Women on Top

Women on Top: a Comedy-Opera by Malcolm Hill


Athens, 391 BC, has won a major battle against Sparta. Athens’ favourite comedy-writer, Aristophanes, writes the play Ecclesiazusae (The Assembly Women, or Women on Top).

Scene 1: Just before dawn Praxadora summons the women of Athens to a meeting. They plan to enter the Assembly, dressed as men, and propose that women take charge of the state.

Scene 2: Praxadora’s husband, Blepyrus, wakes to find his clothes gone. He needs to relieve his painful constipation and is forced to dress in his wife’s clothes. Blepyrus meets his friend Chremes who relates that unrecognised pale-faced men have taken over the Assembly and voted women as Athens’ leaders.

Scene 3: Praxadora returns home and is falsely accused of visiting her male lover. In the ensuing row it becomes clear that she is now President of the Assembly.

Scene 4: All private property is now to be shared and all needs to be communally provided. Chremes bids farewell to his precious possessions before taking them to the Forum. A young man is looking for a dalliance, but hears that the Assembly has decreed that before he can woo a young woman he must first do the same with an elderly one. Three ancient sluts battle over whom he must favour. Insults lead to a general free-for-all. Eventually the young man frees himself from the battle and is joined by Praxagora’s maid who calls everyone to a communal feast.