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Characters in Lysistrata

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Emily May

on 19 April 2014

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Transcript of Characters in Lysistrata

Lysistrata by Aristophanes
Who is the Magistrate?
Relationship with other characters
Is he typical of the other men?
Character description
The magistrate is a Commissioner who has come to Athens' Acropolis to acquire money to fund naval ships.
He is surrounded by
"two slaves carrying crowbars and four Scythian policemen equipped with bows..."
In stage directions the magistrates is described as
and having a
"severe appearance".
Dramatic Function
The Magistrate's appearance in Lysistrata is restricted to a single confrontation with the protagonist.
His verbal sparring with Lysistrata enables us to directly compare the female's intelligence and calm nature to the Magistrate's stupidity and anger:
"The war has nothing to do with money... the money here is needed for the war!"
This contradicting quote could reveal how arguably, the Magistrate represents the inefficiency of the war generals, the mismanagement of the war and the stupidity of war in general.
In contrast Lysistrata, stands for feminine, maternal, caring values. Here Aristophanes presents a new way of managing Athens, emphasized by contrasting modern methods to traditional, masculine techniques of battle and conflict.

Comedic Function
The character of the Magistrate provides Aristophanes with opportunity to slander Athenian leaders, and to create pure comedy with no hidden message.
The Magistrate has a turbulent encounter with Lysistrata, and insults her frequently
"You disgusting creature!"
It is arguable during their debate they undergo a role reversal in which Lysistrata calmly concerns herself with matters of state -
"We'll take charge of it"
- whilst the magistrate is unintelligent, passionate and irrational -
"My anger is getting the better of me!"
However, he does listen to Lysistrata and question her about the women's plans
"But the international situation... is in hopeless confusion. How do you propose to unravel it?"
The Men
The men approach the Magistrate to inform him of the women's actions "We have been brutally assaulted" showing that they trust him to impose order. However the Magistrate dismisses their plea by questioning rhetorically
"Can you be surprised?"
The men respect him greatly calling him
"our worthy magistrate".
They also influence his actions, commanding him

"Command them now to tell, Just why they're barricaded here..."
The Women
The magistrate is constantly insulting to women in general
"That's the sort of impudent behavior you get from women!" "Old croaker!"
The women stand up to him, despite his high position, for example "first old woman" threatens
"I'll hit you so hard you'll shit all over the place"
if he

"so much as lay[s] a finger on her."
In turn, the magistrate is appalled by her language and sets his men on them.
It is the women that eventually place their clothes on the magistrate and dress him up as a corpse. This symbolizes how it is the women who will make his role redundant and end the war.
He is typical...
He argues insultingly with women, as the chorus of men do outside of the Acropolis.
M: "What have you ever done for the war effort?"
The magistrates views women as sex objects, and obsessed by sex which mirrors Cinesias' desperate attempts to sleep with Myrrhine and confusion when she doesn't consent.

M: "the unbridled licentiousness of the female sex."
He is portrayed as irrational and over-reactive at times, much like the men who label a sprinkling of water a "bath".

M: ""My anger is getting the better of me!"
He isn't typical...
Although he argues with Lysistrata, he does question her ideas and gives her a chance to explain them, opposed to dismissing her as a woman, like other men do.
M: "How else can we keep the City safe?"
"What in Zeus' name do you mean by shutting and barring the gates of our own Acropolis?"
Character Analysis: The Magistrate
Who does he represent
"Pure Comedy"
"Heaven help me, I have no more archers!"

The Magistrate running out of his "henchmen" is arguably visual humour, that imitates running out of men in a battle situation.
"My bowmen have been utterly defeated"
The bowmen are defeated by women, which could be criticism of the quality of the Athenian army.
L: "You'd think they were Corybants" M:"That's what a brave man should do!"
By stating brave men should dance around like the worshipers of Cybele , the Magistrate's character again throws into question the effectiveness of the Athenian army.
[The Magistrate is decked out as a corpse... the WOMEN putting on him various adornments which they themselves were wearing.]
The visual humour of the Magistrate wearing women's clothing suggests the feminine qualities of men and war generals for example: irrationality. Furthermore, being dressed as a corpse implies the days of war generals are numbered, their roles should soon become redundant and the war should end.
"We pander to women's vices... 'shoemaker... could you go round lunch time perhaps and loosen it up, make the opening a little wider?"
This word play/ innuendo creates vulgar humour, which engages the audience through outrageous comedy and makes them pay more attention to the serious messages to come.
Contextually, the Magistrate represents the
generals in the
Pelopponesian War
, whose position was created to
"cope with the difficult situation of war... formed by aged and probably very respected men." (Riu 1999)
The Audience
An audience of Athenian may be able to relate to the magistrate as his views of women as inferior sex objects, and attempts to impose authority over females were the social norm of 411 BC Athens.
"Insufferable! I'm not standing for this!"
However, his character is not necessarily likeable, as Athenian men would be embarrassed by the magistrate (a respected general) being thwarted by women, and not holding his own in a debate with a housewife.

The Pelopponesian War
in relation to Lysistrata and "The Magistrate"
Fought between Sparta and Athens 431- 404 BC, the two most powerful empires in all of Greece.
Lysistrata was written in 411 - near to the end of the Pelopponesian War. It was during this time Athenian Alcibiades defected to consult the Spartan Army, however he later returned to his native country to assist them in the final stages of the war.
Alcibiades was an unreliable leader whom the Athens were reluctant to trust. This explains why Aristophanes presents "the Magistrate" as unreliable (the women won't allow him control of the money) - to coincide with the cultural context of fickle leaders.
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