‘Lysistrata’ written in 411BC is the third and last of Aristophanes’ ‘peace plays’ that we possess today. Unlike the other two, ‘The Acharnians’ and ‘Peace’, ‘Lysistrata’ is a dream about peace. The title character (or hero) of the play, whose name means ‘she who disbands armies’- Lysistrata presents her plan to end the war. Her method is straightforward until there is peace, there will be no more sex.
The united women will dress in their most alluring clothes and yet refuse all amatory advances. Furthermore, the older women will seize the Acropolis and Athena’s temple, which holds the funds for Athens’s war effort. However, Lysistrata has to use all her cunning to get the women to agree to such a plan. Throughout the beginning of the play, we see Lysistrata display many leader like qualities such as organization, manipulation and persuasion, passion for her aims, boldness and an ability to incite passion in others.
Firstly the play opens with an exchange between Lysistrata and Calonice. We learn from their exchange that Lysistrata has organized a meeting to discuss her plans for peace. Lysistrata here shows great leadership in the form of organization and outward thinking. She has not only organized a meeting but shows outward thinking by inviting not just Athenian women to such a meeting, but delegates of women from all Greek states- “The whole future of the country [where the text implies that Greece is all one country] rests with us.”
Furthermore, Lysistrata shows great organization and intelligence in the layout of her plan. She knows that it may not be enough to go on a sex strike merely and that for peace to be obtained, all Athens war funding contained in the Acropolis must be seized. Therefore she has already organized it that older women, therefore showing great leadership qualities like planning and organization, will seize the Acropolis.
Secondly, Lysistrata further shows leadership qualities in her high standards, her outward thinking and the passion she puts into her argument that the other women in the play do not contain to the same extent. Her anger and disappointment are shown when the women fail to turn up at first for the meeting- “I’m furious. I’m really disappointed in all womankind’- clearly shows her passion for peace to be obtained. Her passion for peace is further shown in her cutting comments towards those who do not take it seriously, for example, when the women refuse to denounce sex- “I didn’t realise that we women were such a total lot of nymphos.” It is these cutting words combined with her manipulation of the other women that slowly wins around those that disagree- MYRRHINE: “Well, if you really think it’s a good idea-the we agree.”
Thirdly, as mentioned before, Lysistrata, to a great extent, uses manipulation and persuasion to win around the women to her view, showing great leadership qualities. She tells the women her aims-“would you be prepared to join me in putting a stop to the war?”- and allows them to make their promises-“even if I had to cut myself in two, like a flatfish and give half of myself for the cause”- she does not tell them however her method until after they have promised to do it. She shows great leadership qualities in inciting the women with passion and manipulating them to achieve her aims. Furthermore, even when the women begin to reject her plan, she, in simple terms, ‘divides and conquers’, i.e. she persuades Lampito to agree to her plan and then, using Lampito, slowly wins over the others.
Lastly, Lysistrata does appear to be different from the other women, for example, she doesn’t appear to share the same passion for sex as the other women do. Indeed she appears to be on a different wavelength to the women altogether. However, can one claim that this shows good or bad leadership? In my personal opinion, no, would Lysistrata have come up with such an outrageous plan if she had been passionate about sex. Would she have had the same boldness to attempt to uniting all women to end the war?
However, it is unfair to say that Lysistrata is completely different from all the other women there, she does show many womanly and humane qualities, for example, her awe over Lampito’s physic and colour, whilst I have before mention her many cutting comments it is here we see her complimenting her fellow women. It could be thus argued that Lysistrata has increased her good leadership qualities by being both somewhat separate in her passions to the other women and being identifiable in the friendly manner in which she introduces herself to the other women, especially Lampito.
In conclusion, Aristophanes has shown Lysistrata’s good leadership qualities such as organization, manipulation and persuasion, her own passionate way of speaking and her ability to incite passion in others in a well-rounded manner that makes her both identifiable to the other women and stands out as an independent, outwardly thinking leader.
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