Assembly of Women (Ecclesiazusae)
A play by Aristophanes

The women of ancient Athens infiltrate the Assembly (governing city body) disguised as men, and vote themselves into power. The plan: to create a society free from inequality; free from want; free from crime; even, oddly enough, free from being unequally happy / unhappy!

Assembly of Women is one in a series of "Literary Classices" published by Prometheus Books (59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, New York, 14228-2197, 124 pages including introduction, published 1997, ISBN 1-57392-133-5). It is a theater comedy (that is, a play) that none-to-subtly mocks communism, which some ancient Greek philosophers were pontificating upon. This mockery consists of taking communism to its "logical" (i.e. absurd) conclusions: no one owns anything, and everyone owns everything--- including ones' neighbors' bodies.

Suppose true equality among citizens were to be mandated by law. Wouldn't beautiful, blooming young women have more sex (and therefore more happiness) than ugly, old hags? Wouldn't youthful, potent lads be happier than us ugly old farts? Well, certainly! But with the women now in power in Athens, this inequality is redressed by new laws: before a youth may "bang" a maid, he must "bang" a woman less beautiful ("any old hag"), if one demands, first--- it's only fair, right? And if the old hag first in line is not quite as ugly, old, and haggish as another old hag, shouldn't SHE, the oldest, and ugliest, get "banged" first, then the original old hag, then the young maid?

Why, pretty soon there would be a long line of ugly old hags following beautiful, blooming maids, each more hideous than the next, with the last in line (being the most hideous) getting "banged" first. The same holds true for handsome youths.

The translator, Robert Mayhew, renders this play brilliantly, with good humor and bawdy lewdness that the original Greek likely had. As such, the reader can imagine all the better how the Athenians watching the play must have enjoyed it.

The introduction to the play takes up the first 42 pages of the book. This means it takes up roughly 1/3 of the pages, but it is necessary (and enjoyable to read): it gives the reader the tools she or he requires to understand Greek thought on communism at the time, plus insight on relevant historical details about life in ancient Athens.

Even more important are the footnotes throughout the play itself. Phrases and concepts unfamilure to the general readership are explained. Without these footnotes, the play would be much less comprehensible, and much less enjoyable.

I liked this book. It takes about two hours to read, though, and I wish it had been longer. I can imagine how fun it was to have performed the play. On the Shy David Book Review Scale from one to six stars (six being best), I think this book deserves four stars.

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