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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the New American Library edition of Lysistrata published in 1984.
Lines 1 – 253 Quotes

Announce a debauch in honor of Bacchos,

a spree for Pan, some footling fertility fieldday,

and traffic stops—the streets are absolutely clogged

with frantic female banging on tambourines. No urging

for an orgy!
But today—there’s not one woman here.

Related Characters: Lysistrata (speaker)
Page Number: 1-4
Explanation and Analysis:

Lysistrata has entered the stage alone and is pacing anxiously. She laments the fact that the women she has called on are not yet there, claiming that if she had suggested hosting a party or an orgy then everyone would have arrived without hesitation. This humorous opening to the play establishes a world dominated by hedonism, in which women enjoy debauchery but are reluctant to participate in serious matters. In many ways, this presents a rather sexist view of women (one that would have been standard in Greek culture at the time), suggesting that they are frivolous, lustful, and flighty. It also hints at the fact that the course of action Lysistrata is proposing––a coordinated sex strike––is not going to be easy for the women. This creates comic suspense in advance of the arrival of the other female characters. 


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I’m positively ashamed to be a woman—a member

of a sex which can’t even live up to male slanders!

To hear our husbands talk, we’re sly: deceitful,

always plotting, monsters of intrigue…

Related Characters: Lysistrata (speaker)
Page Number: 11-12
Explanation and Analysis:

Lysistrata has been waiting impatiently for other women to join her to discuss the sex strike. Eventually, her neighbor Kleonike appears, and urges her to calm down. Lysistrata replies that she's "ashamed to be a woman," because women can't even live up to all the negative stereotypes that men use to describe them. From the examples Lysistrata gives, it is clear that she is fully implicating herself in this critique. As she points out, men accuse women of being "sly, deceitful, always plotting"––even as she herself is secretly plotting a sex strike designed to undermine the men. This suggests that negative stereotypes about women can sometimes be accurate. 

On the other hand, Lysistrata's reference to these negative stereotypes is humorously ironic. She implies that it would be better if all women lived up to these "slanders," rather than just being frivolous and lazy. This in turn suggests that men do misrepresent women––but do so by overestimating their capabilities! Note that, although Lysistrata is complaining about women's flightiness at this point, she plans to strategically utilize people's low expectations of women's political commitment in order to achieve her aim of ending the war. 

Us? Be practical. Wisdom for women? There’s nothing

cosmic about cosmetics—and Glamor is our only talent.

All we can do is sit, primped and painted,

made up and dressed up.

Related Characters: Kleonike (speaker), Lysistrata
Page Number: 41-43
Explanation and Analysis:

While they wait for the other women, Kleonike has asked Lysistrata to describe her plan. Lysistrata has explained that she wants to unite all Greek women into bringing about the end of the Peloponnesian War, thereby saving Greece from itself. Kleonike responds cynically; she clearly thinks Lysistrata's plan is ridiculous. In this passage, Kleonike explains that women will never be able to act wisely (or even effectively), because "glamor is our only talent." Clearly, Lysistrata and Kleonike have very different attitudes to gender roles (and the possibility of subverting them).

While Lysistrata laments the stereotypes women are held against and believes it is possible for women to transcend them, Kleonike seems happy to accept the idea that all women can do is be "made up and dressed up." Note that the examples she gives are in the passive tense, implying that even this "primping" is something that is done to women, rather than something they choose to do themselves. Obviously, this does not bode well for political action. At the same time, Lysistrata plans to use these stereotypes to her advantage; by withholding sex, the women will not have to actively do anything, but rather look enticing while denying their husbands intimacy. 

We can force our husbands to negotiate Peace,

Ladies, by exercising steadfast Self-Control—

By Total Abstinence…
By Total Abstinence…
from SEX!

Related Characters: Lysistrata (speaker)
Page Number: 119-125
Explanation and Analysis:

The other women have at last arrived, and are eager to know why Lysistrata has summoned them together. Lysistrata has announced that she hopes that, together, they will put an end to the war, and the women enthusiastically say they will give up anything to do this. In this passage, Lysistrata announces that she plans to force their husbands "to negotiate Peace" by collectively abstaining from sex. The way she repeats "by total abstinence" builds dramatic and comic suspense for what she will reveal. When Lysistrata announces "from SEX!" this is humorous both in its frivolity and––eventually––in how extremely negatively the women react to it. Indeed, Lysistrata's words play with the audience's expectations that sex is not a "serious" issue like war; however, the play suggests that it is in fact arguably more powerful. 

I’m willing to walk through fire barefoot.
But not

to give up SEX—there’s nothing like it, Lysistrata!

Related Characters: Kleonike (speaker), Lysistrata
Page Number: 134-136
Explanation and Analysis:

The women have pleaded to know why Lysistrata has brought them together, and Lysistrata has told them that she plans for them to collectively bring about peace. Although the women initially pledge to do anything for this cause––including die––when Lysistrata eventually reveals that she is asking them to give up sex, the women are appalled. In this comic passage, Kleonike emphasizes that she would "walk through fire barefoot" rather than give up sex. Once again, the women are shown to be shallow, frivolous, and weak-willed. Kleonike's insistence that "there's nothing like it" suggests that she is unable to look beyond her immediate pleasure in order to serve the greater good of ending the war. The women's reaction also coheres with the play's crude humor, in which sex takes on an outsized significance, while also being presented as something universal and essentially human (i.e., not particularly "sacred" or idealized). 

Lines 254 – 705 Quotes

What a catastrophe—
They’ve brought Athene’s statue to heel,
they’ve put the Akropolis under a seal,
they’ve copped the whole damned commonweal…
What is there left for them to steal?

Related Characters: The Chorus of Old Men (speaker)
Related Symbols: Athena and the Acropolis
Page Number: 258-265
Explanation and Analysis:

The women have agreed to Lysistrata's plan of abstaining from sex; at the same time, the Chorus of Old Women has seized the Acropolis, thereby putting the other half of Lysistrata's plan into action. Meanwhile, the Chorus of Old Men has entered, complaining about their wives and how the group of women has managed to take over the Acropolis. The Chorus calls matriarchy "a catastrophe," which is ironic, considering Lysistrata's whole plan was designed to avoid the catastrophe caused by the rule of men. The words "they've put the Acropolis under a seal" highlight the connection between the Old Women sealing off the Acropolis and the younger women sealing off their bodies from their husbands. At this stage, however, the Old Men remain ignorant about the plan for abstinence, which builds comic suspense. 

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. 

Koryphaios of Women:
I’ll crop your lungs and reap your bowels, bite by bite,
and leave no balls on the body for other bitches to

Koryphaios of Men:
[Retreating hurriedly.]
Can’t beat Euripides for insight. And I quote:
No creature’s found
so lost to shame as Woman.

Talk about realist playwrights!

Related Characters: The Female Koryphaios (speaker), The Male Koryphaios (speaker)
Related Symbols: Athena and the Acropolis
Page Number: 368-370
Explanation and Analysis:

The Chorus of Old Men have marched toward the Acropolis, carrying torches with which they plan to burn down the gates. The Chorus of Old Women, meanwhile, have noticed the torches and prepared water to dump on the men. When the two choruses finally confront each other, they exchange threats. In this passage, the Chorus of Old Women threaten to bite the men, leaving "no balls on the body for other bitches to gnaw." The Chorus of Old Men, alarmed, call for an immediate retreat, quoting Euripides' statement that "No creature's found / so lost to shame as Woman." This meta-theatrical reference is humorous, and draws attention to Aristophanes' presentation of gender and how it fits into the wider tradition of Greek drama. 

Indeed, although the Chorus of Men point out that, like other Greek playwrights, Aristophanes shows women to be "lost to shame," note the unconventional way in which women are here shown to be more fearless, aggressive, and resolute than the men. This passage suggests that women have a unique understanding of men's vulnerabilities, which the Chorus of Old Women is not afraid to exploit. Indeed, the women's violent threats indicate that at this point the Peloponnesian War has been overshadowed by another war: the battle of the sexes.    


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

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. 

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. 

It’s rather like yarn. When a hank’s in a tangle,
we lift it—so—and work out the snarls by winding it up
on spindles, now this way, now that way.
That’s how we’ll wind up the War.

Related Characters: Lysistrata (speaker)
Page Number: 584-591
Explanation and Analysis:

The women have dressed the Commissioner up as a woman, and explained to him their plan of action. They intend to withdraw the army currently occupying Athens, telling stories to illustrate why the military does not belong in the city center. In this passage, Lysistrata explains that Greece is "rather like yarn" that has become tangled, and that the women plan to "work out the snarls." This is a significant moment in the play, in which Lysistrata applies "feminine" logic to the traditionally masculine domains of politics, war, and the city-state. To some extent, her words imply that she is naïve, as her analogy suggests that she has a rather simplistic understanding of war. On the other hand, the women's success thus far indicates that they are perhaps not as naïve as they first appear, and suggests that the men could use a healthy dose of "feminine" logic to cure them of their current madness of war and greed. 

I admit to being a woman—
but don’t sell my contribution short on that account.
It’s better than the present panic. And my word is as
good as my bond, because I hold stock in Athens—
stock I paid for in sons.

Related Characters: The Female Koryphaios (speaker)
Page Number: 648-650
Explanation and Analysis:

The women have argued with the Commissioner about the war, before wrapping him in thread and emptying their chamber pots on him; he eventually retreats. Meanwhile, the Male Koryphaios has encouraged the men to confront the women, and hits the Female Koryphaios in the jaw. In response, the Female Koryphaios announces defiantly that she admits to "being a woman," and claims that she holds stock in Athens, "stock I paid for in sons." This is an important and surprisingly moving moment in the play. With neither money of their own nor political power, women were not thought to be invested––both literally and metaphorically––in the happenings of the city-state. However, as the Female Koryphaios shows, women were in fact fundamentally implicated in the matters of politics and war on a very deep level. 

Note that even while making this rather feminist statement, however, the Female Koryphaios still frames her point in terms of women's relationship to men. The experience of the women themselves counts less than the fact that their sons died (or risked death) in battle. This logic therefore still upholds men as more important than women. 

Lines 706 – 979 Quotes

I’ve lost my grip on the girls—they’re mad for men!
But sly—they slip out in droves.

Related Characters: Lysistrata (speaker)
Related Symbols: Athena and the Acropolis
Page Number: 714-715
Explanation and Analysis:

The women are losing their resolve, and have been inventing suspicious excuses to leave the Acropolis. Lysistrata announces with exasperation that the women are "mad for men" and are sneakily escaping "in droves." After the women's early triumph, their vulnerability is revealed: they, like the men they are "fighting," are not able to resist the temptation of sex. This is a surprising twist, given the pride of the women and the negative treatment they have received from the men. Indeed, it is somewhat paradoxical that the women should be driven "mad" by desire for the men who have been trying so desperately to thwart, undermine, and even physically attack them. On the other hand, throughout the play sexual desire is presented as a comically all-powerful force that is almost impossible to resist. 

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. 

Your duty is clear.
Pop him on the griddle, twist
the spit, braize him, baste him, stew him in his own
juice, do him to a turn. Sear him with kisses,
coyness, caresses, everything
but stop where Our Oath

Related Characters: Lysistrata (speaker), Myrrhine, Kinesias
Page Number: 841-845
Explanation and Analysis:

The Chorus of Old Men have been taunting the Chorus of Old Women; one man attempts to kiss a woman, and when this fails he kicks her, only to reveal his pubic hair. Lysistrata, meanwhile, has seen Myrrhine's husband, Kinesias, approaching. He looks mad with desire, and in this passage Lysistrata instructs Myrrhine to excite and tease Kinesias, but to "stop where Our Oath begins"––meaning to stop just at the point before they have sex. Lysistrata's words evoke a grotesque, almost sadistic punishment. She reduces Kinesias to a piece of meat, urging Myrrhine to "baste him, stew him in his own juice." Indeed, her words seem to contradict the stereotype that women are less violent (or objectifying of the opposite sex) than men.

—Life is a husk. She left our home, and happiness
went with her. Now pain is the tenant. Oh, to enter
that wifeless house, to sense that awful emptiness,
to eat that tasteless, joyless food—it makes
it hard, I tell you.

Related Characters: Kinesias (speaker), Myrrhine
Related Symbols: Athena and the Acropolis
Page Number: 865-869
Explanation and Analysis:
Myrrhine's husband, Kinesias, has approached the Acropolis. Lysistrata has asked who he is, before flattering him by telling him that he is famous among the women of Athens, who circulate rumors about his penis. Lysistrata allows him to speak to Myrrhine, and in this passage Kinesias laments how terrible their household is without his wife around. On one level, Kinesias' speech might provoke sympathy––he seems to miss his wife terribly, and even brings along their young son to stress how pitiable they are without Myrrhine around. On the other hand, the audience knows that Kinesias is in a kind of sexual frenzy, and thus it is difficult to take him at his word. His love for Myrrhine seems rather instrumental––he loves her mostly for the services she provides to him. 
Lines 980 – 1323 Quotes

The most unnerving work of nature,
the pride of applied immorality,
is the common female human.
No fire can match, no beast can best her.
O Unsurmountability,
thy name—worse luck—is Woman.

Related Characters: The Male Koryphaios (speaker)
Page Number: 1014-1015
Explanation and Analysis:

The Spartan Herald has revealed that the men of the Peloponnesian League have been driven mad with lust. Hearing this, the Commissioner has then ordered the Spartan Herald to call for a truce between Spartans and Athenians. Meanwhile, the Male Koryphaios describes women as "the most unnerving work of nature." Yet even while the Koryphaios spitefully curses women, he can't help doing so in terms of their strength and stubbornness: "No fire can match, no beast can best her. O Unsurmountability." This shows that although the women have aroused enormous anger and resentment from the men, they have simultaneously established themselves as fierce, influential actors whom the men should be careful not to underestimate. Indeed, the fact that women are asserting agency at all is enough to provoke rage from the men.

I can’t dispute the truth or logic of the pithy old proverb:
Life with women is hell.
Life without women is hell, too.

And so we conclude a truce with you, on the following terms:
in future, a mutual moratorium on mischief in all its forms.

Related Characters: The Male Koryphaios (speaker), The Female Koryphaios
Page Number: 1038-1041
Explanation and Analysis:

The Female Koryphaios has attempted to befriend the Male Koryphaios, who initially rejects her. However, after the Female Koryphaios continues to show kindness, the Male relents, and eventually the two choruses agree to a truce. The terms of this truce are typically cynical and humorous; the Male Koryphaios declares, "Life with women is hell. Life without women is hell, too." His words emphasize the fact that the women have achieved a kind of absolute control over the men. They also illustrate the complicated nature of sexual desire, highlighting the way in which it is possible to be mad with lust for someone you despise. The fact that the Male Koryphaios quotes a "pithy old proverb" (and the fact that we are still reading this play thousands of years later) also suggests that the battle of the sexes is as ancient as humanity itself. 

Now, dear, first get those Spartans and bring them to me…
Be a lady, be proper, do just what you’d do at home:
if hands are refused, conduct them by the handle…
And now a hand to the Athenians—it doesn’t matter
where; accept any offer—and bring them over.

Related Characters: Lysistrata (speaker), Peace
Page Number: 1116-1124
Explanation and Analysis:

A group of Spartans have entered, all of whom have painful, exaggerated erections and are desperate to strike a peace deal. Everyone present has agreed that this is the best course of action, but that Lysistrata must be present when it happens. Lysistrata arrives, accompanied by Peace, who is symbolized as a beautiful, naked young woman. In this passage, Lysistrata instructs Peace to "be a lady, be proper" and help the peace treaty be signed. Lysistrata's behavior in this moment shows how much power and authority she has gained as a result of her actions. Meanwhile, her words emphasize the way in which Peace is feminized, represented as both a "proper lady" and a sexual object (who can conduct the men by the "handle" if they won't offer her a hand). Indeed, the instructions Lysistrata gives humorously resonate with the responsibilities of women within the domestic sphere. 

Each man stand by his wife, each wife
by her husband. Dance to the gods’ glory, and thank
them for the happy ending. And, from now on, please be
careful. Let’s not make the same mistakes again.

Related Characters: Lysistrata (speaker)
Page Number: 1274-1178
Explanation and Analysis:

The peace treaty has been signed; the war is over, the two choruses have fused into one, and all the characters have held a feast to celebrate. The Spartans dance and sing, honoring Spartan heroes as well as the hunting goddess, Artemis. After this is done, Lysistrata returns both the Athenian and Spartan wives to their respective husbands, encouraging them to dance and be happy, as well as to be careful to "not make the same mistakes again." Although Lysistrata herself is shown to have had a singular, positive effect on the state of Greece, overall it does not seem likely that her plea will be fulfilled (and indeed, in real life the Athenian leaders didn't heed Aristophanes' advice, and the war continued on to Athens' ultimate ruin). 

There are several moments that hint at the idea that the battle of the sexes is ancient, cyclical, and will never be resolved. Furthermore, even though some characters reveal themselves to be wiser or kinder than we may have initially assumed, overall the play presents a farcical view of human nature––the men are largely aggressive and lustful, while the women are shallow, fickle, and sly. Although the end of Lysistrata takes the form of an unambiguously happy resolution, the rest of the play indicates that the "truce" between the sexes (or the city-states) may not last very long.

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