Lysistrata

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Commissioner of Public Safety Character Analysis

When the Chorus of Old Men fails to secure the Acropolis, the Commissioner of Public Safety comes on the scene to bring Lysistrata and her women to justice. The embodiment of patriarchal authority, law, and order in Athens, the Commissioner orders his squad of four police (or rather, Scythian archers, the Athenian equivalent of our police) to arrest the rebels, but Lysistrata, Kleonike, Myrrhine, and Ismenia fiercely drive them off with household goods. Although the Commissioner is bullheaded and loathes what he calls the “MORAL CHAOS” brought on by the women, he is also intent on understanding the women’s motives. Lysistrata tries to explain, but when the Commissioner becomes outraged by what he thinks is female presumptuousness, she and her cohorts shut him up by forcibly dressing him up like a woman. Later, the Commissioner takes even worse: when he urges a reinvigoration of the war effort, the women attack him until he staggers offstage. By the play’s end, however, even the Commissioner gets a little drunk and only plays at being an enforcer of the rules.

Commissioner of Public Safety Quotes in Lysistrata

The Lysistrata quotes below are all either spoken by Commissioner of Public Safety or refer to Commissioner of Public Safety. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
War and Peace Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the New American Library edition of Lysistrata published in 1984.
Lines 254 – 705 Quotes

Commissioner:
I DO NOT WANT TO BE SAVED, DAMMIT!

Lysistrata:
All the more reason.
It’s not only Sparta: now we’ll have to save you from
you.

Related Characters: Lysistrata (speaker), Commissioner of Public Safety (speaker)
Related Symbols: Athena and the Acropolis
Page Number: 522-523
Explanation and Analysis:

The Commissioner of Public Safety has entered, and blames the women not only for creating the current chaotic situation but also for creating an atmosphere in which war could flourish in the first place. The gates of the Acropolis have burst open, revealing Lysistrata and the other women; the Commissioner has tried to have them arrested, but is unsuccessful. Lysistrata demands that women be put in charge of the city's budget, and offers to save the men from themselves, to which the Commissioner cries out that he does not want to be saved. This humorous exchange plays on the unexpected power dynamic between the Commissioner and Lysistrata; while we might expect the Commissioner to be in firm, authoritative control, it is in fact Lysistrata who is commanding the conversation, and the Commissioner who is acting like a petulant child. 

Although Lysistrata's comment that she wants to "save you from you" is comic, it reflects a longstanding paradox within the cultural history of gender relations. As the play shows, women have historically been stereotyped as foolish, flighty, and incapable of making serious decisions. At the same time, they have also been characterized as more sensitive, caring, and nonviolent than men. Thus, although women generally have not been trusted with political responsibility, there is an extent to which they have been tasked with keeping men in check, and limiting the destruction that can result from violence and war. Although Lysistrata's words seem over-the-top, there is a historical precedent for her argument. 

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Commissioner of Public Safety Character Timeline in Lysistrata

The timeline below shows where the character Commissioner of Public Safety appears in Lysistrata. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 254 – 705
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Sexuality and the Battle of the Sexes Theme Icon
A Commissioner of Public Safety enters from the left, reluctantly followed by a squad of police made... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Sexuality and the Battle of the Sexes Theme Icon
Rebellion, Patriotism, and the Political Power of Comedy Theme Icon
The Male Koryphaios urges the Commissioner to bring charges against the Chorus of Old Women, but the Commissioner says that the... (full context)
War and Peace Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Sexuality and the Battle of the Sexes Theme Icon
Rebellion, Patriotism, and the Political Power of Comedy Theme Icon
...and is holding a large spindle, an instrument used to spin thread. She tells the Commissioner that he doesn’t need crowbars so much as brains. Outraged, the Commissioner sends a policeman... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Sexuality and the Battle of the Sexes Theme Icon
Rebellion, Patriotism, and the Political Power of Comedy Theme Icon
The Commissioner orders the policeman to regroup and charge as a unit, but a horde of women... (full context)
War and Peace Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Sexuality and the Battle of the Sexes Theme Icon
Rebellion, Patriotism, and the Political Power of Comedy Theme Icon
The Commissioner asks Lysistrata why the women are blockading the Treasury. Lysistrata responds that money is the... (full context)
War and Peace Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Sexuality and the Battle of the Sexes Theme Icon
Rebellion, Patriotism, and the Political Power of Comedy Theme Icon
Why do the women even care about War and Peace? asks the Commissioner. Lysistrata responds that the women have tolerated for long enough their husbands’ mismanagement of affairs... (full context)
War and Peace Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Sexuality and the Battle of the Sexes Theme Icon
The Commissioner is outraged by Lysistrata’s presumptuousness, but she shuts him up, winding her veil around his... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Sexuality and the Battle of the Sexes Theme Icon
Rebellion, Patriotism, and the Political Power of Comedy Theme Icon
While the Commissioner struggles to remove his new outfit, Lysistrata tells the Chorus of Old Women to dance... (full context)
War and Peace Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Sexuality and the Battle of the Sexes Theme Icon
Rebellion, Patriotism, and the Political Power of Comedy Theme Icon
The Commissioner asks how the women intend to achieve their goal. Lysistrata responds that the women first... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Sexuality and the Battle of the Sexes Theme Icon
Rebellion, Patriotism, and the Political Power of Comedy Theme Icon
Lysistrata retorts that if the Commissioner were logical at all, he’d adopt her plan. She extends her wool metaphor: as fleece... (full context)
War and Peace Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Sexuality and the Battle of the Sexes Theme Icon
Rebellion, Patriotism, and the Political Power of Comedy Theme Icon
All this, the Commissioner complains, coming from women who had nothing to do with the war! It’s Lysistrata’s turn... (full context)
War and Peace Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Sexuality and the Battle of the Sexes Theme Icon
Rebellion, Patriotism, and the Political Power of Comedy Theme Icon
The Commissioner seems genuinely persuaded by the women’s plight—but then only calls upon the Athenian men to... (full context)
Lines 980 – 1323
War and Peace Theme Icon
Sexuality and the Battle of the Sexes Theme Icon
...cloak in an attempt to conceal his erection. He has news concerning a truce. The Commissioner enters from the left. He suspects the Spartan is packing a concealed weapon beneath his... (full context)
War and Peace Theme Icon
Sexuality and the Battle of the Sexes Theme Icon
Rebellion, Patriotism, and the Political Power of Comedy Theme Icon
The Spartan herald and the Commissioner get down to business. The herald informs the Commissioner that Lampito has sown disorder in... (full context)
War and Peace Theme Icon
Sexuality and the Battle of the Sexes Theme Icon
Rebellion, Patriotism, and the Political Power of Comedy Theme Icon
The Choruses flock together, unified at last, to the door of the Acropolis. The Commissioner, wearing a wreath, carrying a torch, and slightly drunk, emerges from therein. He brandishes his... (full context)
War and Peace Theme Icon
...the feast as “splendiferous.” Wine smoothed things over between the Greek men very effectively. The Commissioner thinks about instituting a new rule: every ambassador should be a bit drunk when doing... (full context)