CL106/EN106 Week 13:


1. Aristophanes, Lysistrata:


Note: In earlier times Sparta and Athens had been allies: Sparta had helped Athens oust her tyrant Hippias in the late sixth century, and in the early fifth the two had fought together with other Greeks to repel the Persian invasion of Greece. In 411, however, the date of this play, Athens was fighting a major war against most of the important states in mainland Greece, including Sparta and her allies in the Peloponnesus (the southern part of Greece) and in Boeotia (on Athens' northern border). Two years earlier (413) a vast Athenian expeditionary force sent off to conquer at least part of Sicily had been crushingly defeated. Despite this defeat the Athenians maintained their resolve to carry on the war. Lysistrata's name, incidentally, means "she who disbands the army." The men in the play wear leather phalluses, to which the characters make frequent reference. In the Greek original the Spartans speak with the Doric accent typical of most of southern Greece.


a. According to this play, what, if anything, is wrong with war in general? what, if anything, is wrong with this war in particular?

b. In terms of this play, what is Aristophanes' view of women and their proper place in society? How can you tell?

c. What is Lysistrata like? How is she like the other women in the play? How is she different?

d. What is Lysistrata's/the women's view of the political process in Athens? What is Aristophanes' view?

e. Are the women in this play traitors?

f. In what sense is the Lysistrata escapist literature?

g. In what way(s) is the Lysistrata funny?

h. Beneath the humor does Aristophanes have a serious purpose in this play? If so, what is it?

i. More specifically, does Aristophanes offer in this play an alternative to Athens' current policy? If so, what is it?



2. Menander, Dyskolos:


Note: The Dyskolos was written c. 100 years after the Lysistrata and Frogs.


a. What are Knemon, Sostratos and Gorgias like?

b. Sostratos is in love with Knemon's daughter. Exactly what does this mean?

c. Consider the relations between rich and poor in this play.

d. In what sense is the Dyskolos escapist literature?

e. Assuming that the Lysistrata and Frogs are typical of Old Comedy, and that the Dyskolos is typical of New Comedy, contrast Old and New Comedy. In particular, what does New Comedy have that Old Comedy does not? What does Old Comedy have that New Comedy does not?



3. More generally:


a. In this course we have read a broad representative sample of Classical Greek poetry. How would you characterize this body of literature as a whole, in contrast to, say, British literature or American literature? What is distinctive about Classical Greek literature as a whole?