the audience (making the First Athenian Delegate want to cover up).

    Lysistrata: "Now that you're my captive audience I'm ready to give you the tongue-lashing you deserve—both of you. You two sprinkle altars from the same cup like kinsmen, at Olympia, at Thermopylae, at Pytho—how many other places could I mention if I had to extend the list—yet when enemies are available with their barbarian armies, it's Greek men and Greek cities you're determined to destroy. That takes me through one of my arguments."

    First Athenian Delegate: "My cock is bursting out of my skin and killing me!" (1128-1136)

    Uh, so what does this have to do with politics, exactly? Aha! That's exactly the point. The point is that, in politics, not every decision gets made for stereotypically political reasons. Sure, Lysistrata is giving the Spartans and Athenians a "tongue-lashing" in the form of a reasoned series of arguments. But it seems like the First Athenian Delegate is less interested in listening to well-wrought arguments and more interested in, uh, getting off. Maybe necessity really is the mother of political invention.

    Lysistrata: "Next, Spartans, I'm going to turn to you. Don't you remember when Pericleidas the Spartan came here once and sat at the altars as a suppliant of the Athenians, pale in his scarlet uniform, begging for troops? That time when Messenia was up in arms against you and the god was shaking you with an earthquake? And Cimon went with four thousand infantrymen and rescued all Sparta? After being treated that way by the Athenians, you're now out to ravage the country that's treated you well?"

    First Athenian Delegate: "They're guilty as can be, Lysistrata!"

    Spartan Delegate: "We're guilty, but what an unspeakably fine arse!" (1137-1147)

    Even while Lysistrata is giving her balanced speech, turning to one side, now the other like a conflict-negotiation expert, her audience's mind is elsewhere. They are hankering to relieve themselves from the sexual torment that has gripped them ever since the women went on their sex-strike, and so they are willing to do anything to make a deal. They will even do that hardest of things, admitting that they were wrong—as the Spartans do at the end of this passage.

    Second Athenian Delegate: "I've never seen such a party! The Spartans were really charming, and we were superb company ourselves over the drinks."

    First Athenian Delegate: "That figures, because when we're sober we get unhinged. If the Athenians will take my advice, from now on we'll go on all our diplomatic missions drunk. As it is, when we go to Sparta sober, we at once start looking for ways to stir up trouble. And so when they say something we don't hear it, and when they don't say anything we read things into that, and we each come away with different reports of the same discussions. But this time everything was agreeable. When somebody sang Telamon when he should have been singing Cleitagora, we'd applaud him and even swear up and down that—"
    The Slaves approach.
    "—Hey, those slaves are back again! Get lost, you whip fodder!" (1225-1240)

    These lines are spoken by the Athenian Delegates as they stumble out of the party celebrating the new peace treaty between Athens and Sparta. They reveal that political conflict—including war—often arises simply because of misunderstanding and mistrust. To solve this problem, the First Athenian delegate has a novel solution: every time the Athenians go on a diplomatic mission to Sparta, they should be sure to get drunk. You can't start too many fights (or, more realistically, finish very many fights) when you're smashed.

  • Power

    Calonice: "And what if they grab us and drag us into the bedroom by force?"

    Lysistrata: "Hold onto the door."

    Calonice: "And what if they beat us?"

    Lysistrata: "Then submit, but disagreeably: men get no pleasure in sex when they have to force you. And make them suffer in other ways as well. Don't worry, they'll soon give in. No husband can have a happy life if his wife doesn't want him to." (160-166)

    In these lines, Calonice worries that the women simply won't have enough power to keep up their sex-strike. If the women's husbands are, on average, more physically powerful, what will be stopping them from turning to rape? Lysistrata still thinks they have some power to resist, through passive resistance. By making it abundantly clear that they don't want to get it on with their husbands, Lysistrata suggests that they can still make their husbands lives' miserable. Her point seems to be that the husbands don't really want their relationships to be based on power; they want their wives to want to have sex with them.

    Calonice: "Well, if the two of you agree to this, then we agree too."

    Lampito: "And we will convince our menfolk to keep a completely fair and honest peace. But how can anyone keep your Athenian rabble from acting like lunatics?"

    Lysistrata: "Don't worry, we'll handle the persuasion on our side."

    Lampito: "Not so, as long as your battleships are under canvas and your Goddess' temple has a bottomless fund of money."

    Lysistrata: "No, that's also been well provided for: we're going to occupy the Acropolis this very day. The older women are assigned that part: while we're working out our agreement down here, they'll occupy the Acropolis, pretending to be up there for a sacrifice." (167-179)

    Lampito's objections here show that she understands the role power plays in politics. Sure, she seems to be saying, it's all well and good if the women get their men to sign a peace treaty—but how can they trust that the Athenians will keep holding up their end of the bargain if they still have the financial power to wage war? Lysistrata shows that she, too, understands the role of power. She has had the foresight to send the Athenian women to take over the Acropolis; by seizing control of the money supply, the women can cut off the Athenian men's source of financial power. Looks like the women of Greece have grabbed their men by the, uh, well, you get the picture.

    Magistrate: "Really, you witch! Where's a policeman?" (to First Policeman) "Grab her and tie both hands behind her back."

    Lysistrata: "If he so much as touches me with his fingertip, mere public servant that he is, so help me Artemis he'll go home crying!"

    These lines by Lysistrata show how complicated the issues of power are in this play—and how it isn't all that easy for modern readers to see Lysistrata as all about support for the downtrodden. On the one hand, Lysistrata shows her own personal willpower by refusing to be frightened by the Magistrate's threats. On the other hand, look at the language she uses to express her willpower: she says that the policeman is going to get it because he is nothing more than a "mere public servant." This shows that Lysistrata still thinks in terms of class divisions. Sure, Lysistrata is campaigning for women to have a voice, but she certainly isn't campaigning for servants (public or otherwise) to have any more power than they do already.

    Magistrate: "Damn my luck, I'm out of policemen. But men must never, ever be worsted by women! Form up ranks, Scythians, and let's charge them!"

    Lysistrata: "By the Two Goddesses, you'll soon discover that we also have four squadrons of fully armed combat women, waiting inside!"

    Magistrate: "Scythians, twist their arms behind their backs!"

    Lysistrata: "Women of the reserve, come out double time!"
    Enter Old Women.
    "Forward, you spawn of the marketplace, you soup and vegetable mongers! Forward, you landladies, you hawkers of garlic and bread! Tackle them! Hit them! Smash them! Call them names, the nastier the better! That's enough! Withdraw! Don't strip the bodies!"
    Policemen run away howling; Old Women reenter the Acropolis. (449-461)

    The Magistrate starts off this exchange by expressing his horror at the thought that men could be defeated by women—who are usually thought of as being less powerful than dudefolk. Lysistrata has no illusions about the fact that, on average, individual men are likely to be physically stronger than individual women. But is individual physical strength the only source of power? Far from it: power also comes from teamwork. We can see this in action when Lysistrata calls upon a whole host of different women to mount a counterattack against the Scythian policemen. Aw, yeah, Lysistrata & Co. Get it.

    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)

    Here, we see Lysistrata and the Magistrate debating about how much power women should be allowed to exercise in the city. Lysistrata makes the point that women have important power already, as managers of the finances in their households. The Magistrate doesn't really have much to say to this argument, does he? Isn't just saying "These are war funds!" pretty much the same as an ostrich sticking its head in the sand and pretending it's not in danger? Lysistrata: 1; Magistrate: 0.

    Lysistrata: "Before now, and for quite some time, we maintained our decorum and suffered in silence whatever you men did, because you wouldn't let us make a sound. But you weren't exactly all we could ask for. No, we knew only too well what you were up to, and many a time we'd hear in our homes about the bad decision you'd made on some great issue of state. Then, masking the pain in our hearts, we'd put on a smile and ask you, 'How did the Assembly go today? Any decision about a rider to the peace treaty?' And my husband would say, 'What's that to you? Shut up!' And I'd shut up."

    First Old Woman: "I wouldn't have shut up!"

    Magistrate: "If you hadn't shut up, you'd have got a beating!" (507-516)

    These lines show how men maintain their power over the women of the city. This happens in part through the women's politeness; most of the time, they simply don't want to give their husbands a hard time about the bad decisions they are making in the assembly. Eventually, however, the women feel that enough is enough, and at this point, the power dynamic shifts to one of physical strength, as the men use threats of violence to keep their wives from speaking up. As Lysistrata tells it, this usually had its desired effect: "I'd shut up," as she puts it. But the men can't keep these women silent forever.

    Lysistrata: "If Eros of the sweet soul and Cyprian Aphrodite imbue our thighs and breasts with desire, and infect the men with sensuous rigidity and bouts of truncheonitis, then I believe all Greece will one day call us Disbanders of Battles." (551-554)

    In these lines, Lysistrata shows another way that the women can have power over the men: through their ability to arouse sexual desire. To make sure this plan goes off without a hitch, Lysistrata even prays to the gods (Eros, the god of Desire, and Aphrodite, the goddess of Love) to make the women even sexier than usual, so that the men will be gripped by painful erections.

    Men's Leader: "It's shocking, you know, that they're lecturing the citizens now, and running their mouths—mere women!—about brazen shields. And to top it off they're trying to make peace between us and the men of Sparta, who are no more trustworthy than a starving wolf. Actually, this plot they weave against us, gentlemen, aims at tyranny! Well, they'll never tyrannize over me: from now on I'll be on my guard, I'll 'carry my sword in a myrtle branch' and go to market fully armed right up beside Aristogiton. I'll stand beside him like this (posing like Aristogiton's statue): that way I'll be ready to smack this godforsaken old hag right in the jaw!" (advances on the Women's Leader) (626-635)

    The Men's Leader here is comparing himself to Aristogiton, a heroic figure from Athenian history. Aristogiton, together with his buddy Harmodius, became famous for killing Hipparchus, the brother of the tyrant Hippias, in 515BCE. This action was seen as a blow struck against tyranny, and in favor of democracy. To commemorate this act, the city placed bronze statues of Harmodius and Aristogiton in the city center. How is this relevant? The Men's Leader thinks that, if he gives an inch to the women, they will take a mile: any increase in women's power places Athens on the road to tyranny.

    Men's Leader: "If any man among us gives these women even the tiniest handhold, there's no limit to what their nimble hands will do. Why, they'll even be building frigates and launching naval attacks, cruising against us like Artemisia. And if they turn to horsemanship, you can scratch our cavalry: there's nothing like a woman when it comes to mounting and riding; even riding hard she won't slip off. Just look at the Amazons in Mikon's paintings, riding chargers in battle against men. Our duty is clear: grab each woman's neck and lock it in the wooden stocks!" (advances on the Women's Leader.) (671-681)

    This time, the Men's Leader is making an historical comparison to the famous queen Artemisia of Halicarnassus (a city on the west coast of what is now Turkey). Artemisia was a feisty, independent woman, who became known for joining the Persians in their invasion of Greece. At the battle of Salamis, Artemisia commanded a ship against the Greeks; then, in the middle of the battle, after she accidentally rammed a Persian ship, she decided to make good on her mistake—and switched to the Greek side. The Men's Leader's next comparison is to mythology: the Amazons were famous female warriors, who (according to legend) once took over the Acropolis of Athens. Once again, the Men's Leader clearly thinks that any small amount of power given by men to women is equivalent to handing Athens over to her enemies.

    Lysistrata: "A man! I see a man coming this way, stricken, in the grip of Aphrodite's mysterious powers. Lady Aphrodite, mistress of Cyprus and Cythera and Paphos, let the path that you've embarked on be upright!"

    Wife: "Where is he, whoever he is?"

    Lysistrata: "He's by Chloe's shrine."

    Wife: "Oh yes, now I see him! But who is he?"

    Lysistrata: "Take a good look. Anyone recognize him?"

    Myrrhine: "Oh God, I do. And it's my own husband, Cinesias!"

    Lysistrata: "Then it's your job to roast him, to torture him, to bamboozle him, to love him and not to love him, and to give him anything he wants, except what you and our wine cup know about." (831-841)

    It may not be all that clear on a first reading, but when Lysistrata says that she sees a man "in the grip of Aphrodite's mysterious powers," she means a man who has been dominated by the goddess of love—in other words, a man who is super aroused. This shows that the women's sex-strike has had its desired effect—by making the men weak with desire. But even this isn't good enough. Lysistrata wants to turn the screw (badoom ching!) of Cinesias's torment just a little bit tighter… all for a good cause, of course.

  • Perseverance

    Calonice: "And what if they grab us and drag us into the bedroom by force?"

    Lysistrata: "Hold onto the door."

    Calonice: "And what if they beat us?"

    Lysistrata: "Then submit, but disagreeably: men get no pleasure in sex when they have to force you. And make them suffer in other ways as well. Don't worry, they'll soon give in. No husband can have a happy life if his wife doesn't want him to." (160-166)

    As in any strike, one of the most important ingredients of success in the women's sex-strike is sheer perseverance. Perseverance is especially necessary because those who disagree with the strike—that is, the men who want to have sex with their wives—are likely to use any means necessary to try to oppose it. In these lines, we see Calonice expressing fear about what might happen if the men use violence to try to rape the women. Lysistrata's response is, yup, perseverance. Persevere as long as possible physically, and then persevere mentally.

    Lysistrata: "No man of any kind, lover or husband—"

    Calonice: "No man of any kind, lover or husband—"

    Lysistrata: "shall approach me with a hard-on. Speak up!"

    Calonice: "Shall approach me with a hard-on. Oh god, my knees are buckling, Lysistrata!"

    Lysistrata: "At home in celibacy shall I pass my life—"

    Calonice: "At home in celibacy shall I pass my life—"

    Lysistrata: "wearing a saffron robe and all dolled up—"

    Calonice: "wearing a saffron robe and all dolled up—"

    Lysistrata: "so that my husband will get as hot as a volcano for me—"

    Calonice: "so that my husband will get as hot as a volcano for me—"

    Lysistrata: "but never willingly shall I surrender to my husband."

    Calonice: "but never willingly shall I surrender to my husband." (212-224)

    Heck, it takes perseverance even to get through this oath. But seriously, what Lysistrata is getting the women to sign on to is total steadfastness. The way Lysistrata sees it, if the women absolutely refuse to have sex with their husbands, without exceptions, the men will eventually have to give in.

    Lysistrata: "If he should use force to force me against my will—"

    Calonice: "If he should use force to force me against my will—"

    Lysistrata: "I will submit coldly and not move my hips."

    Calonice: "I will submit coldly and not move my hips."

    Lysistrata: "I will not raise my Persian slippers toward the ceiling."

    Calonice: "I will not raise my Persian slippers toward the ceiling."

    Lysistrata: "I won't crouch down like the lioness on the cheesegrater."

    Calonice: "I won't crouch down like the lioness on the cheesegrater."

    Lysistrata: "If I live up to these vows, may I drink from this cup."

    Calonice: "If I live up to these vows, may I drink from this cup."

    Lysistrata: "But if I break them, may the cup be full of water."

    Calonice: "But if I break them, may the cup be full of water." (225-236)

    Okay, we're not even going to speculate about what the whole "lioness on the cheesegrater" sexual position might be about. Mainly because that's not the point right now. The point is that the oath Lysistrata is making the women take is even longer than we thought. Here, once again, perseverance is a major part of the oath's message. Even if the men use violence against the women, the women still shouldn't give in. Instead, they should use nonviolent resistance; anything to keep the strike going.

    Magistrate: "Really, you witch! Where's a policeman? (to First Policeman) Grab her and tie both hands behind her back."

    Lysistrata: "If he so much as touches me with his fingertip, mere public servant that he is, so help me Artemis he'll go home crying!"

    Magistrate: "What, are you scared? (to Second Policeman) You there, help him out; grab her around the waist and tie her up, on the double!"

    Enter first Old Woman from the gates.
    First Old Woman: "If you so much as lay a hand on her, so help me Pandrosos, I'll beat the s*** out of you!"

    Magistrate: "Beat the s*** out of me? Where's another policemen? (to Third Policeman) Tie her up first, the one with the dirty mouth!"

    Enter Second Old Woman from the gates.
    Second Old Woman: "If you raise your fingertip to her, so help me our Lady of Light, you'll be begging for an eye cup!" (433-444)

    For one person to show perseverance is very important—but there's only so much than an individual can do. To make perseverance truly powerful, you need many people standing together. That seems to be the message of these lines. The Magistrate might think at first that he can push Lysistrata around. But he'll have to think twice once two old women step forward to show their own perseverance in standing beside their leader. Get it, grandmas!

    Lysistrata: "Before now, and for quite some time, we maintained our decorum and suffered in silence whatever you men did, because you wouldn't let us make a sound. But you weren't exactly all we could ask for. No, we knew only too well what you were up to, and many a time we'd hear in our homes about a bad decision you'd made on some great issue of state. Then, masking the pain in our hearts, we'd put on a smile and ask you, 'How did the Assembly go today? Any decision about a rider to the peace treaty?' And my husband would say, 'What's that to you? Shut up!' And I'd shut up. […] But later on we began to hear about even worse decisions you'd made, and then we would ask, 'Husband, how come you're handling this so stupidly?' And right away he'd glare at me and tell me to get back to my sewing if I didn't want major damage to my head: 'War shall be the business of menfolk,' unquote."

    Magistrate: "He was right on the mark, I say."

    Lysistrata: "How could he be right, you sorry fool, when we were forbidden to offer advice even when your policy was wrong? But then, when we began to hear you in the streets openly crying, 'There isn't a man left in the land,' and someone else saying, 'God knows, there isn't, not a one,' after that we women decided to lose no more time, and to band together to save Greece. What was the point of waiting any longer?" (507-515, 518-526)

    When perseverance turns bad, it usually becomes one of two things: stubbornness or apathy. In this exchange, we can see hints of the bad forms of perseverance in both Lysistrata and the Magistrate. Lysistrata's bad perseverance comes in the form of apathy: as she explains, for a long time she (like the other women in the city) listened in silence to her husband's stories of the daily business in the assembly, without speaking up to suggest changes. The Magistrate's bad form of perseverance is stubbornness: he stubbornly sticks to the traditional mindset when he says that Lysistrata's husband was "right on the mark" for prohibiting her from offering advice.

    Women's Leader: "Rouse yourselves, women, away from those pitchers, it's our turn to pitch in with a little help for our friends!"

    Women's Chorus: "Oh yes! I'll dance with unflagging energy;
    no toilsome effort will weary my knees.
    I'm ready to face anything
    with women as courageous as these:
    they've got character, charm, and guts,
    they've got intelligence and heart
    that's both patriotic and smart!"

    Women's Leader: "Now, most valiant of prickly mommies and spikey grannies, attack furiously and don't go mushy: you're still running with the wind!" (539-550)

    Here we get another sight of the women's enduring perseverance, as seen in their bragging about their qualities of "unflagging energy," "guts," and "heart." The Women's Leader also encourages them to show perseverance by never "go[ing] mushy." At the same time, we see how perseverance feeds on teamwork. We're seriously contemplating getting a "Don't Go Mushy" tattoo.

    Magistrate: "So how will you women be able to put a stop to such a complicated international mess, and sort it all out?"

    Lysistrata: "Very easily."

    Magistrate: "How? Show me."

    Lysistrata: (taking the sewing blanket from the Magistrate and using its contents to illustrate) "It's rather like a ball of yarn when it gets tangled up. We hold it this way, and carefully wind out the strands on our spindles, now this way, now that way. That's how we'll wind up this war, if we're allowed: unsnarling it by sending embassies, now this way, now that way." (565-570)

    In these lines, Lysistrata responds to the Magistrate's accusation that women simply lack the necessary skill and experience to run the city. Lysistrata begs to differ, and explains how the women's skills acquired through spinning yarn can be transferred to untangling the knotty problems of the city. And from the way Lysistrata describes it, it sure sounds like untangling yarn requires a lot of patience—another name for perseverance. Could she be suggesting that this type of patience/perseverance is something that women are good at (perhaps because they have had to practice it for so long), and something that men could use an extra dose of?

    Lysistrata: "What are you raving about?"

    Third Wife: "I'm about to deliver a child!"

    Lysistrata: "But you weren't pregnant yesterday."

    Third Wife: "But today I am. Please, Lysistrata, send me home to the midwife, right away!"

    Lysistrata: "What's the story? What's this thing you've got under there? It's hard."

    Third Wife: "It's a boy."

    Lysistrata: "By Aphrodite, it's obvious you've got something metallic and hollow under there. Let's have a look. Ridiculous girl! You're big with the sacred helmet, not with child!"

    Third Wife: "But I am with child, I swear!"

    Lysistrata: "Then what were you doing with this?"

    Third Wife: "Well, if I began to deliver here in the citadel, I could get into the helmet and have my baby there, like a pigeon." (744-755)

    In these lines, we see a lack of perseverance and a type of perseverance wrapped up together in the same person. The Third Wife is lacking in perseverance because she is trying to sneak away from the sex-strike and go have sex her husband. On the other hand, she is showing perseverance through her steadfast insistence that she actually is pregnant, even as her claims become more and more ridiculous.

    Lysistrata: "There's an oracle predicting victory for us, but only if we stick together. (produces a scroll) Here's the oracle right here."

    Third Wife: "Tell us what it says."

    Lysistrata: "Be quiet, then.
    Yea, when the swallows hole up in a single home,
    fleeing the hoopoes and leaving the phallus alone,
    then are their problems solved, and high-thundering Zeus
    shall reverse what's up and what's down—"

    Third Wife: "You mean we'll be lying on top?"

    Lysistrata: "But:
    if the swallows begin to argue and fly away
    down form the citadel holy, all will say,
    no bird more disgustingly horny lives today!"

    Third Wife: "A pretty explicit oracle. Ye gods!" (765-777)

    Do you think this is a real oracle that Lysistrata is reading, or just something she made up? Either way, we think the Third Wife is right on the money when she calls it a "pretty explicit oracle." The clear message of the oracle is that, if the women use perseverance, their strike will succeed, and they will gain glory for themselves. If not, they'll be called "horny birds." Not hard to see which one is better.

    Myrrhine: "There we are! Lie right down while I undress. But wait, um, yes, a mattress! Must go get one."

    Cinesias: "What do you mean, a mattress? No thanks."

    Myrrhine: "By Artemis, it's nasty on cords."

    Cinesias: "Well then, give me a kiss."

    Myrrhine: "There."

    Cinesias: "Oh lordy! Get the mattress quick!"

    Myrrhine: (returning with a mattress) "There we are! Lie back down and I'll get my clothes off. But wait, um, a pillow, you haven't got a pillow!"

    Cinesias: "But I don't need one!"

    Myrrhine: "But I do!"

    Cinesias: "Is this cock of mine supposed to be Heracles waiting for his dinner?" (920-928)

    Here we see Myrrhine's perseverance in sticking to the sex-strike. For all we know, deep down in her heart of hearts, she might be like the woman who sneaks away with the helmet tucked under her shirt: secretly eager to have sex with her husband. And yet, even if Myrrhine wants sex, she wants peace even more. And so she methodically goes about teasing her husband Cinesias, working him up to a pitch of extreme sexual tension—and then constantly inventing new excuses for why she can't have sex with him.