Assemblywomen

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Aristophanes' Ecclesiazusae (Greek: Ἐκκλησιάζουσαι Ekklesiazousai; translated as Assemblywomen, Congresswomen, Women in Parliament, Women in Power, and A Parliament of Women) is a play dating from 391 BC[1] which is similar in theme to Lysistrata in that a large portion of the comedy comes from women involving themselves in politics. This play is much more infused with gender issues than Lysistrata is. This play also shows a change in the style of Ancient Greek comedy after the short period of oligarchy after the Peloponnesian War, or at least an attempt at it. It seems to be a merging of the two styles that works in the beginning, but falls apart by the end.

Plot[edit]

The play concerns a group of women, the leader of which is Praxagora. She has decided that the women must convince the men to give them control of Athens, because they could rule it better than they have been. The women, in the guise of men, sneak into the assembly and vote the measure, convincing some of the men to vote for it because it is the only thing they have not tried.

The women then institute a communist-like government in which the state feeds, houses, and generally takes care of every Athenian. They enforce an idea of equality by allowing every man to sleep with every woman, but that the man must sleep with an ugly woman before he may sleep with a beautiful one.

There is a scene in which two men are talking. One of them is going along with the new government, giving his property to the women, and obeying their orders. The other does not wish to give up his property, but he is more than willing to take advantage of the free food.

The following scene has a pair of young lovers unable to make their tryst as a succession of ever older and more hideous women attempting to and eventually succeeding in dragging the man off to make love to them first, as laid down by the new laws.

The final scene or epilogue has Praxagora's husband, Blepyrus, on his way to the communal feast, and inviting the audience to join him.

According to Hegel it belongs to its second form of comedy, based on the contradiction between the noble intention and the insignificant individual who tries to bring this intention to fruition.[2]

Background[edit]

This play portrays views of women common at the time.[3] Among other things, Aristophanes pokes fun of them as being lazy, drinking excessively and making their husband's lives into a living hell.

The enforced equality is also something of a political statement in addition to being a social one. After the oligarchy put in place after the war fell, Athenians asserted their democracy and equality very strongly, to the point that, while it was a clear exaggeration, the play surely made its position on excessive democracy clear.

The plot presents and makes fun of the communist ideals in the form of the abolition of private property, abolition of the family and purely material prosperity.[4]

Longest word[edit]

The play contains the longest word in Greek, transliterated as:

lopadotemachoselachogaleokranioleipsanodrimupotrimmatosilphioliparomelitoaktakexhumenokichlepikossuphophattoperis-teralektruonoptopiphallidokinklopeleioplagoosiraiobaphetragalopterugon,

or, in the Greek alphabet:

λοπαδοτεμαχοσελαχογαλεοκρανιολειψανοδριμυποτριμματοσιλφιοκαραβομελιτοκατακεχυμενοκιχλεπικοσσυφοφαττοπεριστεραλεκτρυονοπτοκεφα-λλιοκιγκλοπελειολαγῳοσιραιοβαφητραγανοπτερύγων. (1169–74)

Liddell and Scott translate this as "name of a dish compounded of all kinds of dainties, fish, flesh, fowl, and sauces."[5] The Greek word contains 171 letters, which far surpasses that of Shakespeare's 27-letter long word, "honorificabilitudinitatibus" in his Love's Labour's Lost V.I.

References[edit]

  1. ^ For discussion on the staging date of this play, see: Sommerstein (2007), 1–7
  2. ^ http://www.cairn.info/revue-internationale-de-philosophie-2002-3-page-411.htm
  3. ^ a b Sommerstein (2007), 149n119–120, 158n215–228, 159n224, 159n225, 160n236, 160n238.
  4. ^ http://robertlstephens.com/essays/shafarevich/001SocialistPhenomenon.html
  5. ^ Liddell and Scott: lopado...pterygon

Bibliography[edit]

  • Aristophanes Aristophanes. ed. B. B. Rogers (London, 1902). Translation in verse.
  • Aristophanes. Ecclesiazusae. ed. trans. R. Smith (Oxford, 1833). Translation in verse.
  • Aristophanes. Ecclesiazusae. trans. G. Theodoridis (2002). Translation in prose.
  • Aristophanes. Ecclesiazusae. ed. R. G. Ussher (Oxford, 1973).
  • Aristophanes. Le Donne al Parlamento ed. M. Vetta (Milan, 1989).
  • Henderson, Jeffrey (1996). Three Plays by Aristophanes: Staging Women. Scholarly translation free from censorship which mars earlier translations.
  • Sommerstein, A. H. (2007). Aristophanes' Ecclesiazusae (Oxford, 2007). Critical edition containing Greek, translation in prose, commentary and introduction.