“In its earliest stages, comedy like tragedy was as much a spectacle of music and dance as of spoken verse, and the chorus was clearly an area in which costume song and gesture could be combined to create a theatrical extravaganza.”2 Slavitt D. Bovie P. Though none of the music survives from this period, the comedies were thought to have been very similar to the modern musical. Lysistrata having been performed at such a big holiday festival would have been performed to thousands who would have been relaxing and enjoying the break from the routine of life.
The amphitheatre would have been home to the citizens who experienced a full scale productions for sheer entertainment as we would do the same today, whilst the plot took their minds off the current problems their society faced. Philosophical literature would not have been considered to coalesce with comedy and it is for this reason that Aristophanes would not be considered a poet of technical genius but rather considered more like an exceptional showman.
On the stage during the performances there would have been plenty of lage body movements to demonstrate the characters personalities such as running, jumping, beating, kicking and also inferred from Lysistrata there would have been plenty of inhibited sexual gestures and postures. All of these actions would have added to the theatrical experience for the citizens creating tumultuous excitement. Free from all inhibitions the characters in comedy could say or do what polite society or public decorum would never permit in real life.
How Lysistrata was received would have been very important to consider in regards to its performance. Documentation suggests that Lysistrata was performed at the smaller, more intimate Lenaian festival in January. Lenaian plays such as Acharnias or Knights contrast with the broad themed Dionysian Clouds or Peace. It would be presumed from these categorisations that because of the theatrical grandeur of Lysistrata and the localised plot of Women at the Festival, these two plays by Aristophanes in 411 should have been performed at the opposite locations to what they were.
“… Each play was entered at the wrong festival.”3 (McLeish, 1980 p.29) It’s a shame that Lysistrata wasn’t actually performed at City Dionysia festival because it would have received so much more funding to spend on lavish costumes, musicians and dancers. Although the play may not have been performed at the more superior festival with a greater audience range, its purpose of entertaining both judges and audiences would have still been of crucial importance to Aristophanes.
Lysistrata is typical of Aristophanes’ heroic plays- the theatrical and dramatic was more important because of the simpleness and lack of structure to the plot. Aristophanes was unquestionably obvious in his parodies of both male and female flaws, and he describes human sexual desire with no restraint. The style of Old Comedy allows for the theatrical experience that the audience would have encountered, the impossibility of the plot and Aristophanes longing to win the approval of the audience, allows for the structure to wane. It is for all these reasons that Corrigan’s statement about Lysistrata being more theatrical than literary is accurate.
Dover K. Tremewan S. Clouds, Acharnias, Lysistrata. Bristol Classics Press. Bristol, 1989.
Henderson J. Three Plays By Aristophanes. Staging Women. Routledge. New York, 1996.
McLeish K. The Theatre of Aristophanes. Thames and Hudson. London, 1980.