Lysistrata Study Guide

Lysistrata, a comedy by Athens' greatest comedic writer, Aristophanes, debuted in Athens in the year 411 BCE, around the time when the Peloponnesian War was just beginning. The play itself centers on the beginnings of this war and the efforts of a group of women to convince their husbands to come to a truce with the other nation and create peace.

The title character, Lysistrata, manages to convince the women of Athens to refuse to have sex with their husbands until the men agree to stop the war. The play is cited as one of the first plays to deal with the theme of female sexuality and marital subjugation within the household, and for this reason, many consider it a feminist text. Additionally, it marked a departure from some of the conventions of Old Comedy that defined Aristophanes' career; in particular, its structure was a break from tradition.

The play was well-received by the audience in Aristophanes’s time and it was translated into many languages over the years. Today, critics cite it as an important dramatic work that satirizes gender dynamics as a way of making a plea for pacifism, an anti-war comedy that also seeks to expose sexual and gender dynamics as they pertain to politics.