Aristophanes' comic plays, Lysistrata, Women at the Thesmophoria and Assemblywomen contain the earliest portrayals of actual women in the European literary tradition, and are the only such portrayals that survive from classical Athens. These plays provide a unique glimpse of women not only in their familiar domestic roles but also in relation to household and city religion and government, war and peace, theater and festival, and, of course, to men. In all three plays we find a fantastic but provocatively plausible inversion of the actual world, where women and men have changed places. Aristophanes' comic gynecocracies put male fantasies of feminism--often intersecting with those of myth, tragedy and Platonic idealism--into sharp and memorable focus, and so help us to redefine our understanding of the troubling realities to which these comic fantasies were a response.
In Staging Women the eminent Aristophanic scholar Jeffrey Henderson presents, for the first time ina single volume, all three plays in new translations. Unlike earlier versions, which typically censor, translate around, or otherwise misrepresent these texts, Henderson preserves intact all of Aristophanes' blunt and often obscene language, rough satire, social and political protest and provocative fantasy. In addition, each play is supplied with an introduction and explanatory notes. The volume includes introductory material about Aristophanes, his comic theater and the women in Aristophanic comedy. An appendix contains translations of fragments bearing on the portrayal of women in Aristophanes'lost plays.