by the Greek playwright Aristophanes
. It is Older Than Feudalism
, having first been performed in 411 BC, and (as such) is one of the oldest scripts still in use today.
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: