Study Guide

Lysistrata Section 2

By Aristophanes

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Section 2

  • After the women drink the toast, they hear other women shouting, offstage. Lysistrata explains that it's the older women, who are storming the treasury on the Acropolis.
  • Lysistrata and the women exit the stage; they are headed to the Acropolis.
  • Now, the Men's Chorus comes out on stage. This is basically a ramshackle bunch of old geezers. But these geezers are also armed and dangerous: they're carrying firewood, an unlit torch, and a bucket full of smoldering coals.
  • The old men start singing, dancing (probably not very well), and complaining. They are complaining about two main things: (1) being old, and (2) the fact that women have taken over the Acropolis. They also express nostalgic feelings about being warriors, back in the day.
  • As the Men's Chorus continues singing, it becomes clear that they are bringing the firewood to smoke the women out of their position on the Acropolis.
  • When they come to the gate of the Acropolis, they set down the firewood in the bucket of coals, to get it lit.
  • At this point, the Chorus of Women runs out of the Acropolis, carrying pitchers of water.
  • In no time, the Women's Leader gets into a heated argument with the Men's Leader. Finally, she decides enough is enough, and douses her male counterpart with water.
  • Just then, in comes the local Magistrate (chief of police), along with two slaves carrying crowbars, as well as four policemen. (These policemen are also slaves, from Scythia.)
  • The Magistrate delivers a sexist speech, saying that women are always to blame for stirring up trouble.
  • But then, when the Men's Leader complains about getting doused with water, the Magistrate tells him it's men's own fault for encouraging women to misbehave—by making it all too easy for them to be sexually unfaithful. We're not entirely sure what cheating has to do with this fire/water fight either.
  • Then the Magistrate instructs the Scythian policemen to go pry off the gates to the Acropolis with crowbars.
  • Before the policemen can do their dirty work, however, Lysistrata comes out of the gates of her own accord.
  • The Magistrate orders the policemen to seize Lysistrata, but she stands her ground. A battle of words ensues, as one, two, three old women step forward to Lysistrata's defense.
  • Now the Magistrate has had enough: he orders all four policemen to march forward and seize the women. But the women call up the reserves—a whole army of old women who plough their way onto the stage and beat the living daylights out of the four Scythian policemen. Get it, grandmas!
  • The policemen run away; the army of old women marches back into the Acropolis. Lysistrata remains onstage, still facing down the Magistrate.
  • Now, the Men's Leader complains once again to the Magistrate about how the women have just doused him and the other members of the Men's Chorus with water. The Women's Leader speaks up, saying that he deserved it.
  • The Men's Leader commands the Magistrate to interrogate the women about why they are occupying the Acropolis. The Magistrate does so.
  • Lysistrata proudly replies that the women have occupied it so that they can control the treasury—and prevent the city funds from being wasted on war. Lysistrata says that the war is only being fought for money anyway.
  • When the Magistrate asks Lysistrata how she thinks she, a woman, can manage the city's funds, she points out that women manage household finaces.
  • The Magistrate can't muster much of a comeback to that. After a testy exchange between himself and Lysistrata, he demands to know why the women have suddenly become interested in political affairs of war and peace.
  • Lysistrata clears her throat, and begins explaining—in a parody of the Trojan warrior Hector's speech to his wife Andromache from Book VI of Homer's Iliad. Yeah, Aristophanes was pretty much the ancient Weird Al.
  • Lysistrata explains that, for a long time, women have listened in silence as their men explained to them how business went in the democratic assembly. Even though the women thought the men were making stupid decisions, they only asked polite questions—and got told to shut up, all the same.
  • Later on, as it became clearer and clearer that the men's stupidity was having a negative effect on the city, the women began criticizing their husbands. This time, their husbands threatened them with physical violence to make them be quiet.
  • Finally, though, when the horrible human costs of the war became all too clear, when people could he heard in the streets complaining about how all the men of the land had been killed in war, the women decided to take matters into their own hands.
  • This, explains Lysistrata, is why the women have taken control: to get the men's act together for them.
  • Hearing this, the Magistrate says that he would rather die than take orders from a woman—especially a woman wearing a veil.
  • So what does Lysistrata do? She takes off her own veil and puts it on the Magistrate. Then an old woman steps forward and gives the Magistrate her sewing basket. Lysistrata tells him to get sewing: women are in charge of war now.
  • Then the Women's Chorus does a little dancing and chanting, celebrating the determination that they're showing. They are guardedly confident that they will be able to pull off their scheme.
  • Hearing this, the Magistrate asks them what exactly they're planning.
  • Lysistrata explains that the most basic thing they want is to stop people from walking around the city with all their weaponry on—because it's crazy. Then she explains the women's main goal: to put an end to the war between Athens and Sparta.
  • The Magistrate doesn't believe the women will be able to do it.
  • But then Lysistrata makes a long speech comparing the city to a ball of yarn: just as women wash and beat wool to clean it, then card all the wool into a big basket, then spin it into yarn and weave a robe out of it, in the same way, they should get rid of all the corruption in the city, unify everyone with friendship, and bring peace.
  • The Magistrate thinks this is a bunch of hooey. He makes fun of the women for trying to run the show when (according to him) they don't bear any of the burdens of war.
  • This remark provokes an angry reaction from Lysistrata. She points out that women bear plenty of burdens: they give birth to sons and send them off to war, they sleep alone because their husbands are off fighting, and many of them grow old without being able to get a husband.
  • The Magistrate tries to convince them that old men have a hard time too—but the women don't listen to him. Instead, they treat him as if he were a dead body that they were dressing up for its funeral. (In Ancient Greece, preparing bodies for burial was a woman's job.)
  • Covered in ribbons and wreaths, the Magistrate runs away to complain to the other magistrates.

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