this is a narrative account please follow the instruction
In brief, this project deals with the political and social issues embedded in Athenian drama and how playwrights raised those issues in ways that furthered their efforts to win the drama competition at the festival of Dionysos. The successful playwright challenged his audience to reconsider deeply-held beliefs, provoked his fellow citizens’ anxieties and doubts, but still managed to keep his play ‘safe’ enough that it didn’t anger or terrify Athenians so much that they turned against him. In order to capture this dynamic tension, you’ll compose an audience member’s reaction to Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata (411 BCE). 4-5 pages. Your assignment is to read Lysistrata in light of the historical sources we’ve covered (listed and linked below) and what we’ve discussed in class about democracy, war, gender roles and so forth. Start by constructing an identity for your theater-going spectator — gender, marital status, social class, veteran status, and so on. What specific issues raised in the play most concern your Athenian, keeping in mind that everyone experienced his/her own set of fears in the tumultuous year of 411 BCE? Aristophanes makes more than one point, and in so doing was attempting to reach as broad an audience as possible and hence better his chances of winning the drama competition. In particular, what attitudes does the playwright adopt that were impermissible in a political forum? Remember that there wasn’t room for anti-war sentiment in the assembly, for example, so how does Aristophanes bring it up in his satirical comedy? (Same goes for admitting that women weren’t weak and submissive all the time, that men weren’t infallibly logical, and so on.) Why do you think Athenians were willing to watch and enjoy such apparent heresy in the theater but not in the assembly? Crucially, how was a comedy like this so popular even though its message seems directly to contradict Athenian orthodoxy? Don’t guess at what Lysistrata meant or discuss them in terms of vague human universals — make explicit reference to the political debates and historical events that you reviewed and that we discussed in class — Pericles’ funeral oration (AW:R 8.6), the account of the plague (AW:R 8.7), the Mytilenean debate, the Melian dialogue (AW:R 8.9), and the debate about the Sicilian expedition. Refer also to the general comments on gender and slavery in AW:R 7.1, 7.3, 7.4, 7.5, and 7.7. (If you want more guidance, refer to these study questions.) It’s very important to remember that we have the few Athenian tragedies and comedies preserved only because they were popular! Dramas were staged in a competitive festival, where audiences voted for their favorites for a given year. Extant plays were only the ones that the Athenians voted for 1st or 2nd place, so it’s not as if the playwrights were on the radical political fringe like, say, Michael Moore. No playwright would succeed if he were so polarizing or if his sentiments weren’t shared — at least secretly — by a majority of the Athenian audience. So in writing from the perspective of an Athenian citizen, it’s not enough just to trash Aristophanes’ comedy as unpatriotic or treasonous, since on some level most Athenians — the very same ones who voted for constant war — must have realized just how ridiculous it all was. The plays spoke to those doubts and reservations. Please don’t just summarize Lysistrata…I already know what happens. Instead, concentrate on one or two issues that the playwright deals with and compare it to ‘real’ Athenian politics, and think about how your narrator would have reacted after further reflection. In that vein, don’t tweet the play as if your reviewer is giving a blow-by-blow while sitting in the theater. Let him/her think on it for a while, and cover the scenes that most provoked reflection for your reviewer.
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