Lysistrata

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The Chorus of Old Women Character Analysis

In Greek drama, a chorus is a homogenous, synchronized group of actors that typically comments on the action of the play and models the ideal audience response in speech, song, and dance; their leader and spokesperson is called a “Koryphaios.” It was usually traditional to only have one Chorus in a play, but in Lysistrata there are two, and both Choruses directly participate in the action of the play. The fierce, no-nonsense Chorus of Old Women seizes the Acropolis—site of the Athenian war treasury—as part of Lysistrata’s plan to end the Peloponnesian War. Using pitchers of water, the Chorus then repels the Chorus of Old Men as the latter attempts to burn and smoke the women out.

The Chorus of Old Women Quotes in Lysistrata

The Lysistrata quotes below are all either spoken by The Chorus of Old Women or refer to The Chorus of Old Women . 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

Preserve me, Athene, from gazing on any
maiden or maid auto-da fé’d.
Cover with grace these redeemers of Greece
from battles, insanity, Man’s inhumanity.
Gold-browed goddess, hither to aid us!
Fight as our ally, join in our sally
against pyromaniac slaughter—
Haul Water!

Related Characters: The Chorus of Old Women (speaker), The Chorus of Old Men
Related Symbols: Athena and the Acropolis
Page Number: 335-349
Explanation and Analysis:

The Chorus of Old Men have been slowly and shakily making their way to the Acropolis, revealing their bumbling incompetence while at the same time praying to Athena to grant them victory over the women. The Chorus of Old Men have resolved to burn down the gates of the Acropolis, but at the same time, the Chorus of Old Women are preparing buckets of water to put the fires out. They, too, pray to Athena to grant them victory over "battles, insanity, Man's inhumanity." The contrast between the two Choruses reveal the men to be brutish and self-interested, hoping to use force to gain back "supremacy" over the women. The women, meanwhile, are cunning, pre-empting the men's attack with fire by preparing buckets of water.

Furthermore, the women are also shown to be motivated beyond self-interest. Rather than wanting to secure "matriarchy" for its own sake, the women seek an end to the destruction caused by war and "slaughter." In this sense, the women are shown to be wiser, more caring, and even more patriotic leaders than the men. 

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A tally of [these girls’] talents
convinces me they’re giants
of excellence. To commence:
there’s Beauty, Duty, Prudence, Science,
Self-Reliance, Compliance, Defiance,
and Love of Athens in balanced alliance
with Common Sense!

Related Characters: The Chorus of Old Women (speaker)
Page Number: 541-548
Explanation and Analysis:

The Commissioner has expressed skepticism over the fact that the women are even interested in war; Lysistrata responds by explaining that the women are tired of men's incompetence. She and the other women then dress the Commissioner up as a woman, and the Chorus of Old Women joyfully announce their virtues: "Beauty, Duty, Prudence, Science, Self-Reliance, Compliance, Defiance and Love of Athens." The fact that the virtues rhyme adds a sense of silliness to the situation, but at the same time, there does seem to be truth in the chorus's words, as throughout the play, the women have demonstrated many of these virtues. On the other hand, several of the virtues are contradictory––such as compliance and defiance––which could be taken to suggest that the women's boasts are largely meaningless. 

Lines 706 – 979 Quotes

Melanion is our ideal:
his loathing makes us free.
Our dearest aim is the gemlike flame
of his misogyny.

Related Characters: The Chorus of Old Men (speaker), The Chorus of Old Women
Related Symbols: Athena and the Acropolis
Page Number: 790-792
Explanation and Analysis:

The women have confessed that they are pining for the men and wish to leave the Acropolis; Lysistrata, however, has urged them not to give in by telling them an analogy about Zeus. The women reluctantly agree. Meanwhile, the two choruses have assembled, and the Chorus of Old Men sings about a man called Melanion, who abstained from women permanently. The chorus claims that this is their "ideal," and that they look up to "the gemlike flame of his misogyny." This is a highly silly moment, in which the Chorus of Old Men seem desperate to find a way of dealing with the fact that the women have abandoned them, and thus unconvincingly pretend that they have no interest in women in the first place. 

On the other hand, the Chorus of Old Men is also pointing to a more serious phenomenon. Throughout history, women have been portrayed as sly seducers who distract men from more important matters such as war, politics, or religion. The ability to resist the temptation of women is thus often framed as a noble masculine virtue, the sign of dignity, discipline, and self-restraint. Although it is unusual to portray this in terms of "loathing" for women, there is nonetheless a long tradition of men believing that such resistance to women will indeed set them free. 

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The Chorus of Old Women Character Timeline in Lysistrata

The timeline below shows where the character The Chorus of Old Women appears in Lysistrata. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1 – 253
War and Peace Theme Icon
Rebellion, Patriotism, and the Political Power of Comedy Theme Icon
...part of her plot: to prevent the Athenian men from continuing the war effort, the Chorus of Old Women will seize the Acropolis, where the war treasury is located, on Lysistrata’s command. (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
Lampito then hears a “ruckus” in the distance—the Chorus of Old Women have taken the Acropolis, citadel of the wise goddess Athena! Lysistrata tells Lampito to return... (full context)
Lines 254 – 705
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
While the Chorus of Old Men prepares the torches, the Chorus of Old Women , led by their Female Koryphaios, suddenly enters, wearing long cloaks and bearing pitchers of... (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
...one another. The Chorus of Old Men is surprised by the “flood of reserves” the Chorus of Old Women has managed to muster. The Male Koryphaios asks for volunteers to pulverize the women—“just a... (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 Chorus of Old Men and the Chorus of Old Women fire more threats and insults back and forth. The men threaten to barbecue the women;... (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 women are, counter-intuitively, in the right. Why? Because... (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 and sing. They celebrate their willpower and the excellence of women, from Beauty... (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 members of the Chorus of Old Women then strip down to their short tunics, and they sing of their high pedigree as... (full context)
Lines 980 – 1323
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 audience in song. The Chorus of Old Men wish the Athenians wealth, and the Chorus of Old Women wish them good eating. (full context)
War and Peace Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion, Patriotism, and the Political Power of Comedy Theme Icon
...with that she and Peace enter the Acropolis. The delegations exit at a run. The Chorus of Old Women sing about jewelry on offer—the joke is they don’t really have anything to sell. The... (full context)