Lysistrata by Aristophanes
Translated by Ian
Lysistrata, one of the most famous and most
popular plays of the great comic writer Aristophanes (456-386 BC), tells the
story of how the women from the Greek city states decide to take over the
public treasury in Athens and to stop having sex with their husbands until
the men agree to stop fighting a destructive civil war. Written in 411 BC,
when the Athenians and the Spartans had been at war for about twenty years,
the play is celebrated not only as an extremely funny and frank comedy but
also as a major landmark of feminist and pacifist literature.
The sexually explicit nature of the story and especially the
use of huge male phalluses make Lysistrata a very robust
comedy, so much so that in modern times it offended middle-class tastes for
many years. However, the play also explores a number of serious themes: the
connection between male sexuality and violence, the destructive effects of
war on women’s lives, and the corruption and absurdity of war, among others.
The importance of these themes in recent decades has encouraged all sorts of
productions and adaptations of this most eloquent and relevant of plays.
Ian Johnston’s new translation conveys the humour and the
seriousness of Aristophanes’ original text in a fluent and accurate modern
English. The text also provides footnotes to assist the reader with
references to people and events mentioned in the play.