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Lysistrata
by Aristophanes

ForumId UserId Subject PostDate TimesRead Anonymous Body 14 133 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 04/17/1999 10:10:10 AM 4 0 "In May, Classics Corner will discuss Aristophanes' comedy LYSISTRATA. In this play, the women of ancient Greece resort to a sex strike to achieve their goals. There should be some interesting discussion on the interplay of sex and power. Some things never change.

New participants are always welcome!

" 14 133 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 04/17/1999 10:12:20 AM 125 0 "In May, Classics Corner will discuss Aristophanes' comedy LYSISTRATA. In this play, the women of ancient Greece resort to a sex strike to achieve their goals. There should be some interesting discussion on the interplay of sex and power. Some things never change.

New participants are always welcome!

" 14 48 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 04/17/1999 2:05:16 PM 99 0 "Ann, thanks for the reminder about Lysistrata! I hope I can join y'all on this one. A couple of my big life-interrupting projects have come to an end, and I've been reading more, mainly non-fiction and some plays. I really enjoyed the discussions last year of Man and Superman and, especially, Othello.

Susan, always a fan of Classics Corner

" 14 133 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 04/17/1999 4:17:29 PM 102 0 "Susan,
I'm so glad to hear you will be joining us. Your comments always add a lot to the discussions.

This is a short selection, so I'm hoping a lot of people will find the time to read it. I thought that the CC discussion of ANTIGONE awhile back was one of our most interesting.

Ann
" 14 107 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 04/27/1999 10:01:36 PM 120 0 "Ann, I heard a good deal about Lysistrata without having read it. I am looking forward to reading it. I am sure you are right about getting a few good discussions going on the subject. Ernie
" 14 212 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 04/29/1999 9:10:44 AM 112 0 "I just received my copy of Lysistrata and I'm looking forward to joining this discussion. However, I am a bit intimidated by it. This will be the first play I have ever read. I hope I can easily follow the story.

Molly in Iowa...sunny for a change - after weeks of soggy :)
" 14 133 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 04/29/1999 6:37:35 PM 113 0 "Molly,
I don't think you will have trouble reading the play as long as you are reading a modern translation. Which one do you have?

Ann
" 14 212 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 04/30/1999 10:00:06 AM 116 0 "Ann,

The one I have is a translation by Douglass Parker. It's a compilation of plays by Aristophanes and includes The Clouds, The Birds, Lysistrata, and The Frogs. So far, so good.

Molly...broadening my reading horizons :)

" 14 25 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/01/1999 6:40:37 AM 122 0 "That's the same one that I'm reading, Molly. I'm finding it pretty straightforward (have only read the first few pages) except I've had to go to the dictionary for a few words. I keep meaning to post them on the Words conference. Mostly, I'm surprised at how readable and how funny it is.

Am really glad you're going to be reading this one too. And, Classics Corner has certainly broadened my reading horizons. Most of us are in the same boat.

Barb
" 14 224 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/01/1999 9:15:50 PM 118 0 "OK. Let me see if I understand the plot:

Lysistrata took her rights,
Abstained from sex for forty nights.
And when the war was not yet done
She did another forty-one.

(Well, after all, National Poetry Month is over...)
" 14 65 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/02/1999 12:58:45 AM 124 0 "But there should at least be a credit for Lizzy B. --- don't you think? Such obvious plagiarism will not escape notice so one might as well own up to it!

Dottie
ID is an oxymoron!
" 14 58 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/02/1999 10:22:34 AM 122 0 "David: I like it; I like it. Wouldn't it be great to know what Aristophanes would have made of Lizzy's story if it had happened in his era? Probably a cross between LYSISTRATA and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS...

More coffee, more coffee...

>>Dale in Ala.
" 14 133 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/02/1999 8:10:26 PM 120 0 "I loved the poem, David. (G). I'm a bit behind in my reading, but this is a very short play so I should be done in the next day or two. In the meantime, if anyone has finished, please feel free to start the discussion.

I have two copies of the play from the library. The first one is a translation by Nicholas Rudall, which is part of the Plays for Performance series. I started out with this one because I wanted a modern translation. It certainly is that, but some of the language is so contemporary that I started to wonder if I was losing the flavor of the original. So I picked up the other translation, just to compare, and found that they didn't even seem to be the same play. Rudall completely eliminated the old woman chorus that starts the play. That's going too far for me. I wanted to read Aristophanes' play, not Rudall's. The other copy I checked out is a translation by Gilbert Seldes. As an added bonus, it has drawings by Picasso. I'm sticking with this one. It's easy to understand, although in his introduction this author too admits to making some revisions to the original so that it would be playable on the modern stage. By way of explanation he says, ""I tried to make Aristophanes live on our stage, not because I thought he was dead but because parts of us are dead, so that we cannot understand him.""

Ann
" 14 212 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/03/1999 1:03:30 PM 126 0 "Well, it seems like the day-to-day of my life has become much more hectic lately as I've been trying to work in some visits to out-of-state family, but the pages I have been able to sneak in so far have been great. I was a bit frustrated in the beginning trying to figure out what all the asterisks meant in my copy...then I flipped to the back and found the notes which have been extremely helpful with some of the more obscure references. So now I'm going like gangbusters at last!

David...you are very gifted poet :)

>>Molly
Des Moines, Ia
" 14 249 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/03/1999 9:25:53 PM 120 0 "I vaguely remember reading part of Lysistrata in college, but, what does the story have to do with Lizzy Borden? Lizzy killed, supposedly, her father and stepmother, but in Lysistrata the women withheld sex from their husbands. What's the connection? Maybe I'm forgetting a part of the plot of Lysistrata?
" 14 109 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/03/1999 10:58:22 PM 119 0 "Hi James, welcome to Constant Reader. I can't answer your question, because I haven't got to reading this yet, although I plan to. What else have you been reading lately?

Ruth
" 14 65 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/04/1999 1:13:21 AM 123 0 "If you go to the whole thread you will see a poem by David about Lysistrata but set to the rhyme of Lizzie Borden.

Dottie -- who is eavesdropping on this thread though not reading the play
ID is an oxymoron!
" 14 22 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/04/1999 7:24:20 AM 128 0 "Welcome, James. I can see why you might be confused! But Dottie's right. It was just a bit of playing around. We can get off on tangents sometimes.
But to the play. I finished it the other day. I found it a bit startling to hear such contemporary language, and sayings that I can't imagine had been invented at the time. I bought the version that Tonya put on our webpages, and I forget who the translator is. He gave the Spartans (I think it was them) a mountain dialect as in L'il Abner, which I found very distracting, but I guess the point he made was well-founded. (Now if I had my copy with me, I could quote from that argument, but I don't, so it will have to wait). I soon got over my surprise and thoroughly enjoyed the play. I could easily imagine it performed. I wonder how in the world a translator makes puns and wordplay work. It must be a daunting task. I think a lot of liberties must have been taken.
Sherry
" 14 76 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/04/1999 2:57:25 PM 130 0 "Sherry,

I just finished reading the PENGUIN version, translated by Alan H. Sommerstein. I don't know if this is the one that was recommended or not, but it was the only one that my library had. In it the Spartans talk with a Scottish accent, the choruses and songs can be sung to such tunes as ""Scotland the Brave"" and ""The Blue Bells of Scotland, and the language is definitely 1973 American slang.

I don't think I'm impressed. I'm going to look for another translation. This one can be amusing and is probably hilarious on stage, but I'm afraid it might be missing the Arisophanes touch.

Dawn


" 14 224 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/04/1999 6:02:55 PM 125 0 "I get the feeling that Aristophanes may well have written the Spartan lines in some sort of dialect, since the translations I have looked at so far both attempted to render this.

Benjamin Bickley Rogers came from Victorian England, so it might not be surprising that he used Scottish Spartans.

Jack Lindsay, however, was a twentieth-century Australian poet, whose translation (1926) is much bawdier, suggestive, and funnier than Rogers'. His Spartans don't speak in as heavy a dialect as Rogers, and I'm wondering if they might be Aussies!

Here's a couple of examples from Lindsay to ponder. First, Lampito's initial line, after Lysistrata compliments her on her strong arm that could strangle a bull:

""I think I could.
It's frae exercise and kicking at my arse.""

(Lampito meets the representative from Corinth):

""A sonsie open-looking jinker!
She's from Corinth.""

>>David, who definitely hopes that all your jinkers are sonsie, whether they look open or not.
" 14 133 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/04/1999 10:18:45 PM 128 0 "I just got back from a double header soccer game and don't have much time to post, but I did finish Lysistrata. last night. I was really surprised to hear that some translators used dialect for the Spartan women. If the original was written in a Greek dialect, I can understand why, but I would still find it extremely disconcerting to read their lines in a Scottish or hillbilly dialect. The Spartans were still Greek after all!

The version I read was translated by Gilbert Seldes. He says he tried to use contemporary English, but no slang. I know he made revisions to the text in order to make this play something modern audiences could better appreciate, although his revisions were obviously not as extensive as those of the first translator I tried. I would really like to have a better understanding of the text of the original play. I think our library had a third translation and I think I might try to get ahold of that, just out of curiosity.

Whatever the translation, some of the thoughts expressed in this play seemed like they could have come right out of the mouths of twentieth century women. I love finding these links with the past. However, the lives of Athenian women during this period were extremely different from our own, which makes Aristophanes' play even more surprising and original. The following is from a book titled Aristophanes by Lois Spatz:

The sight of a female character standing before the Propylea, or Sacred Gate to the Acropolis, preparing to convene an assembly would strike the spectators as strange indeed. For the Athenian, public places belonged to the men. Respectable women went outdoors rarely and usually only if veiled and accompanied by a maid. Wives managed their homes and families, and no doubt, received power, respect and love within their own households, but they seem to have led very isolated lives, confined to domestic duties in female quarters. The public expectations for women are perhaps best summarized by Pericles' words on the Funeral Oration quoted by Thucydides:'If I must say anything on the subject of female excellence to those of you who will now be in widowhood, it will be all comprised in this brief exhortation. Great will be your glory in not falling short of your natural character; and greatest will be hers who is least talked of among the men whether for good or for bad.'

Hmmpf! I guess Pericles and I wouldn't have gotten along, but given the historical milieu of the Athenian women, isn't Aristophanes' insight into their feelings and potential even more remarkable?
" 14 109 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/05/1999 1:19:36 AM 136 0 "The only translation our library had was the BB Rogers thing, with the Scots dialect. Makes it hard to read.

However, seeing that this play takes place on the Acropolis, especially the Propylaea or main entrance, I thought I'd set the scene for everyone.

So, here's a map of the Acropolis, and an aerial view of what it looks like now. Plus of photo of the Propylaea itself. The little temple high up on the right is the famous Temple of Athena Reebock, er, I mean Athena Nike.

Ruth


" 14 58 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/05/1999 5:29:37 PM 131 0 "I'm finding LYSISTRATA to be surprisingly contemporary, as others have pointed out. Particularly the body-function humor, for lack of a better term. I wonder if Mel Brooks is an Aristophanes fan? {G}

My volume is the Bantam paperback THE COMPLETE PLAYS, and the translator for this one is Jack Lindsay, whom I don't think anybody has mentioned. I haven't seen any obvious dialects or anachronistic language so far, but many parts are just plain obscure, which makes me guess Lindsay's approach is more traditional than some.

What the heck is ""Not while they own ane trireme oared an' rigged, or a' those stacks an' stacks o' siller!""? My guess is he's saying the other guys have got more ships and a bigger budget. On second thought, it does sound a little Scots/Irish.

I believe I'll look for a different version next time I'm at the library.

Just for comparison's sake, could somebody tell me how this interchange between Lysistrata and Alonice (the first page, in my book) is rendered in your version?

***

CALONICE: What is it all about, dear Lysistrata,
That you've called the women hither in a troop?
What kind of an object is it?

LYSISTRATA: A very large one!

CALONICE: Is it long, too?

LYSISTRATA: Both large and long to handle--

CALONICE: And yet they're not all here!

LYSISTRATA: Oh, I didn't mean that.
If that was the prize, they'd soon come fluttering along.
No, no, it concerns an object I've felt over
And turned this way and that for sleepless nights.

CALONICE: It must be fine to stand such long attention.

LYSISTRATA: So fine it comes to this--Greece saved by woman!

CALONICE: By Woman! Wretched thing, I'm sorry for it.

***

Etc.

I'm figuring something like this would be a nightmare to translate...like the equivalent of doing Mel Brooks in Swahili or Saturday Night Live in Middle English. Boggles the mind.

>>Dale in Ala.

" 14 39 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/05/1999 6:33:25 PM 131 0 "Dale,

I have the DouglassParker translation, complete with hillbilly dialect for the Spartans. Here's the section you mentioned:

Kleolnike: Incidentally, Lysistrata, just why are you calling this meeting? Nothing teeny, I trust?

Lysistrata: Immense.

K: Hmmm. And pressing?

L: Unthinkably tense.

K:Then where IS everybody?

L: Nothing like that. If it were, we'd already be in session. Seconding motions. --No,THIS came to hand some time ago. I've spent my nights kneading it, mulling it, filing it down...

K: Too bad. There can't be very much left.


So, I'm wondering what the other translations are like. What a difference in names, even, much less interpretations.

I'm having fun with this and should finish it up soon. I read it after yoga while I'm waiting for Tim to finish handball. Tomorrow I should be done.

Anne
" 14 224 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/05/1999 7:32:03 PM 130 0 "Dale & Anne:

Here's the passage from Benjamin Bickley Rogers, who was from Victorian England:

Ca: Well but, Lysistrata
Why have you, dear, convoked us? Is the matter
A weighty subject?

Ly: Weighty? yes.

Ca: And pregnant?

Ly: Pregnant, by Zeus.

Ca: Why ever don't we come, then?

Ly: No, it's not like that: we'd have come fast enough
For such like nonsense. 'Tis a scheme I've hit on,
Tossing it over many a sleepless night.

Ca: Tossing it over? then 'tis light, I fancy.

Ly: Light? ay, so light, my dear, that all the hopes
Of all the States are anchored on the women.

Ca: Anchored on us! a slender stay to lean on.

I've also read the Lindsay translation, and this passage is quite representative of the innuendo he puts into the whole (He's twentieth-century and Australian, by the way.) As for the faithfulness to the original, who knows? At any rate, I don't think that the differences in language make much of a difference to the general message of the play.

One last possibility as to why the Spartans seem to be speaking in dialect. Apparently, around the time of the play, there were different dialects of Greek: Athenians used Attic, Spartans the Doric.
Without knowing the details, I note that my dictionary gives one definition of Doric as ""rustic"", which might explain the Scotch or Hillbilly strains in the translations.

>>David, who was actually born in north central Arkansas near ""The Foothills of the Ozarks"", and now follows the Michigan State Spartans. Coincidence? I think not.
" 14 133 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/05/1999 9:48:00 PM 127 0 "Thanks for the pictures, Ruth. Someday I'd like to actually see Athens.

David- no, definitely not a coincidence.

In comparing translations, I was surprised to find that the one that I thought was the more ""authentic"" by Gilbert Seldes begins with speeches by the old women's chorus, which aren't even in the other versions. I don't know if he moved the speeches from somewhere else, or what.

At any rate, here is how Seldes translates the passage Dale cited:

Kalonika (even the names are different): ""Still, I don't see why all of us are summoned to this place at such an hour. The things we women do best, we do alone. Unless--oh, Lysistrata, are you preparing for the feast of Adonis? Has some new wine come in from Samos for our revels? I thought that might be it.

L: It's not a feast I called you for. I have a project--something big.

K:If I had only known, I would have been here earlier.

L:For weeks I've not slept, thinking what to do about it, how to handle it, turning it this way and that way to see what I could do.

K: Who can it be gives you such delightfully sleepless nights, my dear?

L: You know what I am talking about. If it were what you mean, you'd all be here, no doubt. Kalonika, I tell you if Greece is to be saved, it is the women who must do it.

K:(not impressed):The women? Why, then Greece will be a long time being saved.""

Here is the passage from the translation by Nicholas Rudall, from the Plays for Performance series:

L: ""But there are other things far far more important.

Calonike: Is that why you're calling the meeting, Lysistrata? How big a thing is this?

L: It's big.

C: And thick?

L:Massive. It's big enough for all of us.

C:then why aren't they here?

L:If THAT'S what was up, they'd be here. No, Calonike, this is something I've been tossing around for the last few nights. I couldn't get any sleep.

C:Sounds good to me! Was it good?

L:So good that...The hope and salvation of Greece depend upon us women.

C:On us? Bye-bye, Greece.""


Hmm, this is interesting. Obviously some versions are a lot more bawdy and full of double entendres than others.
" 14 224 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/06/1999 7:35:09 AM 133 0 "Ann:

I found a copy of the Seldes version in my library, and, frankly, I have to wonder if it's even a translation! You made a very perceptive point by saying that it seemed like an entirely different play, since he made radical changes to adapt Lysistrata for a 1930 New York stage production. My copy has a preface by Seldes which states in part:

""The present version, although it contains many scenes not in the original, is definitely an attempt to create LYSISTRATA in the terms of the American theatre, as Arisophanes might have done if he were alive today....

""Perhaps one example of change will be illuminating. The scene in which the women take the oath is obviously a parody of a sacred ritual.... To us, the ritual has no meaning and it seemed to me justifiable to change the effect from parody to pure drama by giving the responses to two of the young women in succession and allowing each of them to break down in hysterical protest before the oath is completed.""

Judging from this, I'd say the the Old Women's chorus at the beginning is a Seldes interpolitation, since it appears in no other version that we've found so far.



>>David, who also located a Latin version of the play if anyone's interested.
" 14 224 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/06/1999 7:40:01 AM 137 0 "Whoops--posted that last message without posing the question I wanted to ask!

I got the impression that the main theme of the play was about the foolishness of war, rather than rights and abilities of women. After all, if this war can be settled by mere women, it must really be silly!

What do others think?


>>David, who may well be playing devil's advocate here to to stir things up a bit.
" 14 109 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/06/1999 10:33:54 AM 139 0 "I haven't had time to get far in this, David. Is there no appearance of a chorus in the play as originally written? Adding a chorus wouldn't be entirely weird, though, it was a long-standing tradition in Greek drama, wasn't it?

Ruth
" 14 58 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/06/1999 11:35:40 AM 140 0 "Ruth: The foreword to my edition says that Aristophanes used large choruses in his early plays, but as Greece fell upon harder economic times his later ones were staged with smaller choruses or none at all. Talk about contemporary. I guess their NEA had a ""budget shortfall.""

>>Dale
" 14 58 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/06/1999 11:58:04 AM 141 0 "Speaking of choruses...

I just realized it's been at least 20 years since I've seen a Greek play actually staged (ah, woeful lack), and I forget how the chorus aspect was handled.

Do the members speak in turn, or in unison? Or does it vary? Seems like in unison would make the words harder to understand.

>>Dale in Ala.
" 14 224 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/06/1999 2:19:48 PM 140 0 "Ruth:

There are choruses in the original play. Ann had a version that started with the old women's chorus speaking, and wondered why none of the other versions began like that. Apparently, that version was a modern adaptation that took some liberties with the original.


David
" 14 133 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/06/1999 8:54:35 PM 133 0 "David,
I agree that the main theme of this play is its anti-war message. You'll have to forgive us women if we overemphasize the ""feminist"" aspect. We are so used to women playing such restricted roles in the classics that it is a delight to find strong women characters that we can easily relate to.

I heard a speech on NPR yesterday from the Chautauqua Institute by John Moriel (sp?)who was exploring the link between comedy and democracy. He mentioned this play, among others. He emphasized that comedy is a much more egalitarian art form than tragedy, because it allows room for a much broader range of characters -- women and the poorer folk can have major roles, not just the male elite. He pointed out that comedy relies on incongruities and unexpected juxtapositions. Thus, LYSISTRATA received much of its power from the very fact that the female characters were so radically different from the Greek audience's expectations of women characters.

I find it quite amazing that Aristophanes could get this anti-war play produced in the middle of a long drawn out war which was into its 21st year. Nor was this his first anti-war play. I can't imagine this play getting past American censors during war time. Do you think Athenian society was more tolerant than our own in some ways?

David, time permitting, I hope to read one of the other translations just to give me a better idea of the original. Unfortunately, we are all at the mercy of the translators. We read a wonderful version of THE ODYSSEY here on CC last summer by Robert Fagles. I wish there were a comparable and definitive translation of this play as well.

Ann
" 14 224 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/07/1999 1:15:12 PM 137 0 "Ann:

I would agree that the depiction of Lysistrata was a shock to the audience. The very idea: a woman not only appears in a public assembly and even presents a logical, coherent point of view on a public issue--but then proves to be a charismatic leader, easily the superior to any of the male figures in the play!

Just a thought about the attitudes in ancient Greece toward women. I seem to recall that the goddesses were often depicted to be fully as powerful as gods, participating in heavenly councils and intervening in earthly affairs. Is this more or less accurate? And if so, why was not this kind of equality mirrored in attitudes toward women on earth?

On another front: you've mentioned an earlier CC discussion about Antigone. How does the depiction of her differ from what Aristophanes does here? Is it more representative of Greek attitudes in general?


David
" 14 58 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/07/1999 1:25:19 PM 145 0 "David: Your mention of gods and goddesses reminds me of the Garrison Keillor story, ""The Mid-Life Crisis of Dionysus."" Have you ever come across it?

It's in his collection THE BOOK OF GUYS. Very funny piece, to 40-ish types such as myself, if bittersweetly so.

>>Dale in Ala.
" 14 256 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/07/1999 8:56:45 PM 131 0 "from Donald Sutherland's translation --
Kalonike: What ever is it, dear Lysistrata? What have you called us women all together for? How much of a thing is it?
Lysistrata: Very big.
K.: And thick?
L.: Oh very thick indeed.
K.: Then How can we be late?
L.: That's not the way it is. Or we would all be here. But it is something I have figured out myself and turned and tossed upon for many a sleepless night.
K.: It must be something slick you've turned and tossed upon!
L.: So slick that the survival of all Greece depends upon the women.
K.: On the women? In that case poor Greece has next to nothing to depend on.
" 14 133 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/08/1999 9:04:08 AM 132 0 "David,
You brought up a very interesting point about the power attributed to goddesses in Greek mythology. I am not sure how to reconcile that with what I have read about the historical role of women in classical Greece. Obviously, different rules applied to divine beings. Even in our own time, countries where women have very little real power, have sometimes been governed by strong females -- for example, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka to name a few. In almost every case, these women were relatives of male political leaders, of course. Maybe cultures make exceptions for certain elite families, human or divine, to the extent that even their women are allowed considerable power.

What do the rest of you think? If you compare the Greek goddesses to the icons of Christianity, Jesus's mother Mary and the many female saints, there is quite a contrast. The latter exhibit strong traits of submissiveness and humility that I don't see in the Greek goddesses. I wonder what this says, if anything, about their respective cultures.

We really enjoyed our discussion of ANTIGONE. Along with the Greek tragedy, we also read Jean Anouilh's World War II version of ANTIGONE. I remember the ancient Greek Antigone as a very formidable woman of convictions. However, unlike the women in Lysistrata, she had no real power other than the strength to follow her own personal convictions. She felt it was her duty to bury her brother, who had rebelled against King Creon, but she was fully aware of the fact that in doing so fate also decreed that she must suffer the consequences -- death.

Ann
" 14 133 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/08/1999 9:08:07 AM 130 0 "Asa,
Thanks for contributing the Sutherland translation. Is this a recent translation? It certainly belongs in the category of the very suggestive ones, which seems to be the majority, so I assume that these reflect the original play.

Also, I wanted to welcome you to Classics Corner. I don't remember seeing you post before. What do you think of Aristophanes' play?
" 14 58 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/08/1999 9:59:42 AM 128 0 "Ann: I'll let Asa introduce herself, but wanted to say that she's a long-time friend who grew up in the same area I did. She's a top-flight reader too, and is my most prized ""recruit"" so far.

Asa: Glad you joined us! Make yourself at home.

>>Dale in Ala.
" 14 109 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/08/1999 11:05:51 AM 127 0 "Ann, there is a saying about the Greeks---that they made their men into gods and their gods into men. This reflects the strong emphasis given to humanism in the Greek civilization. Meanwhile the Greek gods (and goddesses) were acting in very ungodlike ways---intrigues, uppity women, feuds, sc**wing around, and other activities which we humans think of as our exclusive province.

Ruth
Books are cheaper than wallpaper
" 14 256 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/08/1999 1:58:55 PM 124 0 "Dale,
If my memory is correct, the actors wore large masks which served as modern-day megaphones. I assume that the members of the chorus wore the masks also and even in unison, they would be heard. Any Constant Readers know the answer???
Asa, retired in Alabama
" 14 76 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/08/1999 3:14:42 PM 122 0 "Ruth,
Making their gods into men has also provided us with some great stories! Or the beginning of psychoanalysis.

Talking about veils I liked this discussion between Lysistrata and the Commissioner or Magistrate (depending on your version)
- translated by Douglass Parker 1922?

LYSISTRATA: Shush
COMMISSIONER: I categorically decline to shush for some confounded woman, who wears - as a constant reminder of congenital inferiority, an injunction to public silence - a veil! Death, before such dishonor!
LYSISTRATA: [Removing her veil] If that's the only obstacle...
I feel you need a new panache,
so take the veil, my dear Commissioner,
and drape it thus -
and SHUSH!
[As she winds the veil around the startled COMMISSIONER's head KLEONIKE and MYRRHINE, with carding-comb and wool-basket, rush forward and assist in transforming him into a woman.]
KLEONIKE: Accept, I pray, this humble comb.
MYRRHINE: Receive this basket of fleece as well.
LYSISTRATA: Hike up your skirts, and card your wool, and gnaw your beans - and stay at home!
While we rewrite Homer:
Ye WOMEN must WIVE ye warre!

The version by Sommerstein did say the same thing but in a more irritating way.
LYSISTRATA: With veiling bedeck
Your head and your neck,
And then, it may be you'll be quiet.
MYRRHINE: This basket fill full -
CALONICE: By carding this wool -
LYSISTRATA: Munching beans - they're an excellent diet.
So hitch up your gown
And really get down
To the job - you could do with some
slimmin'.
And keep this refrain
Fixed firm in your brain -
ALL: That war is the care of the women!

So both versions discuss the veil as a symbol of inferiority. There must have been complaints about it somewhere for him to get this on to the stage.

I was wondering - Were women played in ancient Greece by men as they were in China and England?

Dawn
" 14 109 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/08/1999 4:00:26 PM 122 0 "Asa, I don't know if the choruses wore masks or not, but an interesting aside to this is that our word persona derives from those megaphone-masks. per sona meaning, as I understand it, ""for sound"". It was just a couple of small steps from the per sona being the mask, to its being the character, to the modern definition of the word.

Ruth
Books are cheaper than wallpaper
" 14 224 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/08/1999 4:12:21 PM 118 0 "Dawn:

Apparently, all parts were played by men. Also, the audience was entirely male as well. And not just the elite: all male citizens, of all classes were spectators.

These factors were part of the reason for the somewhat scatological atmosphere. It seems that, in ancient Athens as well as today, the great majority of men preferred broader comedy, and playwrights were aware of the demographics involved. Couple that with the fact that these performances evolved from ancient fertility rites, and, well, you know...

>>David, who's been nosing around odd corners of the Internet looking for this information.
" 14 133 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/08/1999 6:15:34 PM 115 0 "Dawn,
I much prefer the Douglass Parker version, at least for the part you quoted. What do you think? The reference to veils in the text surprised me. I hadn't visualized any of these women wearing one.

David, I knew that men played the women's parts, but according to Lois Spatz's ARISTOPHANES the composition of the audience is open to question. The theater held 14,000 people. She says:

""Women and children, both slaves and free, were probably allowed to see Old Comedy with all its obscenities. Perhaps they stood in the back, however.""

Well, the back of the bus is better than no bus, I guess.

Spatz also has some interesting comments on the costumes. She says:

""Actors portraying males wore a pair of tights with a large leather phallus attached. A short chiton, or tunic, worn over this would leave the phallus still visible. To portray a woman or to mock a hero of tragedy an actor would wear a long robe. It is not clear how the actors who played naked women were costumed; perhaps pubic hair was attached to their tights instead of the phallus.""

When I saw the University of Kansas production of LYSISTRATA twenty-five years ago, the men all had erect phallus symbols (probably paper maiche) attached to their costumes. The KU version of the play, by the way, was extremely funny.


" 14 76 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/09/1999 8:01:41 AM 113 0 "David and Ann,

Thanks for the info. Can you imagine a woman from one of the modern countries who still wears veils standing up to the government the way Lysistrata did - or having the nerve to show this to them and expecting them to laugh. No way around it Aristophanes is making the leaders of Athens laugh at themselves. Perhaps since this war had been going on so long it was very unpopular and they were looking for an acceptable way out.

I do like the Parker version better - but I need to find the whole play, all I have right now is the conflict between the Commissioner and Lysistrata from an introduction to Classical Literature book. Even though it was done in the 1920's, the language isn't as dated as the 1970's one.

Dawn
" 14 125 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/09/1999 10:16:02 AM 118 0 "Just to cause trouble, I'd suggest that the play isn't really that interesting to read. I can see it as a great script for Mel Brooks, but by itself, it seems limp in spite of its salacious intentions. (I'm reading a Dudley Fitts translation).

Perhaps this is funny in performance, but I am having trouble finding anything in the text that is much better than a Make Love Not War bumper sticker.



" 14 109 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/09/1999 11:52:37 AM 125 0 "I've become bogged down, too, Jim, and wondering if it's just my translation, or what. Usually I find plays to be brisk reading, but in this one I'm slogging along. Could be I'm out of practice on this older stuff.

Ruth
Books are cheaper than wallpaper
" 14 107 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/10/1999 10:28:59 PM 112 0 "After rummaging through shelves and boxes for days I finally found a copy of 4 comedies of Aristophanes, published by Harvest Books, Harcourt, Brace, etc. The cover indicates that this is a new English version by Dudley Fitts, the translator. I do not recall seeing any comments on this particular translation or did I miss it? I am anxious to get going on the play though I am a bit apprehensive. I experienced some problems reading plays in the past, so wish me luck.
Ernie
" 14 133 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/11/1999 6:14:51 PM 111 0 "Ernie,
Jim Heath mentioned that he was reading the Fitts' translation. Let us know what you think.

Ann
" 14 107 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/13/1999 5:29:58 PM 118 0 "Yes Ann, Just found Heath's note. He is apparently reading the same translation. It made me most curious about much liberties a translator can take in his interpretation of a Greek play. Yes, the play appears to have many contemporary characteristics. What does that mean to us? Well part of it must be due to the interpretation of the translator. In essence I believe it means that human nature has not changed. Men think like men and are preoccupied with competitiv impulses, conquest and war. Women realize the negative aspects of all this and want to keep the homefires burning, take care of their kids and want the guy around.
Have things changed? Well we have sports, IBM vs Microsoft, Nato vs Serbia, the Congo, Ethiopia, etc. etc. The trouble is that men don't fight the old fashion way with swords, spears but with smart bombs and keep nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in reserve, just in case they are needed.

Frankly I think that women have better sense, but I guess I am alone in holding this opinion (VBG). Ernie
" 14 65 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/13/1999 6:06:08 PM 123 0 "Ernie -- You are only alone in holding that opinion if all females have departed for other planets and I do not mean Venus! I have NOT read that book and do NOT plan to do so BTW!

Dottie -- who had one of those interplanetary disconnects at the end of an otherwise reasonable day!
ID is an oxymoron!
" 14 125 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/14/1999 7:53:13 AM 128 0 "Are women really less combative than men? Does anyone remember Mrs. Thatcher and the Falklands? And how about that picture of Madeline Albright on the cover of this week's Time?

The traditional image may be that women are passive homebodies who only want peace and family. You can certainly make the case that given the differences in sexual political power in prior generations, they had the incentive to be passive. But there is still a lot of ancient literature about powerful, aggressive women from Clytemnestra to Lady MacBeth.

Perhaps the only thing that made women in prior times seem passive was the lack of physical strength needed to wield weapons. Now, with improved weaponry, strength isn't the issue it used to be.
" 14 63 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/20/1999 1:46:30 AM 82 0 "ASA

I sort of remember a novel by Mary Renault. THE MASK OF APOLLO I believe was the title. About the plays and the actors. But no details are bursting forth from the nether regions of my brain. But maybe I can find the book.

EDD
" 14 148 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/21/1999 12:29:16 AM 90 0 "I finished this in one very quick read. It was interesting, by Aristophenes was sure no Sophocles. I read all seven of Sophocles plays a couple of years ago, and then re-read Antigone with y'all last year. Ari is pretty frothy in comparison, no?

Theresa
" 14 22 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/21/1999 7:30:31 AM 90 0 "Frothy is a good word for it, Theresa. I didn't find very much to discuss, unless you count all the talk about the different translations, which to me, isn't really talking about the play, but a side issue. But maybe because the translations are so wildly different makes it hard to know just what the play was really like.
Sherry
" 14 224 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/21/1999 6:31:26 PM 84 0 "Frothy? Frothy?? Why, that's... that's... probably correct.

The works of Aristophanes are concerned more topical humor than with eternal questions. To quote from Moses Hadas' introduction to the plays:

""The figures of tragedy are sometimes little more than symbols to illustrate some permanent principle of morality; those of comedy have to do with simpler but more immediate problems of making peace, running a school, writing a play....

""The tragic poets who deal with eternal problems write as if they knew they were addressing the ages. Aristophanes wrote for a specific audience and occasion, and would have laughed at the notion that remote generations might be fingering his plays....""

Perhaps the notion of ""classical"" has us looking for seriousness when we should be expecting something closer to Saturday Night Live instead.


David, who was happy to just enjoy this play without having to analyze it
" 14 107 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/21/1999 11:13:18 PM 86 0 "Jim and David,
You are right that women are aggressive as well. But in a very different way. They are known to compete for status or hierarchy. This is what the biologists and anthropologists tell us. Both men and women are territorial but men very aggressively so. Lysistrata topical??? The topic is as old as the hill, competition with deadly weapons on the part of the males and females fighting for the survival of their children and themselves especially when war is senseless, due to old grudges or so the young bucks can show off. One can almost say that what was topical in ancient greece is indeed a universal topic and remains so today. If a topic is nonsensical nobody would be interested but in Lysistrata the topic is universal and timeless.
Yes, I am guilty all right of analytic reading of this play to find out why it has such appeal. Modern culture and civilization has been thought as strongly influenced if not based on Greek thought. Ernie
" 14 148 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/22/1999 1:05:07 AM 93 0 "If Lysistrata was intended as topical humor, then we were right to discuss translation so much. What do you think should be the correct emphasis for such a translation? To make it just as humorous to modern sensibilities, or to demonstrate what was considered humorous by the Greeks? I think our translators went for the first.

David, I never read anything classical in school. I was blown away when I read Sophocles, all the plays were marvelous, deep, you name it. Ari was just a bit of a giggle.

Theresa
" 14 133 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/23/1999 8:59:17 PM 90 0 "I think your reaction to this play depends very much on the translation that you read. Since I work next to the main library, I was able to check out several and compare them. The first one I read, and which I commented on here, was that by Gilbert Seldes. This version was meant to be performed and
Seldes took considerable liberties with the original, leaving out many of the topical references that wouldn't be obvious to a modern audience and even inventing new scenes. This version was very readable because the translator used modern language, but no slang. He chose to emphasize the universals in the play. There was one great scene which satirized the money the city fathers were making off the war. I was going to quote from it here, because it reminded me so much of corruption in our own day, until I realized I couldn't even find this dialog in the other versions.

I also picked up the Nicholas Rudall translation, which is meant for performance too. This one was just a bit too trendy for me. Sample dialogue: Lysistrata:
Okay! We wanna get laid! That's the long and short of it.""

The library had a translation by Jack Lindsay as well. This one strained so hard for lame rhymes that I couldn't read it -- too painful. I doubt that Aristophanes sounded like that to his contemporary audience.

Finally, I did make it through one other translation. I can't give credit to the translator because he is listed only as anonymous. This version was published by the Athenian society in 1912, and I know some of you read this one. The characters have a very 19th century flavor to their speech. This version is obviously not meant for performance. It retains many of the archaic references, but explains them in footnotes, which was nice. It did, however, seem much more foreign to me then the Seldes' version.

I think David is on the right track. Comedy is not as timeless, and it is also more difficult to translate, because there are more topical references. If you listen to a comedian today, current events (especially Bill Clinton's adventures ad nauseam) crop up repeatedly. I wonder too if this play is still waiting for a decent modern translation. I think back to the Fagles' translation of The Odyssey, which we read here last summer. I very much enjoyed reading it. The words flowed beautifully and the characters lived and breathed. Unfortunately, that kind of talent in a translator seems to be quite rare, especially when skill is also required in deciphering the nuances of a dead language.

I agree with you Theresa. I was much more impressed with Antigone. Unlike you, I have not read Sophocles' other plays, although I would like to. I am curious --which translation of Lysistrata did you read?

Ann
" 14 148 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/26/1999 1:06:25 AM 83 0 "Hi Ann. I have the Bantam Classic ""The Complete Plays of Aristophanes."" There are various translators for the various plays. Jack Lindsey is the translator for Lysistrata. It wasn't bad - not as rowdy as some of the examples posted here (and he did give the Spartans bumpkin accents), but no annoying tricks, either.

Theresa, who doubts she'll read the rest of this collection - and I couldn't put Sophocles down. Highly recommended - there are only 7 surviving plays by Soph, so one can easily read the entire collection
" 14 63 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/30/1999 7:37:34 PM 59 0 "The version I have is a Doubleday Anchor book. It has an editor named Andrew Chiappe, who adds back into the play lines left out by Benjamen Biley Rogers. These lines come from the ""Loeb Classical Library"" version. I am unfamiliar with Loeb, but I assume it is considered authoritative.

My take on the play is that it is close to the burlesque theatres that used to thrive in the bad side of town. Almost any town, before being driven out of business by late night movies. I would think that LYSISTRATA would be staged with lots of pauses for the sight gags, which are hinted at. I think there was a lot of ""phallic costumery"" (I'm sure there is better phrasing); priapus is a word that comes to mind. The plot seems more that neither male nor female is willing to give up sex. And not that wars will end because the females force the males to abstain.

On the matter of veils: I don't recall any mention of veils in any discussion of the Greeks. Assuming the technology of the day was capable of producing a comfortable veil. I""m sure the nomads of the day were able to protect their faces from dust, but a fashion statement or means of class distinction?; I'm not sure.

EDD
" 14 133 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/30/1999 9:47:34 PM 58 0 "Edd,
Good analogy to burlesque, and I'm sure you are right about the sight gags. I thought this play presented a pretty 'liberated' view of female sexuality, which kind of surprised me. I suppose every generation foolishly thinks they have ""invented"" the movements that characterize their times. It reminds me of an old Latin proverb that sticks with me from my high school Latin studies. Unfortunately, none of the Latin itself stuck, so I must quote it in English, as best I remember it: Nothing new is said which has not been said before.

What do you think? True or untrue?

Now for the veils, that did surprise me in the context of this play. I tend to think of veils as a method by which a repressive, male dominated society isolates its females from society in an attempt to prevent any possibility of them being acquired by other males. The females in this play seemed so strong and self-sufficient that it was hard to imagine them meekly submitting to the veil and the isolation from society which I have read was typical of the times. Maybe this play's humor originally rested on the incongruence of reality with the view of women this play presents.

Ann
" 14 25 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/31/1999 11:03:26 AM 60 0 "I was glad to find this discussion still going on! I finished this play a few weeks ago but was unable to get on-line to read the reaction of the rest of you because I was so busy with work-related stuff.

The prevalence of translation-related discussion here seems appropriate. In reading about the various approaches taken, I'm a bit surprised at how totally they affect the experience of it. I'm always concerned about getting good translation, but in the case of a play, a comedy and ancient Greek, the liberties taken seem enormous. I read the Parker translation and, though he seems a bit more faithful to the original than some, I found the Spartan bumpkin dialogue and some of the contemporary slang (""getting laid"") distracting. I'm not sure what the answer is. My first thought is that I would have preferred some of the original language with footnotes, but literal translation would probably be meaningless.

Comments about the relative value of the play made me remember some comments of Parker's in his introduction:

The play's technical excellences are unquestionable: tight formal unity, economy of movement, realism in characterizations, range of feeling. They are also rather un-Aristophanic excellences and the specialist who prefers earlier, comparatively messy pieces may perhaps be forgiven. Certainly one point must be conceded him: At spots in Lysistrata, particularly during debates, Aristophanes' linguistic exuberance deserts him. I do not mean eloquence, but wit, the constant subterranean interplay of sound and sense which elsewhere makes poetry of argumentation. Whether this comes from haste, or from despair, or from the lack of balance which accompanies an overpowering desire to convince--the same lack that to my mind, deforms the end of The Clouds--I cannot say. For whatever reason, it constitutes a blemish.

Interesting, I thought. This would relate to some of our discussion on Constant Reader regarding books that sacrifice literary content to message.

My general reaction to this play was mild interest, but nothing to compare to Antigone and certainly not to The Odyssey (though we enter a whole different realm there)> I would like to read another of Aristophanes' plays with everyone here at some point though, simply to make the comparison.

Barb

" 14 133 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/31/1999 11:19:12 AM 62 0 "Good to see you back, Barb! I hope this means your work load has lifted and that you have mostly finished with your student appraisals and recommendations.

I think our reaction to LYSISTRATA was similar (surprise!-G-). The play was interesting, but somewhat disappointing. In no way did it measure up to the other Greek classics we have read here, ANTIGONE and THE ODYSSEY. But then, as Edd and David have pointed out, we should probably not even put this light farce in the same category.

Ann
" 14 25 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/31/1999 12:01:35 PM 65 0 "Thanks for the welcome back, Ann! I feel like I'm going through such deprivation when I don't have time to read and post here{G}. Yes, I'm done with the bulk of the meetings preparing children for their placements next year. There are a few more trickling through until the end of the school year (6/21), but the worst is over. I'm going through my usual emotional upheaval trying to obtain the best for each child and confronting the fact that I can't fix everything. I've decided that this desire to ""fix"" is pretty common in special education teachers. The positive side is that it brings us to the profession in the first place; the negative part is the frustration. The solution, of course, is to help the children and parents learn to take on that responsibility, but that's a constant uphill battle for me with a variety of outcomes.

I think that the difference in Lysistrata does have to do with it being a comedy. Obviously, the other Greek works that we've discussed were meant to entertain as well, but in a different vein. Do you hear me trying to get off the personal here and back to the literary{G)?

Barb
" 14 76 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/31/1999 12:03:01 PM 67 0 "I still haven't read any more of Aristophanes, to see if it was just this play that didn't translate through languages and ages well or if it all of his comedies were similarly effected. BUT my favorite passage from Plato is the dinner scene where Aristophanes describes how people started out with two sets of limbs etc and then were split, so now everyone is always looking for their other half. THE BUTCHER'S WIFE (movie with Demi Moore) talked about this. Anyway form Plato's descriptions I can't help but think that A. must have been a lot of fun to be around.

Dawn
" 14 109 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/31/1999 1:56:59 PM 71 0 "I'm glad you're back, too, Barb.

Ann & Barb, I guess here is the place to admit (blush), that I didn't finish LYSISTRATA. Somehow I had the feeling early on, ""Okay, I get it. I get it, and just didn't have the interest to continue.

Ruth
Books are cheaper than wallpaper
" 14 25 MAY DISCUSSION: LYSISTRATA BY ARISTOPHANES 05/31/1999 5:06:52 PM 59 0 "Thank you for the dinner scene, Dawn. That's fun to imagine.

And, thanks for the welcome back, Ruth. When I reread my note concerning the dilemmas of special ed teachers, I found it to be somewhat unclear, but I'm basically just venting.

On the subject of being gone, has anyone heard from Dale or Kent? If I remember correctly, I had just tracked Kent down before I checked out myself. Now, as I caught up on the nearly 600 notes that had accumulated while I was ""out"", he seems to have disappeared again. And, Dale was here when I left.

Barb


 

 

 
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