The Ecclesiazusae


Even though the idea of a female-led government was a fantasy at the time, it was not unfamiliar to the people of Athens. The comic tradition of women in politics was in fact common, as seen through Aristophanes' plays Lysistrata and Thesmophoriazusae. The idea of women surpassing their Athenian social order is also seen in Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone.[4]

Reading the play as a genuine exploration of communism and female power is incorrect. If follows Aristophanes’ conflict structure of the republic in trouble, a solution suggested and that solution ultimately failing. Aristophanes’ plays mostly derive their narratives on absurd political and social innovations derived from the evolution of the state towards empowering effeminate men while displacing traditionally strong and masculine leadership. The ascent of women in political power in Assemblywomen is yet another commentary on what Aristophanes saw as the shameful femininity of the men currently in power in Athens. The fact that women in this instance could enter the assembly and successfully pass as men was a commentary on politicians being undistinguishable from women in costume, and adds to the absurdity that real women are the only solution for saving an effeminate government from itself.[6]

Assemblywomen does not fall neatly within the confines old or new comedy and is generally considered "middle comedy." While the play follows the plot structure of earlier works by Aristophanes, the formal structure shows new developments, specifically in the function of the chorus. Through prominent in the first and last scenes of the play, the chorus’ lack of involvement throughout the central scenes is more similar to the style of Greek Tragedies. The play lacks a parabasis and has an undeveloped agon, the choral songs between episodes are not included in the script and the lacuna is often indicated by the note choru ("place for a chorus") which is more characteristic of Menander and New Comedy.[3]

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