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The play takes place during the Peloponnesian War, when Athens and Sparta were embroiled in a hard, sweaty, nasty conflict. Lysistrata, an Athenian woman who is sick of all this war nonsense, manages to convince a large group of women from several city-states (including Sparta) to come together for a meeting, wherein she proposes a dramatic tactic: they (the women) should swear a vow to bring about the end of the war by refusing to have sex with their men until there is peace. As a more practical measure they seize hold of the root of the war effort: the Acropolis, which contains Athens' treasury. The menfolk laugh at the absurdity of this idea: in Ancient Greece, All Women Are Lustful, and indeed Lysistrata and her friend Calonice must constantly prevent their co-conspirators from sneaking out to, shall we say, engage enemy forces. With the women's resolve shown to be firm and upstanding, the menfolk, their ability to make war now wilted and slumping, and tormented by enormous, err, burdens, agree to work out a peace treaty. Celebration ensues.
And if you think that the previous summary was full of hot and steamy innuendo, you should be aware that the play itself is a hell of a lot raunchier. We're not joking about the burdens: the costumes for male characters include a Gag Penis. Oh, and, the vow sworn by the women includes very explicit detail of what they are forswearing, such as agreeing not to "crouch like the lioness on the cheese grater" (No, we don't know what that means either. It's been lost to the mists of time. All we have from the historical record is a menu from a Greek brothel, on which this position is the most expensive act you can purchase from a prostitute. Imaginations, start your engines).
This is the Trope Namer for the Lysistrata Gambit, a more X-rated version of Exiled to the Couch. And, if it's performed by a cast with enough balls to do it justice, it is still side-splittingly funny today.
Because translations often reflect the spirit of their own era, some of them include rather bizarre euphemisms and dated-sounding dialogue.
Lysistrata by Aristophanes provides examples of:
- Accent Adaptation: often necessary when actually producing this play--and, indeed, many ancient Greek plays, as they frequently include accent-based humor. British English translations tend to use Scots accents for the Spartans; US translations have been known to use Texas accents.
- The Germaine Greer adaptation specifically states that each of the four Cleaning Women (characters added by Greer, essentially the Chorus/voice of the people) has a specific dialect with which they speak. The dialogue in the script is written in the respective dialects used at the time of original production, but Greer says that the dialects my be changed at the director's will and any colloquialisms may be changed to fit the accent.
- All Men Are Perverts
- All Women Are Lustful: Consider how much difficulty the women have committing to their Lysistrata Gambit, as opposed to modern-day uses of that trope where the woman often treats it like it's no effort for her at all.
- Dance Party Ending
- Dirty Old Man
- Dirty Old Woman
- Distracted by the Sexy: To really thrust the point home, Lysistrata invites a voluptuous woman named "Reconciliation" to the peace negotiations. Then maps the territories in dispute on her body.
- Double Entendre: How many? Why, all of them, of course!
- Freudian Slip: While mapping out the territories with Reconciliation and they talk about a Long Wall, someone says Long Legs.
- Gag Penis: The male actors are supposed to wear fake oversized phalluses just to drive home their, er, frustration.
- Greek Chorus: Composed primarily of the aforementioned Dirty Old People.
- In the Germaine Greer adaptation, the Cleaning Women and the Senators are essentially this.
- High School AU: The Broadway musical comedy Lysistrata Jones which places the action at "Athens High School" and the conflict surrounding a basketball team.
- Lysistrata Gambit: Trope Namer
- Meaningful Name: Lysistrata (Λυσιστράτη) means "army-disbander".
- Mood Whiplash: Take into consideration why this was considered a comedy in Aristophanes' time: Women weren't considered citizens, coming in after poor citizens and before slaves. Hellenic comedies were meant to display ideas that were ridiculous, and this play's was the idea of a a group of women could take over Greece's government. Women were also basically the property of men--first their fathers, then their husbands.
- Uber-feminist Germaine Greer's adaptation creates even more mood whiplash by contrasting the silly, child-like Society Women (the group to which Lysistrata belongs) with the poor, working-class Cleaning Women. In particular, the character of Katina has had her husband, father-in-law, and brother (all the men in her life that she relies on and who would normally support her) all taken off to fight in the war, and are probably dead (it's implied that the wealthy men who are serving don't see any fighting--only the working-class men). Then, her mother-in-law dies, leaving Katina by herself on the farm. Unable to run the farm on her own, Katina escapes with a group fleeing the fighting, and along the way, prematurely gives birth, and the baby dies. This is all before the play. During the play, she's nearly raped (with implications that she may have been raped before, prior to leaving the farm). Looking at things realistically, Katina's only option, having no men to support her, is probably to become a prostitute.
- Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?: Perhaps the Ur Example, as said by the Magistrate: "But look, you are hiding a lance under your clothes, surely."
- Raging Stiffie: All the guys end up with these.
- Sex Comedy
- Skinship Grope: Lysistrata uses this to, ahem, "size up" the attractions with which one of the Spartan women will be able to tempt her menfolk.
Lampito: La! you are feeling me as if I were a beast for sacrifice.
- Tomboy: Lampito, the Spartan woman, especially compared her Athenian counterparts. This Troper saw a version where she was played by a man. There were only 2 male actors, and she is played by the Spartan Actor, who is far more masculine.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: To the extreme.
- Volleying Insults