History of Literature



Illustrations by A. Beardsley, N. Lindsay and A. Boyd






Greek dramatist

born c. 450 bc
died c. 388 bc

the greatest representative of ancient Greek comedy and the one whose works have been preserved in greatest quantity. He is the only extant representative of the Old Comedy, that is, of the phase of comic dramaturgy in which chorus, mime, and burlesque still played a considerable part and which was characterized by bold fantasy, merciless invective and outrageous satire, unabashedly licentious humour, and a marked freedom of political criticism. But Aristophanes belongs to the end of this phase, and, indeed, his last extant play, which has no choric element at all, may well be regarded as the only extant specimen of the short-lived Middle Comedy, which, before the end of the 4th century bc, was to be superseded in turn by the milder and more realistic social satire of the New Comedy.

Life and career
Little is known about the life of Aristophanes, and most of the known facts are derived from references in his own plays. Born c. 450 bc, he was an Athenian citizen belonging to the deme, or clan, named Pandionis, but his actual birthplace is uncertain. (The fact that he or his father, Philippus, owned property on the island of Aegina may have been the cause of an accusation by his fellow citizens that he was not of Athenian birth.) He began his dramatic career in 427 bc with a play, the Daitaleis (The Banqueters), which appears, from surviving fragments, to have been a satire on his contemporaries’ educational and moral theories. He is thought to have written about 40 plays in all. A large part of his work is concerned with the social, literary, and philosophical life of Athens itself and with themes provoked by the great Peloponnesian War (431–404 bc). This war was essentially a conflict between imperialist Athens and conservative Sparta and so was long the dominant issue in Athenian politics. Aristophanes was naturally an opponent of the more or less bellicose statesmen who controlled the government of Athens throughout the better part of his maturity. Aristophanes lived to see the revival of Athens after its defeat by Sparta. He died in about 388 bc.

Dramatic and literary achievements
Aristophanes’ reputation has stood the test of time; his plays have been frequently produced on the 20th-century stage in numerous translations, which manage with varying degrees of success to convey the flavour of Aristophanes’ puns, witticisms, and topical allusions. But it is not easy to say why his comedies still appeal to an audience almost 2,500 years after they were written. In the matter of plot construction Aristophanes’ comedies are often loosely put together, are full of strangely inconsequential episodes, and often degenerate at their end into a series of disconnected and boisterous episodes. Aristophanes’ greatness lies in the wittiness of his dialogue; in his generally good-humoured though occasionally malevolent satire; in the brilliance of his parody, especially when he mocks the controversial tragedian Euripides; in the ingenuity and inventiveness, not to say the laughable absurdity, of his comic scenes born of imaginative fantasy; in the peculiar charm of his choric songs, whose freshness can still be conveyed in languages other than Greek; and, at least for audiences of a permissive age, in the licentious frankness of many scenes and allusions in his comedies.

The plays Babylonians
This comedy, which is extant only in fragments, was produced at the festival of the Great Dionysia. The festival was attended by delegates of the city-states, which were theoretically “allies” but were in practice satellites of Athens. Because Babylonians (426 bc; Greek Babylōnioi) not only virulently attacked Cleon, the demagogue then in power in Athens, but also showed the “allies” as the slaves of the Athenian Demos (a personification of the Athenian citizen electorate), Aristophanes was impeached by Cleon. Though the details are not known, he seems to have been let off lightly.

The plays Acharnians
This is the earliest of the 11 comedies of Aristophanes that have survived intact. Acharnians (425 bc; Greek Acharneis) is a forthright attack on the folly of the war. Its farmer-hero, Dicaeopolis, is tired of the Peloponnesian War and therefore secures a private peace treaty with the Spartans for himself in spite of the violent opposition of a chorus of embittered and bellicose old charcoal burners of Acharnae. Dicaeopolis takes advantage of his private treaty to trade with the allies of the Spartans. The Athenian commander Lamachus tries to stop him, but by the end of the play Lamachus slumps wounded and dejected while Dicaeopolis enjoys a peacetime life of food, wine, and sex.

The plays Knights
This play shows how little Aristophanes was affected by the prosecution he had incurred for Babylonians. Knights (424 bc; Greek Hippeis) consists of a violent attack on the same demagogue, Cleon, who is depicted as the favourite slave of the stupid and irascible Demos until he is, at last, ousted from his position of influence and authority by Agoracritus, a sausage seller who is even more scoundrelly and impudent than Cleon.

The plays Clouds
This play (423 bc; Greek Nephelai) is an attack on “modern” education and morals as imparted and taught by the radical intellectuals known as the Sophists. The main victim of the play is the leading Athenian thinker and teacher Socrates, who is purposely (and unfairly) given many of the standard characteristics of the Sophists. In the play Socrates is consulted by an old rogue, Strepsiades (“Twisterson”), who wants to evade his debts. The instruction at Socrates’ academy, the Phrontisterion (“Thinking Shop”), which consists of making a wrong argument sound right, enables Strepsiades’ son to defend the beating of his own father. At the play’s end the Phrontisterion is burned to the ground.

The plays Wasps
This comedy satirized the litigiousness of the Athenians in the person of the mean and waspish old man Philocleon (“Love-Cleon”), who has a passion for serving on juries. In Wasps (422 bc; Greek Sphēkes) Philocleon’s son, Bdelycleon (“Loathe-Cleon”), arranges for his father to hold a “court” at home; but, since the first “case” to be heard is that of the house dog accused of the theft of a cheese, Philocleon is finally cured of his passion for the law courts and instead becomes a boastful and uproarious drunkard. The play’s main political target is the exploitation by Cleon of the Athenian system of large subsidized juries.

The plays Peace
This play was staged seven months or so after both Cleon and Brasidas, the two main champions of the war policy on the Athenian and Spartan sides respectively, had been killed in battle and, indeed, only a few weeks before the ratification of the Peace of Nicias (? March 421 bc), which suspended hostilities between Athens and Sparta for six uneasy years. In Peace (421 bc; Greek Eirēnē) the war-weary farmer Trygaeus (“Vintager”) flies to heaven on a monstrous dung beetle to find the lost goddess Peace, only to discover that the God of War has buried Peace in a pit. With the help of a chorus of farmers Trygaeus rescues her, and the play ends with a joyful celebration of marriage and fertility.

The plays Birds
This play can be regarded merely as a “comedy of fantasy,” but some scholars see Birds (414 bc; Greek Ornithes) as a political satire on the imperialistic dreams that had led the Athenians to undertake their ill-fated expedition of 415 bc to conquer Syracuse in Sicily. Peisthetaerus (“Trusty”) is so disgusted with his city’s bureaucracy that he persuades the birds to join him in building a new city that will be suspended in between heaven and earth; it is named Nephelokokkygia and is the original Cloudcuckooland. The city is built, and Peisthetaerus and his bird comrades must then fend off the undesirable humans who want to join them in their new Utopia. He and the birds finally even starve the Olympian gods into cooperating with them. Birds is Aristophanes’ most fantastical play, but its escapist mood possibly echoes the dramatist’s sense of Athens’ impending decline.

The plays Lysistrata
This comedy was written not long after the catastrophic defeat of the Athenian expedition to Sicily (413 bc) and not long before the revolt of the Four Hundred in Athens, whereby an oligarchic regime ready to make peace with Sparta was set up (411 bc). Lysistrata (411 bc; Greek Lysistratē) depicts the seizure of the Acropolis and of the treasury of Athens by the city’s women who, at Lysistrata’s instigation, have, together with all the women of Greece, declared a sex strike until such time as the men will make peace. The women defy their menfolk until the peace is arranged, after which both the Athenian and Spartan wives are reunited with their husbands. The play is a strange mixture of humour, indecency, gravity, and farce.

The plays Women at the Thesmophoria
In Women at the Thesmophoria (411 bc; Greek Thesmophoriazousai) Euripides has discovered that the women of Athens, angered by his constant attacks upon them in his tragedies, mean to discuss during their coming festival (the Thesmophoria) the question of contriving his death. Euripides tries to persuade the effeminate Agathon, a tragic poet, to plead his cause. Agathon refuses, and Euripides persuades his brother-in-law Mnesilochus to undertake the assignment. Mnesilochus is disguised with great thoroughness as a woman and sent on his mission, but his true sex is discovered and he is at once seized by the women. There follow three scenes in which he tries unsuccessfully to escape; all three involve brilliant parodies of Euripides’ tragedies, and all three attempts fail. Finally, Euripides himself arrives and succeeds in rescuing his advocate by promising never again to revile women.

The plays Frogs
This is a literary comedy. In Frogs (405 bc; Greek Batrachoi) Dionysus, the god of drama, is concerned about the poor quality of present-day tragedy in Athens now that his recent favourite, Euripides, is dead. Dionysus disguises himself as the hero Heracles and goes down to Hades to bring Euripides back to the land of the living. As the result, however, of a competition arranged between Euripides and his great predecessor, Aeschylus, Dionysus is won over to the latter’s cause and returns to earth with Aeschylus, instead, as the one more likely to help Athens in its troubles.

The plays Women at the Ecclesia
In Women at the Ecclesia (c. 392 bc; Greek Ekklēsiazousai) the women of Athens dress up as men, take over the Ecclesia (the Athenian democratic assembly), and introduce a communistic system of wealth, sex, and property. It is not one of Aristophanes’ more appealing plays.

The plays Wealth
The last of the author’s plays to be performed in his lifetime, Wealth (388 bc; Greek Ploutos) is a somewhat moralizing work and does not enhance his reputation—though, as suggested, it may have inaugurated the Middle Comedy.

Shortly after producing his Wealth, Aristophanes died, leaving two plays (now lost), the Aiolosikon and the Kokolos, which his son staged c. 387 bc; both of them are generally assumed to have been mythological burlesques.

Additional Reading
Critical studies on the works of Aristophanes include Gilbert Murray, Aristophanes: A Study (1933, reprinted 1965), still lively; Carlo Ferdinando Russo, Aristophanes: An Author for the Stage (1994; originally published in Italian, 1962); K.J. Dover, Aristophanic Comedy (1972); Rosemary M. Harriott, Aristophanes: Poet & Dramatist (1986); Cedric H. Whitman, Aristophanes and the Comic Hero (1964, reissued 1971); Kenneth McLeish, The Theatre of Aristophanes (1980), on the mechanics of raising laughs; and Jeffrey Henderson (ed.), Aristophanes: Essays in Interpretation (1980). Other general treatments are Carroll Moulton, Aristophanic Poetry (1981); Kenneth J. Reckford, Aristophanes’ Old-and-New Comedy (1987); Douglas M. MacDowell, Aristophanes and Athens: An Introduction to the Plays (1995); L.P.E. Parker, The Songs of Aristophanes (1997); and M.S. Silk, Aristophanes and the Definition of Comedy (2000);

Books on more specific topics include Laura M. Stone, Costume in Aristophanic Poetry (1981); Thomas K. Hubbard, The Mask of Comedy: Aristophanes and the Intertextual Parabasis (1991); A.M. Bowie, Aristophanes: Myth, Ritual, and Comedy (1993); Jeffrey Henderson, The Maculate Muse: Obscene Language in Attic Comedy, 2nd ed. (1991); and James Robson, Humour, Obscenity, and Aristophanes (2006).

Maurice Platnauer
Oliver Taplin



Тyре of work: Drama
Author: Aristophanes (c. 448-385 B.C.)
Type of plot: Social satire
Time of plot: Second Peloponnesian War
Locale: Athens and Nephelo-Coccygia, the city of the birds
First presented: 414 B.C.


On a political level, this comedy ridicules the disastrous Greek expedition to Sicily in 413 B.C. More generally, The Birds is a rollicking commentary on man's eternal dissatisfaction with his lot; his habit of ignoring the divinities which shape his ends; his crowded, evil-breeding cities; and his tendency to disturb the equilibrium of the universe, Pisthetcerus, with his irresistible rhetoric, surely is a forebear of the men who sell salvation or the world's goods with equal glibness and ease.


Principal Characters

Pisthetaerus (pls'the-tl'res), an old man of Athens who has left his native city in disapproval because of the corruption, especially the litigiousness, of his countrymen. High-spirited, comically fantastic, and sometimes even vulgar, he nevertheless has an underlying vein of hard-headed good sense which makes him despise hypocrites and frauds. His oratorical skill convinces the birds that they are the superiors of the gods, and he proposes the creation of Nephelo-Coccygia (ne'fa-lo-ko-si'ji-s), or "Cloudcuckooland," the strategic location of which will give the birds power over both gods and men. For his pains he is awarded wings and a position of respect in the land of the birds. He adopts a very casual attitude toward the gods who come to negotiate a peace, and through shrewd dealing wins not only the scepter of Zeus for the birds but the hand of Basileia (ba-sile'yg), or "Sovereignty," and celestial bounty for himself.
Euelpides (u-el'pi-dez), another old Athenian, Pis-thetasrus' companion and foil. Not as sharply individualized, he is, like Pisthetaerus, disgusted with Athenian life and ready to cooperate in his friend's schemes. He too has a broadly comic wit and a keen eye for a pretty courtesan.
Epops (e'pops), the hoopoe. Now King of the Birds, he was once Terus, a king of Thrace and the son of Ares, who, after his marriage to Procne, violated her sister Philomela and cut out her tongue so that she could not tell of the deed. All three were transformed by the gods: Tereus became a hoopoe (in the version of the myth followed by Aristophanes), Procne a nightingale, and Philomela a swallow. Epops is reunited with Procne in the land of the birds, where he has special status because he has human as well as bird knowledge. He is delighted with Pisthetcerus' suggestion regarding the foundation of Nephelo-Coccygia.
Trochilus (tro'ki-las), the wren, a servant to Epops.
Phoenicopterus (fe'm-kop'te-ras), the flamingo, who attends the council of birds which votes to establish Nephelo-Coccygia.
A Priest. After the establishment of Nephelo-Coccygia he sacrifices to all the bird gods and goddesses.
A Poet, who addresses some rather bad verses to the new city.
A Prophet, Meton (me'ton), a geometrician and astronomer, An Inspector of Tributary Towns, and A Dealer in Decrees, who also arrive for the inaugural ceremonies but are driven away by Pisthetajrus, who knows them for frauds.
Iris (l'ris), the messenger of Zeus who wanders into Nephelo-Coccygia on her way to command mankind to offer sacrifices to the gods. She is denied passage and treated impolitely because she has failed to get a safe conduct from the birds. She carries the news to Olympus that communication between gods and men has been cut off.
A Parricide, Cinesias (si-ne'si-as), a dithyrambic poet, and An Informer, who come to Nephelo-Coccygia seeking wings to aid them in attaining their various objectives. The first is sent to Thrace to fight; the second and third are beaten.
Prometheus (pro-me'thl-as), the Titan, who tells Pis-thetaerus that the gods are ready to come to terms with the birds for the smoke of sacrifices has been cut off and the Olympians are starving.
Poseidon (po-sl'dan), the god of the sea, Heracles (he're-klez), the demi-god, and Triballus (tri-ba'las), a barbarian god, who negotiate a truce with the birds by bargaining away the power of Zeus to Pisthetaerus.


The Story

Euelpides and Pisthetasrus, two disgruntled citizens, wanted to escape from the pettiness of life in Athens. They bought a jay and a crow, which Philocrates, the birdseller, told them could guide them to Epops—a bird not born of birds; from Epops they hoped to learn of a land where they could live a peaceful life.
The jay and the crow guided the pair into the mountains and led them to a shelter hidden among the rocks. They knocked and shouted for admittance. When Tro-chilus, Epops' servant, came to the door, Euelpides and Pisthetaerus were prostrated with fear; they insisted that they were birds, not men, a species the birds intensely disliked. Epops, a hoopoe with a triple crest, emerged from the shelter to inform the Athenians that he had once been a man named Tereus, whom the gods had transformed into a hoopoe. At that particular time, however, Epops did not present a very colorful aspect, since he was molting.
When the Athenians revealed the purpose of their visit, Epops suggested that they move on to the Red Sea, but they said they were not interested in living in a seaport. Epops suggested several other places, but on one ground or another the pair objected to all suggestions which Epops had to offer. The truth was that they wanted to stay among the birds and establish a city. Interested in this novel idea, Epops summoned the birds that they too might hear of the plan.
The birds swarmed to the shelter from all directions until every species of Old World birds was represented at the gathering. The leader of the birds, fearful of all men, was dismayed when he learned that Epops had talked with Euelpides and Pisthetaerus, and he incited all the birds to attack and to tear the Athenians to pieces. To defend themselves, Euelpides and Pisthetasrus took up stewpots and other kitchen utensils. But Epops rebuked the birds for their precipitous behavior. Finally, heeding this suggestion that perhaps they could profit from the plan of the two men, they settled down to listen. Epops assured the birds that Euelpides and Pisthetaerus had only the most honorable of intentions.
Pisthetasrus told the birds that they were older than man. In fact, the feathered tribes had once been sovereign over all creation, and even within the memory of man birds were known to have been supreme over the human race. For that reason, he continued, men used birds as symbols of power and authority. For example, the eagle was the symbol of Zeus, the owl Athena's symbol, and the hawk, Apollo's.
Seeing that the birds were vitally interested in his words, Pisthetaerus propounded his plan: The birds were to build a wall around their realm, the air, so that communication between the gods and men would be cut off. Both gods and men would then have to recognize the supremacy of the birds. If men proved recalcitrant, the sparrows would devour their grain and crows would peck out the eyes of their livestock. If men acceded, the birds would control insect plagues and would help men to store up earthly treasures.
The birds were delighted with his plan. Epops ushered the Athenians into his shelter, where the pair momentarily forgot their project when they saw Epops' wife, Procne, who had an uncanny resemblance to a desirable young maiden. Meanwhile the leader of the birds spoke of man's great debt to the birds. Urging mankind to look upon the birds as the true gods, he invited all men to join the birds and acquire wings.
Pisthetasrus, winged like a bird, organized the building of the wall and arranged all negotiations with gods and men. As he prepared to make propitiatory offerings to the new gods, he was beset by opportunists who had heard of the great project. An indigent poetaster offered to glorify the project in verse. A charlatan offered worthless prophecies. But when Meton, a surveyor, offered to divide the realm of the air into the principal parts of a typical Greek city, Pisfhetasrus thrashed him. An inspector and a dealer in decrees importuned him and were likewise thrashed and dismissed. Annoyed by these money-seeking hangers-on, Pisthetasrus retreated into Epops' shelter to sacrifice a goat. The leader of the birds again sang the praises of his kind and told how the birds were indispensable to the welfare of mankind.
The sacrifice was completed, and shortly thereafter the wall was finished, all the birds, using their various specialized organs, having cooperated in the construction. Then a messenger reported that a winged goddess, sent by Zeus, had got through to the bird kingdom in spite of the wall. Pisthetasrus issued a call to arms—the birds would war with the gods. When Iris, the goddess of the rainbow, made her appearance, Pisthetasrus was enraged at the ineffectualness of his wall. Oblivious of the importance assumed by the birds under Pisthetasrus' influence, Iris declared that she was on her way to men to ask them to make a great sacrifice to the Olympian gods. When Pisthetasrus inferred that the birds were now the only gods, Iris pitied him for his presumption and warned him not to arouse the ire of the Olympians.
A messenger who had been sent as an emissary from the birds to men returned and presented Pisthetasrus with a gift, a golden chaplet. Men, it seemed, were delighted with the idea of the bird city; thousands were eager to come there to take wings and to live a life of ease. Pleased and flattered, the birds welcomed the men as they arrived.
First came a man with thoughts of parricide, who felt that he would at last be free to murder his father. Pisthetasrus pointed out to the would-be parricide that the young bird might peck at his father, but that later it was his duty to administer to his father. He gave the youth wings and sent him off as a bird-soldier in order to make good use of his inclinations. Next a poet arrived and asked for wings so that he might gather inspiration for his verse from the upper air. Pisthetaerus gave him wings and directed him to organize a chorus of birds. An informer arrived and asked for wings the better to practice his vicious profession; Pisthetaerus whipped him and in despair removed the baskets of wings which had been placed at the gate.
Prometheus, the friend of mankind, made his appearance. Although he still feared the wrath of Zeus, he raised his mask and reported to Pisthetaerus, who recognized him, that men no longer worshipped Zeus since the bird city, Nephelo-Coccygia, had been founded. He added that Zeus, deeply concerned, was sending a peace mission to the city and was even prepared to offer to Pisthetaerus one of his maidservants, Basileia, for his wife. Prometheus then sneaked away to return to the abode of the gods.
Poseidon, Heracles, and Triballus, the barbarian god, came upon Pisthetaerus as he was cooking a meal. Pisthetaerus, visibly impressed by their presence, greeted them nonchalantly. They promised him plenty of warm weather and sufficient rain if he would drop his project.
Their argument might have been more effective had they not been so noticeably hungry. Pisthetaerus declared that he would invite them to dinner if they promised to bring the scepter of Zeus to the birds. Heracles, almost famished, promised, but Poseidon was angered by Pisthetaerus" audacity. Pisthetaerus argued that it was to the advantage of the gods that the birds be supreme on earth since the birds, who were below the clouds, could keep an eye on mankind, while the gods, who were above the clouds, could not. The birds could, in fact, mete out to men the justice of the gods. The envoys agreed to this argument, but they balked when Pisthetaerus insisted also upon having Basileia as his wife.
After a heated discussion Pisthetaerus convinced Heracles, a natural son of Zeus, that he would receive nothing on the death of Zeus, and that Poseidon, as brother of Zeus, would get Heracles' share of Zeus's property. Heracles and Triballus prevailed over Poseidon in the hot dispute that followed and Basileia was conceded after much argument. The envoys then sat down to dinner. Pisthetaerus, having received the scepter of Zeus, became not only the king of the birds but also the supreme deity.


Critical Evaluation

First shown at the City Dionysia festival in 414 B.C., The Birds is commonly regarded today as Aristophanes' finest work, although it only won second prize at the festival. Richly imaginative, full of scintillating wit and lovely lyrical songs, The Birds is unquestionably a comic masterpiece. In fact, it is unique in that it takes a fantastic and amusing idea and quite literally soars off into infinity with it. The entire play is a sustained and wonderful joke that carries one rollicking into heaven. And if that heaven is completely unconventional, what else could one expect from a genius such as Aristophanes?
Some critics have felt that this play satirizes the airy hopes of conquest that gripped Athens while the comedy was being written. In 415 B.C. a huge military expedition had sailed to subdue Sicily and establish an empire in the west. Two years later the expedition proved a fiasco, but in the meantime Athens was rife with grand rumors and expectations. The Birds does present a grand, crazy scheme of bringing both men and gods to heel, and it seems to convey some of the ebullience of the time. It uses fantasy as a means of delivering several well-aimed kicks at contemporary figures, at Athens, and at men and gods in general. A modern reader or audience can appreciate this comedy simply for its escapism and its beautiful lyrics, with no knowledge of its topical allusions. The important facts are contained within the play itself.
Here Aristophanes adapts an idea that appears in The Clouds, where Socrates explores the starry heavens in a basket, and makes it the basis of this comedy. Debtridden, plagued by lawsuits in Athens, and seeking a restful retirement community, the hero, Pisthetaerus. ha> a brainstorm. Why not found a kingdom in the sky with the help of the birds? By organizing the birds effectively he could subdue the gods through starving them, since the birds could intercept the sacred offerings. And he could bring men to their knees by using the birds to control harvests and livestock. Elderly, quick-witted, confident, Pisthetaerus is likable as well, a kind of super-salesman. He convinces the birds and, by this through-the-looking-glass logic, he gains absolute mastery of the cosmos, winning a goddess for a bride in addition.
Yet his true glory rests in the kingdom to which he gives birth—Nephelo-Coccygia, or Cloudcuckooland. It is the equivalent of the Big Rock Candy Mountain, a place where all one's dreams come true. This Utopia is in harmony with nature, as represented by the birds, but it attracts idlers, parasites, nuisances. Bad poets, a false prophet, a father-beater, a magistrate, a process-server, an informer, a surveyor, a sycophant—all flock to Cloudcuckooland, which gives Pisthetaerus the chance to reform them or repel them. Pisthetaerus' own companion, Euelpides, leaves of his own accord, sick of being ordered around. Even the gods are not really welcome. Thus the hero exercises his power mainly to exclude undesirables. When he finishes, his only comrades are the birds.
This rejection of human pests allows Aristophanes' satirical gift free play. These parasites are the usual types that the dramatist lampooned. Aristophanes seems to say
that without these types a community could be a paradise. But he goes further than this. The birds, and particularly the chorus, sing some very beautiful songs that astonish one with their lyrical virtuosity. These songs are vastly superior to anything the poets in the play invent. Again, almost all of the birds have beautiful plumage, but the humans by contrast are shabbily dressed. And whereas the birds are friendly once Pisthetaerus wins them over, the men are typically rapacious or looking for a handout. In short, the birds are altogether more desirable as companions than men. Even the gods come off poorly by comparison. They are merely immortal versions of the human species, full of greed and anxious to take advantage of their position.
The Birds is not completely misanthropic, for it pays ample tribute to man's eternal desire to achieve birdlike
freedom and beauty, and to soar through the skies unimpeded by reality. It suggests that a man can best gain a Utopia by his own wits, and in friendly communion with nature. Pisthetasrus founds his fabulous empire in a realm of sheer imagination, where any man can erect castles in the air, fashioned of daydreams and free of life's demands. This is the place where a person can find peace with friends of his own choosing, the kingdom where he can win out over the gods and his human foes alike. Imagination is the single area where a man can enthrone himself as ruler of the universe. And in a sense, The Birds is a dramatic hymn to the power of fantasy. All the shackles of reality and of human limitation are in abeyance, while the play sails straight up into the wild blue yonder. It is escapist, but a daring, witty, songful, exhilarating kind of escape.





Туре of work: Drama
Author: Aristophanes (c. 448-335 B.C.)
Type of plot: Utopian comedy
Time of plot: Fifth century B.C.
Locale: Athens
First presented: 411 B.C.


Lysistrata is based on a highly comic assumption—probably popular even in the time of Aristophanes—that is as impossible as it is comic: the idea that women might coerce their men into laying down their weapons produced a bawdy and delightful work of art.



Principal Characters

Lysistrata (H-sis'tre-ts), an idealistic Athenian woman who is not content to stand submissively by and witness the obvious wastes war brings to the land. In her effort to bring a permanent peace to Greece, she demonstrates qualities that mark her as one of the archetypal revolutionaries because of her relentless fervor, cunning, and intractability. In addition to the traits of a revolutionary, Lysistrata possesses a healthy supply of Aristophanes' inimitable wit and humor, qualities lacking in the ordinary stage conception of a revolutionist. She reasons and persuades the women of Greece to cast their lots with her so that by simply refusing the men sexual satisfaction she can bring them to her terms: abolition of war and the relinquishment of the treasury to women. Amid the rollicking ribaldry of man laughing at his own precious taboo—sex—Lysistrata's plan to seize and occupy the Acropolis of Athens with her army of celibate women weathers a storm of protest, succeeds, and wrecks the framework of a society dominated by men.
Cleonice (kle-o-nl'se), a lusty Athenian friend of Lysistrata. At first reluctant to go along with so devastating and sacrificing a plan, she is eventually browbeaten by Lysistrata into accepting the challenge to save Greece from the total ruin of war, and she partakes of the solemn oath, binding herself to refrain from sharing the marriage bed with her husband. Constantly on hand, Cleonice adds much zest by ribald commentary and turns out to be one of Lysistrata's main supporters.
Myrrhine (mi-гё'пё), one of Lysistrata's captains, representing Anagyra. Just as the idealism of Lysistrata is wearing thin and the torment of self-denial is weakening the ranks of the women, Myrrhine's husband appears and, acting under orders from Lysistrata, she subjects him to unendurable, teasing torture. This episode is not only one of the play's funniest but also the point at which Lysistrata's strategy turns toward success.
Lampito (lam'pi-to), a woman of Sparta who agrees to Lysistrata's plan. Her loyalty and resourcefulness bring success in that land. Lampito, typical of the Athenian's concept of Spartan women, is athletic, bold, well proportioned. A key figure throughout the play, she steps forward at the very inception of Lysistrata's plan to be the major seconding voice. Her example assures the revolt of the women.
Cinesias (si-ne'sras), the husband of Myrrhine. Exhibiting all symptoms of lust, he begs his wife to return to him.
A Child, the infant son of Myrrhine and Cinesias, brought by his father in an attempt to bribe his mother into deserting the women's cause.
A Magistrate, a pompous representative of law and order who seeks to treat the revolutionaries as silly housewives to be spanked and sent to their kitchens. Much to his chagrin, he discovers them in no mood to be so treated. After seeing his force of Scythian policemen rebuffed, and completely defeated by Lysistrata's determined female logic, he becomes the echo and image of Aristophanes' laughter at the ineffectuality of the law when pitted against organized femininity.
A Chorus of Old Men who lead the first unsuccessful attempt to dislodge the women from the Acropolis. They toil uphill with smoke faggots and engage in much humorous comment upon the character of women in general; their efforts are confined mostly to threats and ineffectual maneuvering as the women prove too much for them.
A Chorus of Women, antagonists of the old men. The women establish a swift rapport with them, not only turning their smoke faggots into uselessness by soaking them but also besting them in a verbal exchange of ridicule and insult.
A Spartan Herald, also suffering the pangs of thwarted love.
Spartan Envoys, with whom the Athenian women conclude a treaty of peace.



The Story

The Second Peloponnesian War was in progress when Lysistrata, an Athenian woman, summoned women from Athens, Sparta, and all other Greek cities involved in the war. She wished to have them consider her carefully thought out plan for ending hostilities between Athens and Sparta. The women arrived one by one, curious about the purpose of the meeting. Since their husbands were all away at war, they looked with enthusiasm for any scheme which would bring their men back to them.
Lysistrata declared that the war would end immediately if all the Greek women refrained, from that time on, until the fighting stopped, from lying with their husbands. This suggestion took the women by complete surprise, and they objected strenuously. But Lampito, a Spartan woman, liked the idea. Although the others finally agreed to try the plan, they did so without enthusiasm.
Over a bowl of Thracian wine, Lysistrata led her companions in an oath binding them to charm their husbands and their lovers, but not to lie with them unless forced. Some of the women returned to their native lands to begin their continent lives. Lysistrata went to the Acropolis, citadel of Athens.
While the younger women had been meeting with Lysistrata, the older women had marched upon the Acropolis and seized it. The old men of the city laid wood around the base of the Acropolis and set fire to it with the intention of smoking out the women, who, in turn, threatened the old men with pots of water. During an exchange of scurrilous vituperation the women threw water on their opponents.
When a magistrate and his men attempted to break open a gate of the citadel, Lysistrata, now in command, emerged and suggested that the magistrate use common sense. When the indignant magistrate ordered his Scythians to seize Lysistrata and bind her hands, the Scythians advanced reluctantly and were soundly trounced by the fierce defenders.
Asked why they had seized the Acropolis, the women replied that they had done so in order to possess the treasury. Since they now controlled the money, and since it took money to wage war, they believed that the war must soon end.
The male pride of the old men was deeply wounded when Lysistrata declared that the women had assumed all civil authority and would henceforth provide for the safety and welfare of Athens. The magistrate could not believe his ears when he heard Lysistrata say that the women, tired of being homebodies, were impatient with the incompetence of their husbands in matters which concerned the commonweal. For rebuking the women, the magistrate received potfuls of water poured on his head. The ineffectual old men declared that they would never submit to the tyranny of women. The women answered that the old men were worthless, that all they could do was to legislate the city into trouble.
Despite their brave talk and their bold plan, however, the women proved to be weak in the flesh, and disaffection thinned their ranks. Some, caught as they deserted, offered various excuses in the hope of getting away from the strictures imposed by Lysistrata's oath. One woman simulated pregnancy by placing the sacred helmet of Athena under her robe. Some of the women claimed to be frightened by the holy snakes and by the owls of the Acropolis. As a last desperate measure, Lysistrata resorted to a prophecy, which was favorable to their project, and the women returned reluctantly to their posts.
When Cinesias, the husband of Myrrhine, one of Lysistrata's companions, returned from the war and sought his wife, Lysistrata directed Myrrhine to be true to her oath. Begging Myrrhine to come home, Cinesias used various appeals, without success. Although Myrrhine consented to his request for a moment of dalliance with her, she put him off with trifling excuses. At last, in spite of his pleas, she retired into the citadel.
A messenger arrived from Sparta, where Lampito and her cohorts had been successful, and declared that the men of Sparta were prepared to sue for peace. As the magistrate arranged for a peace conference, the women looked once more upon the old men of Athens with a kindness that cooled the ire of the indignant old fellows.
On their arrival in Athens, the Spartan envoys were obviously in need of the favors of their wives. Indeed, so desperate were they that they were ready to agree to any terms. Lysistrata rebuked the Spartans and the Athenians for warring upon each other; they had. she declared. a common enemy in the barbarians, and they shared талу traditions. While she spoke, a nude maiden, representing the goddess of peace, was brought before the frustrated men. Lysistrata reminded the men of the two countries that they had previously been friends and allies and again insisted that war between the two was illogical. The men. their eyes devouring the nude maiden, agreed absently with everything Lysistrata said, but when she asked for an agreement, contention immediately arose because one side asked for conditions unsatisfactory to the other.
The women, seeing that any appeal to reason was futile, feasted the envoys and filled them with intoxicating liquors. Sated and eager for further physical satisfaction, the men signed a peace agreement and dispersed hastily, with their wives, to their homes.



Critical Evaluation

Lysistrata is the most frequently produced Greek drama in the modern theater. Reasons for its current vogue are not hard to find, for the play deals openly with sex, feminism, and pacifism—all major preoccupations of the late twentieth century. A popular slogan of our time, Make Love, Not War, sums up perfectly Aristophanes' attitude in this comedy. Our era has largely taken up Lysistrata for its ideology, rather than for its intrinsic value as a play. Yet it does provide some amusing, bawdy, and skeptical entertainment.
In structure the drama is smooth and straightforward. First the problem is presented: the women are sick of having their husbands absent because of the Peloponne-sian War. The solution is that they avoid sex with their husbands, but at the same time tease them, until the men decide to settle the war from sheer frustration. Out of that solution everything else follows—the women capture the treasury; the old men try to force the women into submission; when force fails the two sides hold an inconclusive debate in which the magistrate, a chief warmonger, is dressed like a woman and then as a corpse by hostile females; then the women begin to defect from their oath of chastity; after a desperate effort Lysistrata regains her influence over the women; and the men agree to seek peace. When negotiation fails between the Athenians and the Spartans, the diplomats are tricked into a peace settlement through feasting and drinking. Given the basic idea, almost all of this action is predictable. If it amuses, it is never surprising enough to produce laughter. Perhaps the best and most comic idea in the play is that diplomats should never negotiate when they are sober. Cleverness and greed are inimical to peace, while drink and festivity promote goodwill.
Sex is a traditional subject for comedy and particularly the battle of the sexes. In fact, Greek comedy evolved in part from phallic farce, and there are phallic jokes in Lysistrata, although this element is not prominent. The implicit humor of the play's central idea rests in the belief of Aristophanes and his audience that the Athenian women were inveterate tipplers and lechers. Of course, the audience consisted largely of men, to whom the idea of women taking over the affairs of state would have seemed irresistibly comic. The slapstick and banter between the chorus of old men and the chorus of women simply restate the age-old contest between male and female. The male chorus puts the matter succinctly when it says, in effect, "We can't live with 'em, and we can't live without 'em."
Yet Lysistrata carries a more important theme than sexuality, which is merely shown as a weapon to bring about peace. At the time this play was first produced in 411 B.C., Athens had been through twenty hard years of war with Sparta, and the end of this conflict was still seven years in the future. The seriousness of the war is brought out very forcefully when Lysistrata tells the magistrate that sons have perished in battle, and that many young women will never find mates because of this. The fact that the chorus consists of old men underscores the point that many Athenian youths had died in the Pelo-ponnesian War. Here the drama becomes absolutely serious and reveals Aristophanes' true feelings about the war with no trace of buffoonery. The dramatist clearly regards Lysistrata as something of a heroine and not a butt for humor. When men have failed so badly to govern the affairs of the city, he says it's time for the women to take over. But all the while Aristophanes and his audience are fully aware of the weaknesses of women. So in essence, the playwright is scolding the Athenian men by telling them that if they cannot put an end to the war in twenty years, they might as well give up.
Today the play is presented on stage or in print as straight drama, entirely spoken. Yet Lysistrata was originally presented as a musical comedy with choreography, colorful costumes, and masks. The actors were all male, as in the theater of Shakespeare's time. This type of presentation tended to soften the strength of Aristophanes' biting wit, and it gave the play an air of spectacle and of festivity.




Illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley


Lysistrata shielding her Coynte


Lysistrata Defending the Acropolis


Lysistrata Haranguing the Athenian Women


The Lacedaemonian Ambassadors


Cinesian Entreating Myrrhina to Coition


Examination o the Herlad


The Toilet of Lampito




Translator Unknown


SCENE: At the base of the Orchestra are two buildings, the house of Lysistrata and the entrance to the Acropolis; a winding and narrow path leads up to the latter. Between the two buildings is the opening of the Cave of Pan. Lysistrata is pacing up and down in front of her house.


Lysistrata: Ah! if only they had been invited to a Bacchic revelling, or a feast of Pan or Aphrodite or Genetyllis, why! the streets would have been impassable for the thronging tambourines! Now there's never a woman here-ah! except my neighbour Cleonice, whom I see approaching yonder.... Good day, Cleonice.

Cleonice: Good day, Lysistrata; but pray, why this dark, forbidding face, my dear? Believe me, you don't look a bit pretty with those black lowering brows.

Lysistrata: Oh, Cleonice, my heart is on fire; I blush for our sex. Men will have it we are tricky and sly....

Cleonice: And they are quite right, upon my word!

Lysistrata: Yet, look you, when the women are summoned to meet for a matter of the greatest importance, they lie in bed instead of coming.

Cleonice: Oh! they will come, my dear; but it's not easy, you know, for women to leave the house. One is busy pottering about her husband; another is getting the servant up; a third is putting her child asleep or washing the brat or feeding it.

Lysistrata: But I tell you, the business that calls them here is far and away more urgent.

Cleonice: And why do you summon us, dear Lysistrata? What is it all about?

Lysistrata: About a big thing.

Cleonice (taking this in a different sense; with great interest): And is it thick too?

Lysistrata: Yes, very thick.

Cleonice: And we are not all on the spot! Imagine!

Lysistrata (wearily): Oh! if it were what you suppose, there would be never an absentee. No, no, it concerns a thing I have turned about and about this way and that so many sleepless nights.

Cleonice (still unable to be serious): It must be something mighty fine and subtle for you to have turned it about so!

Lysistrata: So fine, it means just this, Greece saved by the women!

Cleonice: By the women! Why, its salvation hangs on a poor thread then!

Lysistrata: Our country's fortunes depend on us-it is with us to undo utterly the Peloponnesians.

Cleonice: That would be a noble deed truly!

Lysistrata: To exterminate the Boeotians to a man!

Cleonice: But surely you would spare the eels.

Lysistrata: For Athens' sake I will never threaten so fell a doom; trust me for that. However, if the Boeotian and Peloponnesian women join us, Greece is saved.

Cleonice: But how should women perform so wise and glorious an achievement, we women who dwell in the retirement of the household, clad in diaphanous garments of yellow silk and long flowing gowns, decked out with flowers and shod with dainty little slippers?

Lysistrata: Ah, but those are the very sheet-anchors of our salvation-those yellow tunics, those scents and slippers, those cosmetics and transparent robes.

Cleonice: How so, pray?

Lysistrata: There is not a man will wield a lance against another...

Cleonice: Quick, I will get me a yellow tunic from the dyer's.

Lysistrata: ...or want a shield.

Cleonice: I'll run and put on a flowing gown.

Lysistrata: ...or draw a sword.

Cleonice: I'll haste and buy a pair of slippers this instant.

Lysistrata: Now tell me, would not the women have done best to come?

Cleonice: Why, they should have flown here!

Lysistrata: Ah! my dear, you'll see that like true Athenians, they will do everything too late.... Why, there's not a woman come from the shore, not one from Salamis.

Cleonice: But I know for certain they embarked at daybreak.

Lysistrata: And the dames from Acharnae! why, I thought they would have been the very first to arrive.

Cleonice: Theagenes' wife at any rate is sure to come; she has actually been to consult Hecate.... But look! here are some arrivals-and there are more behind. Ah! ha! now what countrywomen may they be?

Lysistrata: They are from Anagyra.

Cleonice: Yes! upon m word, 'tis a levy en masse of all the female population of Anagyra! (Myrrhine enters, followed by other women.)

Myrrhine: Are we late, Lysistrata? Tell us, pray; what, not a word?

Lysistrata: I cannot say much for you, Myrrhine! you have not bestirred yourself overmuch for an affair of such urgency.

Myrrhine: I could not find my girdle in the dark. However, if the matter is so pressing, here we are; so speak.

Cleonice: No, let's wait a moment more, till the women of Boeotia arrive and those from the Peloponnese.

Lysistrata: Yes, that is best.... Ah! here comes Lampito. (Lampito, a husky Spartan damsel, enters with three others, two from Boeotia and one from Corinth.) Good day, Lampito, dear friend from Lacedaemon. How well and handsome you look! what a rosy complexion! and how strong you seem; why, you could strangle a bull surely!

Lampito: Yes, indeed, I really think I could. It's because I do gymnastics and practise the bottom-kicking dance.

Cleonice (opening Lampito's robe and baring her bosom): And what superb breasts!

Lampito: La! you are feeling me as if I were a beast for sacrifice.

Lysistrata: And this young woman, where is she from?

Lampito: She is a noble lady from Boeotia.

Lysistrata: Ah! my pretty Boeotian friend, you are as blooming as a garden.

Cleonice (making another inspection): Yes, on my word! and her "garden" is so thoroughly weeded too!

Lysistrata (pointing to the Corinthian): And who is this?

Lampito: 'Tis an honest woman, by my faith! she comes from Corinth.

Cleonice: Oh! honest, no doubt then-as honesty goes at Corinth.

Lampito: But who has called together this council of women, pray?

Lysistrata: I have.

Lampito: Well then, tell us what you want of us.

Cleonice: Yes, please tell us! What is this very important business you wish to inform us about?

Lysistrata: I will tell you. But first answer me one question.

Cleonice: Anything you wish.

Lysistrata: Don't you feel sad and sorry because the fathers of your children are far away from you with the army? For I'll wager there is not one of you whose husband is not abroad at this moment.

Cleonice: Mine has been the last five months in Thrace-looking after Eucrates.

Myrrhine: It's seven long months since mine left for Pylos.

Lampito: As for mine, if he ever does return from service, he's no sooner home than he takes down his shield again and flies back to the wars.

Lysistrata: And not so much as the shadow of a lover! Since the day the Milesians betrayed us, I have never once seen an eight-inch gadget even, to be a leathern consolation to us poor widows.... Now tell me, if I have discovered a means of ending the war, will you all second me?

Cleonice: Yes verily, by all the goddesses, I swear I will, though I have to put my gown in pawn, and drink the money the same day.

Myrrhine: And so will I, though I must be split in two like a flat-fish, and have half myself removed.

Lampito: And I too; why to secure peace, I would climb to the top of Mount Taygetus.

Lysistrata: Then I will out with it at last, my mighty secret! Oh! sister women, if we would compel our husbands to make peace, we must refrain...

Cleonice: Refrain from what? tell us, tell us!

Lysistrata: But will you do it?

Myrrhine: We will, we will, though we should die of it.

Lysistrata: We must refrain from the male altogether.... Nay, why do you turn your backs on me? Where are you going? So, you bite your lips, and shake your heads, eh? Why these pale, sad looks? why these tears? Come, will you do it-yes or no? Do you hesitate?

Cleonice: I will not do it, let the war go on.

Myrrhine: Nor will I; let the war go on.

Lysistrata (to Myrrhine): And you say this, my pretty flat-fish, who declared just now they might split you in two?

Cleonice: Anything, anything but that! Bid me go through the fire, if you will,-but to rob us of the sweetest thing in all the world, Lysistrata darling!

Lysistrata (to Myrrhine): And you?

Myrrhine: Yes, I agree with the others; I too would sooner go through the fire.

Lysistrata: Oh, wanton, vicious sex! the poets have done well to make tragedies upon us; we are good for nothing then but love and lewdness! But you, my dear, you from hardy Sparta, if you join me, all may yet be well; help me, second me, I beg you.

Lampito: 'Tis a hard thing, by the two goddesses it is! for a woman to sleep alone without ever a strong male in her bed. But there, peace must come first.

Lysistrata: Oh, my darling, my dearest, best friend, you are the only one deserving the name of woman!

Cleonice: But if-which the gods forbid-we do refrain altogether from what you say, should we get peace any sooner?

Lysistrata: Of course we should, by the goddesses twain! We need only sit indoors with painted cheeks, and meet our mates lightly clad in transparent gowns of Amorgos silk, and perfectly depilated; they will get their tools up and be wild to lie with us. That will be the time to refuse, and they will hasten to make peace, I am convinced of that!

Lampito: Yes, just as Menelaus, when he saw Helen's naked bosom, threw away his sword, they say.

Cleonice: But, oh dear, suppose our husbands go away and leave us.

Lysistrata: Then, as Pherecrates says, we must "flay a skinned dog," that's all.

Cleonice: Fiddlesticks! these proverbs are all idle talk.... But if our husbands drag us by main force into the bedchamber?

Lysistrata: Hold on to the door posts.

Cleonice: But if they beat us?

Lysistrata: Then yield to their wishes, but with a bad grace; there is no pleasure in it for them, when they do it by force. Besides, there are a thousand ways of tormenting them. Never fear, they'll soon tire of the game; there's no satisfaction for a man, unless the woman shares it.

Cleonice: Very well, if you must have it so, we agree.

Lampito: For ourselves, no doubt we shall persuade our husbands to conclude a fair and honest peace; but there is the Athenian populace, how are we to cure these folk of their warlike frenzy?

Lysistrata: Have no fear; we undertake to make our own people listen to reason.

Lampito: That's impossible, so long as they have their trusty ships and the vast treasures stored in the temple of Athene.

Lysistrata: Ah! but we have seen to that; this very day the Acropolis will be in our hands. That is the task assigned to the older women; while we are here in council, they are going, under pretence of offering sacrifice, to seize the citadel.

Lampito: Well said indeed! everything is going for the best.

Lysistrata: Come, quick, Lampito, and let us bind ourselves by an inviolable oath.

Lampito: Recite the terms; we will swear to them.

Lysistrata: With pleasure. Where is our Scythian policewoman? Now, what are you staring at, pray? Lay this shield on the earth before us, its hollow upwards, and someone bring me the victim's inwards.

Cleonice: Lysistrata, say, what oath are we to swear?

Lysistrata: What oath? Why, in Aeschylus, they sacrifice a sheep, and swear over a buckler; we will do the same.

Cleonice: No, Lysistrata, one cannot swear peace over a buckler, surely.

Lysistrata: What other oath do you prefer?

Cleonice: Let's take a white horse, and sacrifice it, and swear on its entrails.

Lysistrata: But where shall we get a white horse?

Cleonice: Well, what oath shall we take then?

Lysistrata: Listen to me. Let's set a great black bowl on the ground; let's sacrifice a skin of Thasian wine into it, and take oath not to add one single drop of water.

Lampito: Ah! that's an oath pleases me more than I can say.

Lysistrata: Let them bring me a bowl and a skin of wine.

Cleonice: Ah! my dears, what a noble big bowl! what fun it will be to empty it

Lysistrata: Set the bowl down on the ground, and lay your hands on the victim. ....Almighty goddess, Persuasion, and thou, bowl, boon comrade of joy and merriment, receive this our sacrifice, and be propitious to us poor women!

Cleonice (as Lysistrata pours the wine into the bowl): Oh! the fine red blood! how well it flows!

Lampito: And what a delicious bouquet, by Castor!

Cleonice: Now, my dears, let me swear first, if you please.

Lysistrata: No, by Aphrodite, unless it's decided by lot. But come, then, Lampito, and all of you, put your hands to the bowl; and do you, Cleonice, repeat for all the rest the solemn terms I am going to recite. Then you must all swear, and pledge yourselves by the same promises,-I will have naught to do whether with lover or husband...

Cleonice (faintly): I will have naught to do whether with lover or husband...

Lysistrata: Albeit he come to me with an erection...

Cleonice (her voice quavering): Albeit he come to me with an erection... (in despair) Oh! Lysistrata, I cannot bear it!

Lysistrata (ignoring this outburst): I will live at home unbulled...

Cleonice: I will live at home unbulled...

Lysistrata: Beautifully dressed and wearing a saffron-coloured gown

Cleonice: Beautifully dressed and wearing a saffron-coloured gown...

Lysistrata: To the end I may inspire my husband with the most ardent longings.

Cleonice: To the end I may inspire my husband with the most ardent longings.

Lysistrata: Never will I give myself voluntarily...

Cleonice: Never will I give myself voluntarily...

Lysistrata: And if he has me by force...

Cleonice: And if he has me by force...

Lysistrata: I will be cold as ice, and never stir a limb...

Cleonice: I will be cold as ice, and never stir a limb...

Lysistrata: I will neither extend my Persian slippers toward the ceiling...

Cleonice: I will neither extend my Persian slippers toward the ceiling...

Lysistrata: Nor will I crouch like the carven lions on a knife-handle.

Cleonice: Nor will I crouch like the carven lions on a knife-handle.

Lysistrata: And if I keep my oath, may I be suffered to drink of this wine.

Cleonice (more courageously): And if I keep my oath, may I be suffered to drink of this wine.

Lysistrata: But if I break it, let my bowl be filled with water.

Cleonice: But if I break it, let my bowl be filled with water.

Lysistrata: Will you all take this oath?

All: We do.

Lysistrata: Then I'll now consume this remnant. (She drinks.)

Cleonice (reaching for the cup): Enough, enough, my dear; now let us all drink in turn to cement our friendship. (They pass the cup around and all drink. A great commotion is heard off stage.)

Lampito: Listen! what do those cries mean?

Lysistrata: It's what I was telling you; the women have just occupied the Acropolis. So now, Lampito, you return to Sparta to organize the plot, while your comrades here remain as hostages. For ourselves, let us go and join the rest in the citadel, and let us push the bolts well home.

Cleonice: But don't you think the men will march up against us?

Lysistrata: I laugh at them. Neither threats nor flames shall force our doors; they shall open only on the conditions I have named.

Cleonice: Yes, yes, by Aphrodite; otherwise we should be called cowardly and wretched women. (She follows Lysistrata out.)

The scene shifts to the entrance of the Acropolis. The Chorus of Old Men slowly enters, carrying sticks and pots of fire.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Go easy, Draces, go easy; why, your shoulder is all chafed by these damned heavy olive stocks. But forward still, forward, man, as needs must.

First Semi-Chorus of Old Men (singing): What unlooked-for things do happen, to be sure, in a long life! Ah! Strymodorus, who would ever have thought it? Here we have the women, who used, for our misfortune, to eat our bread and live in our houses, daring nowadays to lay hands on the holy image of the goddess, to seize the Acropolis and draw bars and bolts to keep any from entering!

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Come, Philurgus, man, let's hurry there; let's lay our sticks all about the citadel, and on the blazing pile burn with our hands these vile conspiratresses, one and all-and Lycon's wife first and foremost!

Second Semi-Chorus of Old Men (singing): Nay, by Demeter, never will I let them laugh at me, whiles I have a breath left in my body. Cleomenes himself, the first who ever seized our citadel, had to quit it to his sore dishonour; spite his Lacedaemonian pride, he had to deliver me up his arms and slink off with a single garment to his back. My word! but he was filthy and ragged! and what an unkempt beard, to be sure! He had not had a bath for six long years!

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Oh! but that was a mighty siege! Our men were ranged seventeen deep before the gate, and never left their posts, even to sleep. These women, these enemies of Euripides and all the gods, shall I do nothing to hinder their inordinate insolence? else let them tear down my trophies of Marathon.

First Semi-Chorus of Old Men (singing): But look, to finish this toilsome climb only this last steep bit is left to mount. Truly, it's no easy job without beasts of burden, and how these logs do bruise my shoulder! Still let us carry on, and blow up our fire and see it does not go out just as we reach our destination. Phew! phew! (Blowing the fire) Oh! dear! what a dreadful smoke!

Second Semi-Chorus of Old Men (singing): It bites my eyes like a mad dog. It is Lemnian fire for sure, or it would never devour my eyelids like this. Come on, Laches, let's hurry, let's bring succour to the goddess; it's now or never! Phew! phew! (Blowing the fire) Oh dear! what a confounded smoke!

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: There now, there's our fire all bright and burning, thank the gods! Now, why not first put down our loads here, then take a vine-branch, light it at the brazier and hurl it at the gate by way of battering-ram? If they don't answer our summons by pulling back the bolts, then we set fire to the woodwork, and the smoke will choke them. Ye gods! what a smoke! Pfaugh! Is there never a Samian general will help me unload my burden?-Ah! it shall not gall my shoulder any more. (Setting down the wood) Come, brazier, do your duty, make the embers flare, that I may kindle a brand; I want to be the first to hurl one. Aid me, heavenly Victory; let us punish for their insolent audacity the women who have seized our citadel, and may we raise a trophy of triumph for success! (They begin to build a fire. The CHORUS OF WOMEN now enters, carrying pots of water.)

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Oh! my dears, methinks I see fire and smoke; can it be a conflagration? Let us hurry all we can.

First Semi-Chorus of Women (singing): Fly, fly, Nicodice, ere Calyce and Critylle perish in the fire, or are stifled in the smoke raised by these accursed old men and their pitiless laws. But, great gods, can it be I come too late? Rising at dawn, I had the utmost trouble to fill this vessel at the fountain. Oh! what a crowd there was, and what a din! What a rattling of water-pots! Servants and slave-girls pushed and thronged me! However, here I have it full at last; and I am running to carry the water to my fellow-townswomen, whom our foes are plotting to burn alive.

Second Semi-Chorus of Women (singing): News has been brought us that a company of old, doddering grey-beards, loaded with enormous sticks, as if they wanted to heat a furnace, have taken the field, vomiting dreadful threats, crying that they must reduce to ashes these horrible women. Suffer them not, oh! goddess, but, of thy grace, may I see Athens and Greece cured of their warlike folly. 'Tis to this end, oh! thou guardian deity of our city, goddess of the golden crest, that they have seized thy sanctuary. Be their friend and ally, Athene, and if any man hurl against them lighted firebrands, aid us to carry water to extinguish them.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: What is this I see, ye wretched old men? Honest and pious folk ye cannot be who act so vilely.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Ah, ha! here's something new! a swarm of women stand posted outside to defend the gates!

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Fart at us, would you? we seem a mighty host, yet you do not see the ten-thousandth part of our sex.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Ho, Phaedrias! shall we stop their cackle? Suppose one of us were to break a stick across their backs, eh?

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Let us set down our water-pots on the ground, to be out of the way, if they should dare to offer us violence.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Let someone knock out two or three teeth for them, as they did to Bupalus; they won't talk so loud then.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Come on then; I wait you with unflinching foot, and no other bitch will ever grab your balls.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Silence! or my stick will cut short your days.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Now, just you dare to touch Stratyllis with the tip of your finger!

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: And if I batter you to pieces with my fists, what will you do?

Leader of the Chorus of Women: I will tear out your lungs and entrails with my teeth.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Oh! what a clever poet is Euripides! how well he says that woman is the most shameless of animals.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Let's pick up our water-jars again, Rhodippe.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: You damned women, what do you mean to do here with your water?

Leader of the Chorus of Women: And you, old death-in-life, with your fire? Is it to cremate yourself?

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: I am going to build you a pyre to roast your female friends upon.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: And I,-I am going to put out your fire.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: You put out my fire-you?

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Yes, you shall soon see.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: I don't know what prevents me from roasting you with this torch.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: I am getting you a bath ready to clean off the filth.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: A bath for me, you dirty slut?

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Yes, indeed, a nuptial bath-tee heel

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men (turning to his followers): Do you hear that? What insolence!

Leader of the Chorus of Women: I am a free woman, I tell you.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: I will make you hold your tongue, never fear!

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Ah ha! you shall never sit any more amongst the Heliasts.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men (to his torch): Burn off her hair for her!

Leader of the Chorus of Women (to her pot): Achelous, do your duty! (The women pitch the water in their water-pots over the old men.)

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Oh, dear! oh, dear! oh, dear!

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Was it hot?

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Hot, great gods! Enough, enough!

Leader of the Chorus of Women: I'm watering you, to make you bloom afresh.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Alas! I am too dry! Ah, me how! how I am trembling with cold! (A Magistrate enters, with a few Scythian policemen.)

Magistrate: These women, have they made din enough, I wonder, with their tambourines? bewept Adonis enough upon their terraces? I was listening to the speeches last assembly day, and Demostratus, whom heaven confound! was saying we must all go over to Sicily-and lo! his wife was dancing round repeating: "Alas! alas! Adonis, woe is me for Adonis!" Demostratus was saying we must levy hoplites at Zacynthus-and there was his wife, more than half drunk, screaming on the house-roof: "Weep, weep for Adonis!"-while that infamous Mad Ox was bellowing away on his side.-Do you not blush, you women, for your wild and uproarious doings?

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: But you don't know all their effrontery yet! They abused and insulted us; then soused us with the water in their water-pots, and have set us wringing out our clothes, for all the world as if we had bepissed ourselves.

Magistrate: And well done too, by Posidon! We men must share the blame of their ill conduct; it is we who teach them to love riot and dissoluteness and sow the seeds of wickedness in their hearts. You see a husband go into a shop: "Look you, jeweller," says he, "you remember the necklace you made for my wife. Well, the other evening, when she was dancing, the catch came open. Now, I am bound to start for Salamis; will you make it convenient to go up to-night to make her fastening secure?" Another will go to the cobbler, a great, strong fellow, with a great, long tool, and tell him: "The strap of one of my wife's sandals presses her little toe, which is extremely sensitive; come in about midday to supple the thing and stretch it." Now see the results. Take my own case-as a Magistrate I have enlisted rowers; I want money to pay them, and the women slam the door in my face. But why do we stand here with arms crossed? Bring me a crowbar; I'll chastise their insolence!-Ho! there, my fine fellow! (to one of the Scythians) what are, you gaping at the crows for? looking for a tavern, I suppose, eh? Come on, bring crowbars here, and force open the gates. I will put a hand to the work myself.

Lysistrata (opening the gate and walking out): No need to force the gates; I am coming out-here I am. And why bolts and bars? What we want here is not bolts and bars and locks, but common sense.

Magistrate (jumping nervously, then striving manfully to regain his dignity): Really, my fine lady! Where is my officer? I want him to tie that woman's hands behind her back.

Lysistrata: By Artemis, the virgin goddess! if he touches me with the tip of his finger, officer of the public peace though he be, let him look out for himself! (The first Scythian relieves himself in terror.)

Magistrate (to another officer): How now, are you afraid? Seize her, I tell you, round the body. Two of you at her, and have done with it!

Cleonice: By Pandrosos! if you lay a hand on her, Ill trample you underfoot till the crap comes out of you! (The second Scythian relieves himself in terror.)

Magistrate: Look at the mess you've made! Where is there another officer? (To the third Scythian) Bind that minx first, the one who speaks so prettily!

Myrrhine: By Phoebe, if you touch her with one finger, you'd better call quick for a surgeon! (The third Scythian relieves himself in terror.)

Magistrate: What's that? Where's the officer? (To the fourth Scythian) Lay hold of her. Oh! but I'm going to stop your foolishness for you all

Cleonice: By the Tauric Artemis, if you go near her, I'll pull out your hair, scream as you like. (The fourth Scythian relieves himself in terror.)

Magistrate: Ah! miserable man that I am! My own officers desert me. What ho! are we to let ourselves be bested by a mob of women? Ho! Scythians mine, close up your ranks, and forward!

Lysistrata: By the holy goddesses! you'll have to make acquaintance with four companies of women, ready for the fray and well armed to boot.

Magistrate: Forward, Scythians, and bind them! (The Scythians advance reluctantly.)

Lysistrata: Forward, my gallant companions; march forth, ye vendors of grain and eggs, garlic and vegetables, keepers of taverns and bakeries, wrench and strike and tear; come, a torrent of invective and insult! (They beat the Scythians who retire in haste.) Enough, enough now retire, never rob the vanquished! (The women withdraw.)

Magistrate: How unfortunate for my officers!

Lysistrata: Ah, ha! so you thought you had only to do with a set of slave-women! you did not know the ardour that fills the bosom of free-born dames.

Magistrate: Ardour! yes, by Apollo, ardour enough-especially for the wine-cup!

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Sir, sir what good are words? they are of no avail with wild beasts of this sort. Don't you know how they have just washed us down-and with no very fragrant soap!

Leader of the Chorus of Women: What would you have? You should never have laid rash hands on us. If you start afresh, I'll knock your eyes out. My delight is to stay at home as coy as a young maid, without hurting anybody or moving any more than a milestone; but 'ware the wasps, if you go stirring up the wasps' nest!

Chorus of Old Men (singing): Ah! great gods! how get the better of these ferocious creatures? 'tis past all bearing! But come, let us try to find out the reason of the dreadful scourge. With what end in view have they seized the citadel of Cranaus, the sacred shrine that is raised upon the inaccessible rock of the Acropolis?

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men (to the Magistrate): Question them; be cautious and not too credulous. It would be culpable negligence not to pierce the mystery, if we may.

Magistrate (addressing the women): I would ask you first why you have barred our gates.

Lysistrata: To seize the treasury; no more money, no more war.

Magistrate: Then money is the cause of the war?

Lysistrata: And of all our troubles. It was to find occasion to steal that Pisander and all the other agitators were forever raising revolutions. Well and good! but they'll never get another drachma here.

Magistrate: What do you propose to do then, pray?

Lysistrata: You ask me that! Why, we propose to administer the treasury ourselves.

Magistrate: You do?

Lysistrata: What is there in that to surprise you? Do we not administer the budget of household expenses?

Magistrate: But that is not the same thing.

Lysistrata: How so-not the same thing?

Magistrate: It is the treasury supplies the expenses of the war.

Lysistrata: That's our first principle-no war!

Magistrate: What! and the safety of the city?

Lysistrata: We will provide for that.

Magistrate: You?

Lysistrata: Yes, we!

Magistrate: What a sorry business!

Lysistrata: Yes, we're going to save you, whether you like it or not.

Magistrate: Oh! the impudence of the creatures!

Lysistrata: You seem annoyed! but it has to be done, nevertheless.

Magistrate: But it's the very height of iniquity!

Lysistrata (testily): We're going to save you, my good man.

Magistrate: But if I don't want to be saved?

Lysistrata: Why, all the more reason!

Magistrate: But what a notion, to concern yourselves with questions of peace and war!

Lysistrata: We will explain our idea.

Magistrate: Out with it then; quick, or... (threatening her).

Lysistrata (sternly): Listen, and never a movement, please!

Magistrate (in impotent rage): Oh! it is too much for me! I cannot keep my temper!

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Then look out for yourself; you have more to fear than we have.

Magistrate: Stop your croaking, you old crow! (To Lysistrata) Now you, say what you have to say.

Lysistrata: Willingly. All the long time the war has lasted, we have endured in modest silence all you men did; you never allowed us to open our lips. We were far from satisfied, for we knew how things were going; often in our homes we would hear you discussing, upside down and inside out, some important turn of affairs. Then with sad hearts, but smiling lips, we would ask you: Well, in today's Assembly did they vote peace?-But, "Mind your own business!" the husband would growl, "Hold your tongue, please!" And we would say no more.

Cleonice: I would not have held my tongue though, not I!

Magistrate: You would have been reduced to silence by blows then.

Lysistrata: Well, for my part, I would say no more. But presently I would come to know you had arrived at some fresh decision more fatally foolish than ever. "Ah! my dear man," I would say, "what madness next!" But he would only look at me askance and say: "Just weave your web, please; else your cheeks will smart for hours. War is men's business!"

Magistrate: Bravo! well said indeed!

Lysistrata: How now, wretched man? not to let us contend against your follies was bad enough! But presently we heard you asking out loud in the open street: "Is there never a man left in Athens?" and, "No, not one, not one," you were assured in reply. Then, then we made up our minds without more delay to make common cause to save Greece. Open your ears to our wise counsels and hold your tongues, and we may yet put things on a better footing.

Magistrate: You put things indeed! Oh! this is too much! The insolence of the creatures!

Lysistrata: Be still!

Magistrate: May I die a thousand deaths ere I obey one who wears a veil!

Lysistrata: If that's all that troubles you, here, take my veil, wrap it round your head, and hold your tongue.

Cleonice: Then take this basket; put on a girdle, card wool, munch beans. The war shall be women's business.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Lay aside your water-pots, we will guard them, we will help our friends and companions.

Chorus of Women (singing): For myself, I will never weary of the dance; my knees will never grow stiff with fatigue. I will brave everything with my dear allies, on whom Nature has lavished virtue, grace, boldness, cleverness, and whose wisely directed energy is going to save the State.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Oh! my good, gallant Lysistrata, and all my friends, be ever like a bundle of nettles; never let your anger slacken; the winds of fortune blow our way.

Lysistrata: May gentle Love and the sweet Cyprian Queen shower seductive charms on our breasts and our thighs. If only we may stir so amorous a feeling among the men that they stand as firm as sticks, we shall indeed deserve the name of peace-makers among the Greeks.

Magistrate: How will that be, pray?

Lysistrata: To begin with, we shall not see you any more running like mad fellows to the Market holding lance in fist.

Cleonice: That will be something gained, anyway, by the Paphian goddess, it will!

Lysistrata: Now we see them, mixed up with saucepans and kitchen stuff, armed to the teeth, looking like wild Corybantes!

Magistrate: Why, of course; that's what brave men should do.

Lysistrata: Oh! but what a funny sight, to behold a man wearing a Gorgon's-bead buckler coming along to buy fish!

Cleonice: The other day in the Market I saw a phylarch with flowing ringlets; he was on horseback, and was pouring into his helmet the broth he had just bought at an old dame's still. There was a Thracian warrior too, who was brandishing his lance like Tereus in the play; he had scared a good woman selling figs into a perfect panic, and was gobbling up all her ripest fruit-

Magistrate: And how, pray, would you propose to restore peace and order in all the countries of Greece?

Lysistrata: It's the easiest thing in the world!

Magistrate: Come, tell us how; I am curious to know.

Lysistrata: When we are winding thread, and it is tangled, we pass the spool across and through the skein, now this way, now that way; even so, to finish of the war, we shall send embassies hither and thither and everywhere, to disentangle matters.

Magistrate: And is it with your yarn, and your skeins, and your spools, you think to appease so many bitter enmities, you silly women?

Lysistrata: If only you had common sense, you would always do in politics the same as we do with our yarn.

Magistrate: Come, how is that, eh?

Lysistrata: First we wash the yarn to separate the grease and filth; do the same with all bad citizens, sort them out and drive them forth with rods-they're the refuse of the city. Then for all such as come crowding up in search of employments and offices, we must card them thoroughly; then, to bring them all to the same standard, pitch them pell-mell into the same basket, resident aliens or no, allies, debtors to the State, all mixed up together. Then as for our Colonies, you must think of them as so many isolated hanks; find the ends of the separate threads, draw them to a centre here, wind them into one, make one great hank of the lot, out of which the public can weave itself a good, stout tunic.

Magistrate: Is it not a sin and a shame to see them carding and winding the State, these women who have neither art nor part in the burdens of the war?

Lysistrata: What! wretched man! why, it's a far heavier burden to us than to you. In the first place, we bear sons who go off to fight far away from Athens.

Magistrate: Enough said! do not recall sad and sorry memories!

Lysistrata: Then secondly, instead of enjoying the pleasures of love and making the best of our youth and beauty, we are left to languish far from our husbands, who are all with the army. But say no more of ourselves; what afflicts me is to see our girls growing old in lonely grief.

Magistrate: Don't the men grow old too?

Lysistrata: That is not the same thing. When the soldier returns from the wars, even though he has white hair, he very soon finds a young wife. But a woman has only one summer; if she does not make hay while the sun shines, no one will afterwards have anything to say to her, and she spends her days consulting oracles that never send her a husband.

Magistrate: But the old man who can still get an erection...

Lysistrata: But you, why don't you get done with it and die? You are rich; go buy yourself a bier, and I will knead you a honey-cake for Cerberus. Here, take this garland. (Drenching him with water.)

Cleonice: And this one too. (Drenching him with water.)

Myrrhine: And these fillets. (Drenching him with water.)

Lysistrata: What else do you need? Step aboard the boat; Charon is waiting for you, you're keeping him from pushing off.

Magistrate: To treat me so scurvily! What an insult! I will go show myself to my fellow-magistrates just as I am.

Lysistrata: What! are you blaming us for not having exposed you according to custom? Nay, console yourself; we will not fail to offer up the third-day sacrifice for you, first thing in the morning. (She goes into the Acropolis, with Cleonice and Myrrhine.)

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Awake, friends of freedom; let us hold ourselves aye ready to act.

Chorus of Old Men (singing): I suspect a mighty peril; I foresee another tyranny like Hippias'. I am sore afraid the Laconians assembled here with Clisthenes have, by a stratagem of war, stirred up these women, enemies of the gods, to seize upon our treasury and the funds whereby I lived.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Is it not a sin and a shame for them to interfere in advising the citizens, to prate of shields and lances, and to ally themselves with Laconians, fellows I trust no more than I would so many famished wolves? The whole thing, my friends, is nothing else but an attempt to re-establish tyranny. But I will never submit; I will be on my guard for the future; I will always carry a blade hidden under myrtle boughs; I will post myself in the public square under arms, shoulder to shoulder with Aristogiton; and now, to make a start, I must just break a few of that cursed old jade's teeth yonder.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Nay, never play the brave man, else when you go back home, your own mother won't know you. But, dear friends and allies, first let us lay our burdens down.

Chorus of Women (singing): Then, citizens all, hear what I have to say. I have useful counsel to give our city, which deserves it well at my hands for the brilliant distinctions it has lavished on my girlhood. At seven years of age, I carried the sacred vessels; at ten, I pounded barley for the altar of Athene; next, clad in a robe of yellow silk, I played the bear to Artemis at the Brauronia; presently, when I was grown up, a tall, handsome maiden, they put a necklace of dried figs about my neck, and I was one of the Canephori.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: So surely I am bound to give my best advice to Athens. What matters that I was born a woman, if I can cure your misfortunes? I pay my share of tolls and taxes, by giving men to the State. But you, you miserable greybeards, you contribute nothing to the public charges; on the contrary, you have wasted the treasure of our forefathers, as it was called, the treasure amassed in the days of the Persian Wars. You pay nothing at all in return; and into the bargain you endanger our lives and liberties by your mistakes. Have you one word to say for yourselves?... Ah! don't irritate me, you there, or I'll lay my slipper across your jaws; and it's pretty heavy.

Chorus of Old Men (singing): Outrage upon outrage! things are going from bad to worse. Let us punish the minxes, every one of us that has balls to boast of. Come, off with our tunics, for a man must savour of manhood; come, my friends, let us strip naked from head to foot. Courage, I say, we who in our day garrisoned Lipsydrion; let us be young again, and shake off eld.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: If we give them the least hold over us, that's the end! their audacity will know no bounds! We shall see them building ships, and fighting sea-fights, like Artemisia; and, if they want to mount and ride as cavalry, we had best cashier the knights, for indeed women excel in riding, and have a fine. firm seat for the gallop. Just think of all those squadrons of Amazons Micon has painted for us engaged in hand-to-hand combat with men. Come then, we must now fit collars to all these willing necks.

Chorus of Women (singing): By the blessed goddesses, if you anger me, I will let loose the beast of my evil passions, and a very hailstorm of blows will set you yelling for help. Come, dames, off with your tunics, and quick's the word; women must smell the smell of women in the throes of passion.... Now just you dare to measure strength with me, old greybeard, and I warrant you you'll never eat garlic or black beans any more. No, not a word! my anger is at boiling point, and I'll do with you what the beetle did with the eagle's eggs.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: I laugh at your threats, so long as I have on my side Lampito here, and the noble Theban, my dear Ismenia.... Pass decree on decree, you can do us no hurt, you wretch abhorred of all your fellows. Why, only yesterday, on occasion of the feast of Hecate, I asked my neighbours of Boeotia for one of their daughters for whom my girls have a lively liking -a fine, fat eel to wit; and if they did not refuse, all along of your silly decrees! We shall never cease to suffer the like, till some one gives you a neat trip-up and breaks your neck for you! (To Lysistrata as she comes out from the Acropolis) You, Lysistrata, you who are leader of our glorious enterprise, why do I see you coming towards me with so gloomy an air?

Lysistrata: It's the behaviour of these naughty women, it's the female heart and female weakness that so discourage me.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Tell us, tell us, what is it?

Lysistrata: I only tell the simple truth.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: What has happened so disconcerting? Come, tell your friends.

Lysistrata: Oh! the thing is so hard to tell-yet so impossible to conceal.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Never seek to hide any ill that has befallen our cause.

Lysistrata: To blurt it out in a word-we want laying!

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Oh! Zeus, oh! Zeus!

Lysistrata: What use calling upon Zeus? The thing is even as I say. I cannot stop them any longer from lusting after the men. They are all for deserting. The first I caught was slipping out by the postern gate near the cave of Pan; another was letting herself down by a rope and pulley; a third was busy preparing her escape; while a fourth, perched on a bird's back, was just taking wing for Orsilochus' house, when I seized her by the hair. One and all, they are inventing excuses to be off home. (Pointing to the gate) Look! there goes one, trying to get out! Halloa there! whither away so fast?

First Woman: I want to go home; I have some Milesian wool in the house, which is getting all eaten up by the worms.

Lysistrata: Bah! you and your worms! go back, I say!

First Woman: I will return immediately, I swear I will by the two goddesses! I only have just to spread it out on the bed.

Lysistrata: You shall not do anything of the kind! I say, you shall not go.

First Woman: Must I leave my wool to spoil then?

Lysistrata: Yes, if need be.

Second Woman: Unhappy woman that I am! Alas for my flax! I've left it at home unstript!

Lysistrata: So, here's another trying to escape to go home and strip her flax!

Second Woman: Oh! I swear by the goddess of light, the instant I have put it in condition I will come straight back.

Lysistrata: You shall do nothing of the kind! If once you began, others would want to follow suit.

Third Woman: Oh! goddess divine, Ilithyia, patroness of women in labour, stay, stay the birth, till I have reached a spot less hallowed than Athene's mount!

Lysistrata: What mean you by these silly tales?

Third Woman: I am going to have a child-now, this minute!

Lysistrata: But you were not pregnant yesterday!

Third Woman: Well, I am to-day. Oh! let me go in search of the midwife, Lysistrata, quick, quick!

Lysistrata: What is this fable you are telling me? (Feeling her stomach) Ah! what have you got there so hard?

Third Woman: A male child.

Lysistrata: No, no, by Aphrodite! nothing of the sort! Why, it feels like something hollow-a pot or a kettle. (Opening her robe) Oh! you silly creature, if you have not got the sacred helmet of Pallas-and you said you were with child!

Third Woman: And so I am, by Zeus, I am!

Lysistrata: Then why this helmet, pray?

Third Woman: For fear my pains should seize me in the Acropolis; I mean to lay my eggs in this helmet, as the doves do.

Lysistrata: Excuses and pretences every word! the thing's as clear as daylight. Anyway, you must stay here now till the fifth day, your day of purification.

Third Woman: I cannot sleep any more in the Acropolis, now I have seen the snake that guards the temple.

Fourth Woman: Ah! and those awful owls with their dismal hooting! I cannot get a wink of rest, and I'm just dying of fatigue.

Lysistrata: You wicked women, have done with your falsehoods! You want your husbands, that's plain enough. But don't you think they want you just as badly? They are spending dreadful nights, oh! I know that well enough. But hold out, my dears, hold out! A little more patience, and the victory will be ours. An oracle promises us success, if only we remain united. Shall I repeat the words?

Third Woman: Yes, tell us what the oracle declares.

Lysistrata: Silence then! Now-"Whenas the swallows, fleeing before the hoopoes, shall have all flocked together in one place, and shall refrain them from all amorous commerce, then will be the end of all the ills of life; yea, and Zeus, who doth thunder in the skies, shall set above what was erst below...."

Third Woman: What! shall the men be underneath?

Lysistrata: "But if dissension do arise among the swallows, and they take wing from the holy temple, it will be said there is never a more wanton bird in all the world."

Third Woman: Ye gods! the prophecy is clear.

Lysistrata: Nay, never let us be cast down by calamity! let us be brave to bear, and go back to our posts. It would be shameful indeed not to trust the promises of the oracle. (They all go back into the Acropolis.)

Chorus of Old Men (singing): I want to tell you a fable they used to relate to me when I was a little boy. This is it: Once upon a time there was a young man called Melanion, who hated the thought of marriage so sorely that he fled away to the wilds. So he dwelt in the mountains, wove himself nets, and caught hares. He never, never came back, he had such a horror of women. As chaste as Melanion, we loathe the jades just as much as he did.

An Old Man (beginning a brief duet with one of the women): You dear old woman, I would fain kiss you.

Woman: I will set you crying without onions.

Old Man: And give you a sound kicking.

Woman (pointing): Ah, ha! what a dense forest you have there!

Old Man: So was Myronides one of the bushiest of men of this side; his backside was all black, and he terrified his enemies as much as Phormio.

Chorus of Women (singing): I want to tell you a fable too, to match yours about Melanion. Once there was a certain man called Timon, a tough customer, and a whimsical, a true son of the Furies, with a face that seemed to glare out of a thorn-bush. He withdrew from the world because he couldn't abide bad men, after vomiting a thousand curses at them. He had a holy horror of ill-conditioned fellows, but he was mighty tender towards women.

Woman (beginning another duet): Suppose I up and broke your jaw for you!

Old Man: I am not a bit afraid of you.

Woman: Suppose I let fly a good kick at you?

Old Man: I should see your thing then.

Woman: You would see that, for all my age, it is very well plucked.

Lysistrata (rushing out of the Acropolis): Ho there! come quick, come quick!

One of the Women: What is it? Why these cries?

Lysistrata: A man! a man! I see him approaching all afire with the flames of love. Oh! divine Queen of Cyprus, Paphos and Cythera, I pray you still be propitious to our enterprise.

Woman: Where is he, this unknown foe?

Lysistrata: Over there-beside the Temple of Demeter.

Woman: Yes, indeed, I see him; but who is he?

Lysistrata: Look, look! do any of you recognize him?

Myrrhine (joyfully): I do, I do! it's my husband Cinesias.

Lysistrata: To work then! Be it your task to inflame and torture and torment him. Seductions, caresses, provocations, refusals, try every means! Grant every favour,-always excepting what is forbidden by our oath on the wine-bowl.

Myrrhine: Have no fear, I'll do it.

Lysistrata: Well, I shall stay here to help you cajole the man and set his passions aflame. The rest of you withdraw.: (Cinesias enters, in obvious and extreme sexual excitement. A slave follows him carrying an infant.)

Cinesias: Alas! alas! how I am tortured by spasm and rigid convulsion! Oh! I am racked on the wheel!

Lysistrata: Who is this that dares to pass our lines?

Cinesias: It is I.

Lysistrata: What, a man?

Cinesias: Very much so!

Lysistrata: Get out.

Cinesias: But who are you that thus repulses me?

Lysistrata: The sentinel of the day.

Cinesias: For the gods' sake, call Myrrhine.

Lysistrata: Call Myrrhine, you say? And who are you?

Cinesias: I am her husband, Cinesias, son of Paeon.

Lysistrata: Ah! good day, my dear friend. Your name is not unknown amongst us. Your wife has it forever on her lips; and she never touches an egg or an apple without saying: "This is for Cinesias."

Cinesias: Really and truly?

Lysistrata: Yes, indeed, by Aphrodite! And if we fall to talking of men, quick your wife declares: "Oh! all the rest, they're good for nothing compared with Cinesias."

Cinesias: Oh! please, please go and call her to me!

Lysistrata: And what will you give me for my trouble?

Cinesias: Anything I've got, if you like. (Pointing to the evidence of his condition) I will give you what I have here!

Lysistrata: Well, well, I will tell her to come. (She enters the Acropolis.)

Cinesias: Quick, oh! be quick! Life has no more charms for me since she left my house. I am sad, sad, when I go indoors; it all seems so empty; my victuals have lost their savour. And all because of this erection that I can't get rid of!

Myrrhine (to Lysistrata, over her shoulder): I love him, oh! I love him; but he won't let himself be loved. No! I shall not come.

Cinesias: Myrrhine, my little darling Myrrhine, what are you saying? Come down to me quick.

Myrrhine: No indeed, not I.

Cinesias: I call you, Myrrhine, Myrrhine; won't you please come?

Myrrhine: Why should you call me? You do not want me.

Cinesias: Not want you! Why, here I stand, stiff with desire!

Myrrhine: Good-bye. (She turns, as if to go.)

Cinesias: Oh! Myrrhine, Myrrhine, in our child's name, hear me; at any rate hear the child! Little lad, call your mother.

Child: Mamma, mamma, mamma!

Cinesias: There, listen! Don't you pity the poor child? It's six days now you've never washed and never fed the child.

Myrrhine: Poor darling, your father takes mighty little care of you!

Cinesias: Come down, dearest, come down for the child's sake.

Myrrhine: Ah! what a thing it is to be a mother! Well, well, we must come down, I suppose.

Cinesias (as Myrrhine approaches): Why, how much younger and prettier she looks! And how she looks at me so lovingly! Her cruelty and scorn only redouble my passion.

Myrrhine (ignoring him; to the child): You are as sweet as your father is provoking! Let me kiss you, my treasure, mother's darling!

Cinesias: Ah! what a bad thing it is to let yourself be led away by other women! Why give me such pain and suffering, and yourself into the bargain?

Myrrhine (as he is about to embrace her): Hands off, sir!

Cinesias: Everything is going to rack and ruin in the house.

Myrrhine: I don't care.

Cinesias: But your web that's all being pecked to pieces by the cocks and hens, don't you care for that?

Myrrhine: Precious little.

Cinesias: And Aphrodite, whose mysteries you have not celebrated for so long? Oh! won't you please come back home?

Myrrhine: No, least, not till a sound treaty puts an end to the war.

Cinesias: Well, if you wish it so much, why, we'll make it, your treaty.

Myrrhine: Well and good! When that's done, I will come home. Till then, I am bound by an oath.

Cinesias: At any rate, lie with me for a little while.

Myrrhine: No, no, no! (she hesitates) but just the same I can't say I don't love you.

Cinesias: You love me? Then why refuse to lie with me, my little girl, my sweet Myrrhine?

Myrrhine (pretending to be shocked): You must be joking! What, before the child!

Cinesias (to the slave): Manes, carry the lad home. There, you see, the child is gone; there's nothing to hinder us; won't you lie down now?

Myrrhine: But, miserable man, where, where?

Cinesias: In the cave of Pan; nothing could be better.

Myrrhine: But how shall I purify myself before going back into the citadel?

Cinesias: Nothing easier! you can wash at the Clepsydra.

Myrrhine: But my oath? Do you want me to perjure myself?

Cinesias: I'll take all responsibility; don't worry.

Myrrhine: Well, I'll be off, then, and find a bed for us.

Cinesias: There's no point in that; surely we can lie on the ground.

Myrrhine: No, no! even though you are bad, I don't like your lying on the bare earth. (She goes back into the Acropolis.)

Cinesias (enraptured): Ah! how the dear girl loves me!

Myrrhine (coming back with a cot): Come, get to bed quick; I am going to undress. But, oh dear, we must get a mattress.

Cinesias: A mattress? Oh! no, never mind about that!

Myrrhine: No, by Artemis! lie on the bare sacking? never! That would be squalid.

Cinesias: Kiss me!

Myrrhine: Wait a minute! (She leaves him again.)

Cinesias: Good god, hurry up

Myrrhine (coming back with a mattress): Here is a mattress. Lie down, I am just going to undress. But you've got no pillow.

Cinesias: I don't want one either!

Myrrhine: But I do. (She leaves him again.)

Cinesias: Oh god, oh god, she treats my tool just like Heracles!

Myrrhine (coming back with a pillow): There, lift your head, dear! (Wondering what else to tantalize him with; to herself) Is that all, I wonder?

Cinesias (misunderstanding): Surely. there's nothing else. Come, my treasure.

Myrrhine: I am just unfastening my girdle. But remember what you promised me about making peace; mind you keep your word.

Cinesias: Yes, yes, upon my life I will.

Myrrhine: Why, you have no blanket!

Cinesias: My god, what difference does that make? What I want is to make love!

Myrrhine (going out again): Never fear-directly, directly! I'll be back in no time.

Cinesias: The woman will kill me with her blankets!

Myrrhine (coming back with a blanket): Now, get yourself up.

Cinesias (pointing): I've got this up!

Myrrhine: Wouldn't you like me to scent you?

Cinesias: No, by Apollo, no, please don't!

Myrrhine: Yes, by Aphrodite, but I will, whether you like it or not.(She goes out again.)

Cinesias: God, I wish she'd hurry up and get through with all this!

Myrrhine (coming back with a flask of perfume): Hold out your hand; now rub it in.

Cinesias: Oh! in Apollo's name, I don't much like the smell of it; but perhaps it will improve when it's well rubbed in. It does not somehow smack of the marriage bed!

Myrrhine: Oh dear! what a scatterbrain I am; if I haven't gone and brought Rhodian perfumes!

Cinesias: Never mind, dearest, let it go now.

Myrrhine: You don't really mean that. (She goes.)

Cinesias: Damn the man who invented perfumes!

Myrrhine (coming back with another flask): Here, take this bottle.

Cinesias: I have a better one allready for you, darling. Come, you provoking creature, to bed with you, and don't bring another thing.

Myrrhine: Coming, coming; I'm just slipping off my shoes. Dear boy, will you vote for peace?

Cinesias: I'll think about it. (Myrrhine runs away.) I'm a dead man, she is killing me! She has gone, and left me in torment! (in tragic style) I must have someone to lay, I must! Ah me! the loveliest of women has choused and cheated me. Poor little lad, how am I to give you what you want so badly? Where is Cynalopex? quick, man, get him a nurse, do!

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Poor, miserable wretch, baulked in your amorousness! what tortures are yours! Ah! you fill me with pity. Could any man's back and loins stand such a strain. He stands stiff and rigid, and there's never a wench to help him!

Cinesias: Ye gods in heaven, what pains I suffer!

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Well, there it is; it's her doing, that abandoned hussy!

Cinesias: No, no! rather say that sweetest, dearest darling.(He departs.)

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: That dearest darling? no, no, that hussy, say I! Zeus, thou god of the skies, canst not let loose a hurricane, to sweep them all up into the air, and whirl them round, then drop them down crash! and impale them on the point of this man's tool!: (A Spartan Herald enters; he shows signs of being in the same condition as Cinesias.)

Herald: Say, where shall I find the Senate and the Prytanes? I am bearer of despatches. (An Athenian Magistrate enters.)

Magistrate: Are you a man or a Priapus?

Herald (with an effort at officiousness): Don't be stupid! I am a herald, of course, I swear I am, and I come from Sparta about making peace.

Magistrate (pointing): But look, you are hiding a lance under your clothes, surely.

Herald (embarrassed): No, nothing of the sort.

Magistrate: Then why do you turn away like that, and hold your cloak out from your body? Have you got swellings in the groin from your journey?

Herald: By the twin brethren! the man's an old maniac.

Magistrate: But you've got an erection! You lewd fellow!

Herald: I tell you no! but enough of this foolery.

Magistrate (pointing): Well, what is it you have there then?

Herald: A Lacedaemonian 'skytale.'

Magistrate: Oh, indeed, a 'skytale,' is it? Well, well, speak out frankly; I know all about these matters. How are things going at Sparta now?

Herald: Why, everything is turned upside down at Sparta; and all the allies have erections. We simply must have Pellene.

Magistrate: What is the reason of it all? Is it the god Pan's doing?

Herald: No, it's all the work of Lampito and the women who are acting at her instigation; they have kicked the men out from between their thighs.

Magistrate: But what are you doing about it?

Herald: We are at our wits' end; we walk bent double, just as if we were carrying lanterns in a wind. The jades have sworn we shall not so much as touch them till we have all agreed to conclude peace.

Magistrate: Ah! I see now, it's a general conspiracy embracing all Greece. Go back to Sparta and bid them send envoys plenipotentiary to treat for peace. I will urge our Senators myself to name plenipotentiaries from us; and to persuade them, why, I will show them my own tool.

Herald: What could be better? I fly at your command.(They go out in opposite directions.)

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: No wild beast is there, no flame of fire, more fierce and untamable than woman; the leopard is less savage and shameless.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: And yet you dare to make war upon me, wretch, when you might have me for your most faithful friend and ally.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Never, never can my hatred cease towards women.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Well, suit yourself. Still I cannot bear to leave you all naked as you are; folks would laugh at you. Come, I am going to put this tunic on you.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: You are right, upon my word! it was only in my confounded fit of rage that I took it off.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Now at any rate you look like a man, and they won't make fun of you. Ah! if you had not offended me so badly, I would take out that nasty insect you have in your eye for you.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Ah! so that's what was annoying me so Look, here's a ring, just remove the insect, and show it to me. By Zeus! it has been hurting my eye for a long time now.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Well, I agree, though your manners are not over and above pleasant. Oh I what a huge great gnat! just look! It's from Tricorythus, for sure.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: A thousand thanks! the creature was digging a regular well in my eye; now that it's gone, my tears can flow freely.

Leader of the Chorus of Women: I will wipe them for you-bad, naughty man though you are. Now, just one kiss.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: A kiss? certainly not

Leader of the Chorus of Women: Just one, whether you like it or not.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Oh! those confounded women! how they do cajole us! How true the saying: " 'Tis impossible to live with the baggages, impossible to live without 'em!" Come, let us agree for the future not to regard each other any more as enemies; and to clinch the bargain, let us sing a choric song.

Combined Chorus of Women and Old Men (singing): We desire, Athenians, to speak ill of no man; but on the contrary to say much good of everyone, and to do the like. We have had enough of misfortunes and calamities. If there is any man or woman who wants a bit of money-two or three minas or so; well, our purse is full. If only peace is concluded, the borrower will not have to pay back. Also I'm inviting to supper a few Carystian friends, who are excellently well qualified. I have still a drop of good soup left, and a young porker I'm going to kill, and the flesh will be sweet and tender. I shall expect you at my house to-day; but first away to the baths with you, you and your children; then come all of you, ask no one's leave, but walk straight up, as if you were at home; never fear, the door will be... shut in your faces!

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Ah! here come the envoys from Sparta with their long flowing beards; why, you would think they wore pigstyes between their thighs. (Enter the Laconian Envoys afflicted like their herald.) Hail to you, first of all, Laconians; then tell us how you fare.

Laconian Envoy: No need for many words; you can see what a state we are in.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Alas! the situation grows more and more strained! the intensity of the thing is simply frightful.

Laconian Envoy: It's beyond belief. But to work! summon your Commissioners, and let us patch up the best peace we may.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Ah! our men too, like wrestlers in the arena, cannot endure a rag over their bellies; it's an athlete's malady, which only exercise can remedy.: (The Magistrate returns; he too now has an evident reason to desire peace.)

Magistrate: Can anybody tell us where Lysistrata is? Surely she will have some compassion on our condition.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men (pointing): Look! now he has the very same complaint. (To the Magistrate) Don't you feel a strong nervous tension in the morning?

Magistrate: Yes, and a dreadful, dreadful torture it is! Unless peace is made very soon, we shall find no recourse but to make love to Clisthenes.

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Take my advice, and arrange your clothes as best you can; one of the fellows who mutilated the Hermae might see you.

Magistrate: Right, by Zeus.: (He endeavours, not too successfully, to conceal his condition.)

Laconian Envoy: Quite right, by the Dioscuri. There, I will put on my tunic.

Magistrate: Oh! what a terrible state we are in! Greeting to you, Laconian fellow-sufferers.

Laconian Envoy (addressing one of his countrymen): Ah! my boy, what a terrible thing it would have been if these fellows had seen us just now when we were on full stand!

Magistrate: Speak out, Laconians, what is it brings you here?

Laconian Envoy: We have come to treat for peace.

Magistrate: Well said; we are of the same mind. Better call Lysistrata, then; she is the only person will bring us to terms.

Laconian Envoy: Yes, yes-and Lysistratus into the bargain, if you will.

Magistrate: Needless to call her; she has heard your voices, and here she comes.(She comes out of the Acropolis.)

Leader of the Chorus of Old Men: Hail, boldest and bravest of womankind! The time is come to show yourself in turn uncompromising and conciliatory, exacting and yielding, haughty and condescending. Call up all your skill and artfulness. Lo! the foremost men in Hellas, seduced by your fascinations, are agreed to entrust you with the task of ending their quarrels.

Lysistrata: It will be an easy task-if only they refrain from mutual indulgence in masculine love; if they do, I shall know the fact at once. Now, where is the gentle goddess Peace? (The goddess, in the form of a beautiful nude girl is brought in by the Machine.) Lead hither the Laconian envoys. But, look you, no roughness or violence; our husbands always behaved so boorishly. Bring them to me with smiles, as women should. If any refuse to give you his hand, then take hold of his tool. Bring up the Athenians too; you may lead them either way. Laconians, approach; and you, Athenians, on my other side. Now hearken all! I am but a woman; but I have good common sense; Nature has endowed me with discriminating judgment, which I have yet further developed, thanks to the wise teachings of my father and the elders of the city. First I must bring a reproach against you that applies equally to both sides. At Olympia, and Thermopylae, and Delphi, and a score of other places too numerous to mention, you celebrate before the same altars ceremonies common to all Hellenes; yet you go cutting each other's throats, and sacking Hellenic cities, when all the while the barbarian yonder is threatening you! That is my first point.

Magistrate (devouring the goddess with his eyes): Good god, this erection is killing me!

Lysistrata: Now it is to you I address myself, Laconians. Have you forgotten how Periclidas, your own countryman, sat a suppliant before our altars? How pale he was in his purple robes! He had come to crave an army of us; it was the time when Messenia was pressing you sore, and the Sea-god was shaking the earth. Cimon marched to your aid at the head of four thousand hoplites, and saved Lacedaemon. And, after such a service as that, you ravage the soil of your benefactors!

Magistrate: They do wrong, very wrong, Lysistrata.

Laconian Envoy: We do wrong, very wrong. (Looking at the goddess) Ah! great gods! what a lovely bottom Peace has!

Lysistrata: And now a word to the Athenians. Have you no memory left of how, in the days when you wore the tunic of slaves, the Laconians came, spear in hand, and slew a host of Thessalians and partisans of Hippias the tyrant? They, and they only, fought on your side on that eventful day; they delivered you from despotism, and thanks to them our nation could change the short tunic of the slave for the long cloak of the free man.

Laconian Envoy (looking at Lysistrata): I have never see a woman of more gracious dignity.

Magistrate (looking at Peace): I have never seen a woman with a finer body!

Lysistrata: Bound by such ties of mutual kindness, how can you bear to be at war? Stop, stay the hateful strife, be reconciled; what hinders you?

Laconian Envoy: We are quite ready, if they will give us back our rampart.

Lysistrata: What rampart, my dear man?

Laconian Envoy: Pylos, which we have been asking for and craving for ever so long.

Magistrate: In the Sea-god's name, you shall never have it!

Lysistrata: Agree, my friends, agree.

Magistrate: But then what city shall we be able to stir up trouble in?

Lysistrata: Ask for another place in exchange.

Magistrate: Ah! that's the ticket! Well, to begin with, give us Echinus, the Maliac gulf adjoining, and the two legs of Megara.

Laconian Envoy: No, by the Dioscuri, surely not all that, my dear sir.

Lysistrata: Come to terms; never make a difficulty of two legs more or less!

Magistrate (his eye on Peace): Well, I'm ready to strip down and get to work right now. (He takes off his mantle.)

Laconian Envoy (following out this idea): And I also, to dung it to start with.

Lysistrata: That's just what you shall do, once peace is signed. So, if you really want to make it, go consult your allies about the matter.

Magistrate: What allies, I should like to know? Why, we are all erected; there's no one who is not mad to be mating. What we all want is to be in bed with our wives; how should our allies fail to second our project?

Laconian Envoy: And ours too, for certain sure!

Magistrate: The Carystians first and foremost by the gods!

Lysistrata: Well said, indeed! Now go and purify yourselves for entering the Acropolis, where the women invite you to supper; we will empty our provision baskets to do you honour. At table, you will exchange oaths and pledges; then each man will go home with his wife.

Magistrate: Come along then, and as quick as may be.

Laconian Envoy: Lead on; I'm your man.

Magistrate: Quick, quick's the word, say I. (They follow Lysistrata into the Acropolis.)

Chorus of Women (singing): Embroidered stuffs, and dainty tunics, and flowing gowns, and golden ornaments, everything I have, I offer them to you with all my heart; take them all for your children, for your girls, in case they are chosen Canephori. I invite you every one to enter, come in and choose whatever you will; there is nothing so well fastened, you cannot break the seals, and carry away the contents. Look about you everywhere. . . you won't find a blessed thing, unless you have sharper eyes than mine. And if any of you lacks corn to feed his slaves and his young and numerous family, why, I have a few grains of wheat at home; let him take what I have to give, a big twelve-pound loaf included. So let my poorer neighbours all come with bags and wallets; my man, Manes, shall give them corn; but I warn them not to come near my door, but-beware the dog!(Another Magistrate enters, and begins knocking at the gate.)

Second Magistrate: I say, you, open the door! (To the WOMEN) Go your way, I tell you. (As the women sit down in front of the gate) Why, bless me, they're sitting down now; I shall have to singe 'em with my torch to make 'em stir! What impudence! I won't take this. Oh, well, if it's absolutely necessary, just to please you, we'll have to take the trouble.

An Athenian: And I'll share it with you. (He brandishes the torch he is carrying and the CHORUS OF WOMEN departs. The CHORUS OF OLD MEN follows shortly after.)

Second Magistrate: No, no, you must be off-or I'll tear your hair out, I will; be off, I say, and don't annoy the Laconian envoys; they're just coming out from the banquet-ball.

Athenian: Such a merry banquet I've never seen before! The Laconians were simply charming. After the drink is in, why, we're all wise men, every one of us.

Magistrate: It's only natural, to be sure, for sober, we're all fools. Take my advice, my fellow-countrymen, our envoys should always be drunk. We go to Sparta; we enter the city sober; why, we must be picking a quarrel directly. We don't understand what they say to us, we imagine a lot they don't say at all, and we report home all wrong, all topsy-urvy. But, look you, to-day it's quite different; we're enchanted whatever happens; instead of Clitagora, they might sing us Telamon, and we should clap our hands just the same. A perjury or two into the bargain, why! What does that matter to merry companions in their cups? (The two CHORUSES return.) But here they are back again! Will you begone, you loafing scoundrels. (The CHORUSES retire again.)

Athenian: Ah ha! here's the company coming out already. (Two choruses, one Laconian and one Athenian, enter, dancing to the music of flutes; they are followed by the women under the leadership of Lysistrata.)

A Laconian: My dear, sweet friend, come, take your flute in hand; I would fain dance and sing my best in honour of the Athenians and our noble selves.

Athenian: Yes, take your flute, in the gods'name. What a delight to see him dance!

Laconian (dancing and singing): Oh! Mnemosyne! inspire these men, inspire my muse who knows our exploits and those of the Athenians. With what a god-like ardour did they swoop down at Artemisium on the ships of the Medes! What a glorious victory was that! For the soldiers of Leonidas, they were like fierce boars whetting their tusks. The sweat ran down their faces, and drenched all their limbs, for verily the Persians were as many as the sands of the seashore. Oh! Artemis, huntress queen, whose arrows pierce the denizens of the woods, virgin goddess, be thou favourable to the peace we here conclude; through thee may our hearts be long united! May this treaty draw close for ever the bonds of a happy friendship! No more wiles and stratagems! Aid us, oh! aid us, maiden huntress!

Magistrate: All is for the best; and now, Laconians, take your wives away home with you, and you, Athenians, yours. May husband live happily with wife, and wife with husband. Dance, dance, to celebrate our bliss, and let us be heedful to avoid like mistakes for the future.

Chorus of Athenians (singing): Appear, appear, dancers, and the Graces with you! Let us invoke, one and all, Artemis, and her heavenly brother, gracious Apollo, patron of the dance, and Dionysus, whose eye darts flame, as he steps forward surrounded by the Maenad maids, and Zeus, who wields the flashing lightning, and his august, thrice-blessed spouse, the Queen of Heaven! These let us invoke, and all the other gods, calling all the inhabitants of the skies to witness the noble Peace now concluded under the fond auspices of Aphrodite. Io Paean! Io Paean! dance, leap, as in honour of a victory won. Euoi! Euoi!

Euai! Euai!

Magistrate: And you, our Laconian guests, sing us a new and inspiring strain!

Laconian (singing): Leave once more, oh! leave once more the noble height of Taygetus, oh! Muse of Lacedaemon, and join us in singing the praises of Apollo of Amyclae, and Athene of the Brazen House, and the gallant twin sons of Tyndareus, who practise arms on the banks of the Eurotas river. Haste, haste hither with nimble-footed pace, let us sing Sparta, the city that delights in choruses divinely sweet and graceful dances, when our maidens bound lightly by the river side, like frolicsome fillies, beating the ground with rapid steps and shaking their long locks in the wind, as Bacchantes wave their wands in the wild revels of the Wine-god. At their head, oh! chaste and beauteous goddess, daughter of Leto, Artemis, do thou lead the song and dance. With a fillet binding thy waving tresses, appear in thy loveliness; leap like a fawn, strike thy divine hands together to animate the dance, and aid us to renown the valiant goddess of battles, great Athene of the Brazen House! (All depart, singing and dancing.)



Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy