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Aristophanes's Lysistrata vs Euripedes Medea

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Question :

For this paper, you must use Aeschylus’s Oresteia or Aristophanes's Lysistrata plus one other text from the course and discuss the ways these texts reinforce or challenge ancient Greek attitudes, ideologies, taboos, morals, etc.

Answer :

Introduction

Both the authors have discussed of two different plots happening in ancient Greek civilization. In the case of Lysistrata by Aristophane, she tries to use the power of females to achieve peace and end Peloponnesian war. Women of Sparta have offered her the necessary support to make this happen by taking an oath. On the other hand, Medea by Euripedes is undergoing abandonment by her husband as he decides to remarry Creon’s daughter – Glauce. This agony has made her to even murder her own children. The themes are nearly similar.

Thesis statement - While the central characters in both the stories were a part of the family unit and were women-centric, the way the power has been used varied greatly.

Discussion

Argument 1 – The use of woman power is productive in Lysistrata over Medea.

A verse in Medea says about the power of woman –

“It won’t be easy
for any man who picks a fight with her
to think she’s beaten and he’s triumphed.”

However, this verse applies to women in Aristophane’s story as well.

For instance, Lysistrata says –
“if only all the women would come here
      from Sparta and Boeotia, join up with us, [40]
      if we worked together, we’d save Greece.”

Unlike Medea who applies her power and the social taboo to defend her and make her husband repent the abandonment, Lysistrata becomes sensible in her thoughts and encourages women of her community to discourage sex with their husbands until the treaty of peace is signed and the war is called off. This initiative has actually enabled the men to realize how hard it is to live without an intercourse and the urge for peace to end this problem.

Argument 2 – Social taboos and family values played key roles in both the stories.

Women who have taken an oath with wine in Lysistrata remained loyal to the Gods and even after their husbands reported erection and begged for an intercourse, they continued to remain loyal. One such line during the oath is here:

“      . . . wearing saffron silks, with lots of make up . . . [220] “

On the other hand, Medea strives hard to gain financial as well as emotional support during the abandonment by her own husband, Jason. She takes revenge when he does not feel the loss of his wife and the two kids.

Ancient Greeks considered women as property and restricted their rights. For instance, women in Lysistrata were treated as mere sexual objects. When men of the community could not receive sexual pleasure from them because they took an oath, they worked harder to make their vision possible. Consequently, Medea takes advantage of the social taboo where the mother has every right to kill the child and it is mandatory for the father to accept the reality of the child. One such line from the plot is mentioned here:

“may you die with your father and his house,
may it all perish, crash down in ruins.”

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Since all the three have been abandoned, she had no option but to kill them in order to worsen his pain and understand her real value.

Yet another ancient Greek attitude is the glory that young man longs for. Even in the case of Lysistrata, the young men and their sons were all set for the war glories and battles to taste victory at the end. Similarly, remarrying the daughter of a prince is a glorious moment for Jason but Medea did not want it to happen and wants to cut down this privilege granted to him. Though women were not demanded or encouraged to attend schools unlike men who spend over 8 years at the school, women continued to use their wits to bring things under their control.

When Medea was actually trying to hunt a place for her to stay and take revenge against Jason, the offer of the king in return to her knowledge about fertility has made her to apply her intelligence and take control over the situation. It is purely her intelligence which made Jason to remain aloof at the end losing his second wife, the new baby and everything that he desired for. Likewise, Lysistrata understood the two aspects – peace and war that played major roles in the lives of adults. She wanted to choose peace over war which is the reason for her to encourage women of the community to act against men and turn war into peaceful
situation.

Argument 3: Justice is the vision of both the central characters.

For Lysistrata, she does not want war to cost lives and affect the livelihood of people in her community. She worked towards justice and demanded peace. Subsequently, Medea also begged for justice though it was for herself. She pleaded her husband not to leave her and the two children but he did not listen. Hence, she used her wits to stay back and make him understand his fault.

Conclusion

Women in both the plots achieved what they wanted to. It is surprising to see the less- educated women were able to use their limited knowledge to do good and improve lives of people around unlike men who saw them as objects for sex and reproduction. When men were deprived of women at several instances, they realized the value of women and worked towards the mission. Ancient Greek women can perhaps be called the symbols of power.

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