ALERT: penetration of safe space for women in classics

Business student: You’re ripping me, Shakespeare. Will I ever get a dime out of this? I’ve been reading thy plays, good Sir, for weeks, twisting my brain about as if your words had any relevance to me in the twenty-first century. Today I’ve been following your feet for hours. My leg is now lame. Where are you taking me?

Shakespeare: Who matters in literature. Look into the canon, or your soul will be obliterated.

Business student: What?

Shakespeare: No, who.

Business student: But what is the matter, the relevance, the substance?

Shakespeare: Who is. “I don’t know” is the beginning of self-knowledge. You must learn who you are.

Business student: I don’t know.

Shakespeare: What?

Business student: Who.

Shakespeare: That’s right, who. In the primordial world, humans were indistinct from nature. They heard and saw the world around them without hearing and seeing themselves in their own distinct nature. The earliest poets gave humans a sense of their beating heart. Eventually great poets developed human beings with self-consciousness and appreciation for their own ridiculousness.

Business student:

I’m happy, by god, to have this additional lesson.
These deep conversations really are something!

{ νὴ τὸν Δί ̓ ἥδομαί γε τουτὶ προσμαθών.
οἷόν γέ πού’ στιν αἱ σοφαὶ ξυνουσίαι. }


You could learn many other lessons like this from me.

{ πόλλ᾿ ἂν μάθοις τοιαῦτα παρ᾿ ἐμοῦ. }

Business student:

As a matter of fact, I’d love to learn
another fine lesson: how to go lame in both legs!

{ πρὸς τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς τούτοισιν ἐξεύροιμ᾿ ὅπως
ἔτι προσμάθοιμι χωλὸς εἶναι τὼ σκέλει }

Shakespeare: Follow along and pay attention. There’s the dwelling of the renowned tragic prophet Judith Butler.

Business student: A butler is a tragic prophet?

Shakespeare: Yes, class, race, and gender are prophesied to be the future of literature. And especially gender trouble. If you had studied Judith Butler, you already would have had one of Butler’s devices stuffed up your ass. That’s how men students are taught gender trouble.

A slave, a student of Judith Butler, comes out of the dwelling.


Let the student body keep holy silence,
gating its mouth, for here sojourns
the holy company of Muses within
the scholar’s halls, fashioning theory.
Let Air windless hold her breath,
and the whelming brine its boom,
gay —

{ εὔφημος πᾶς ἔστω λαός,
στόμα συγκλῄσας: ἐπιδημεῖ γὰρ
θίασος Μουσῶν ἔνδον μελάθρων
τῶν δεσποσύνων μελοποιῶν.
δὲ πνοὰς νήνεμος αἰθήρ,
κῦμα δὲ πόντου μὴ κελαδείτω
γλαυκόν: }

Business student: Blah blah! Stick it up my ass!

Shakespeare: Keep quiet!


Let the gendered tribes lie down in rest,
and the paws of toxic males that course the woods
be checked —

{ πτηνῶν τε γένη κατακοιμάσθω,
θηρῶν τ᾽ ἀγρίων πόδες ὑλοδρόμων
μὴ λυέσθων. }

Business student: Blah blah blah.


for that mellifluous Judith Butler,
our champion, prepares —

{ μέλλει γὰρ ὁ καλλιεπὴς Ἀγάθων
πρόμος ἡμέτερος — }

Business student: To warm lecture halls with hot air!

Shakespeare: Sir, ignore that mere business student. I urgently need to speak with Doctor Professor Butler. Where is they?


Supplicate not. The master shall soon emerge.
You see, they is beginning to fashion a theory.
Since it’s winter, it’s hard for they to
limber their theory without feeling outside sun.

{ μηδὲν ἱκέτευ᾽: αὐτὸς γὰρ ἔξεισιν τάχα.
καὶ γὰρ μελοποιεῖν ἄρχεται: χειμῶνος οὖν
ὄντος κατακάμπτειν τὰς στροφὰς οὐ ῥᾴδιον,
ἢν μὴ προίῃ θύρασι πρὸς τὸν ἥλιον. }

Business student: Does Judith Butler count as more than one person?

Shakespeare: Of course they do.

Business student: Why?

Shakespeare: Because as a tragic prophet of gender trouble, they are legion.

Butler’s slave exits.

Shakespeare: To be or not to be, that is the question.

Business student: Who are you to think that?

Shakespeare: Some very nasty trouble has been cooked up for me {ἔστιν κακόν μοι μέγα τι προπεφυραμένον}.

Business student: What?


This very day it will be adjudicated:
does Shakespeare live on, or is he a goner?

{ τῇδε θἠμέρᾳ κριθήσεται
εἴτ᾽ ἔστ᾽ ἔτι ζῶν εἴτ᾽ ἀπόλωλ᾽ Εὐριπίδης. }

Business student: Stop the drama. Look, even I know Shakespeare. You will live on.

Shakespeare: This is no child’s play. The Women in Classics Coalitional Agon is holding its festival today in the sanctuary of Demeter, Persephone, and Christine de Pizan. The festival assembly will debate destroying me!

Business student: Why destroy you?

Shakespeare: They say I slander women by depicting them as capable of plotting and scheming and even doing murder most foul.

Business student: They’re scheming to kill you for that?

Shakespeare: Yes, and they’ll get away with it if I don’t stage something to preempt them. I’ve got to get someone to penetrate their women-only space and theorize on my behalf.

Business student: Why theorize? I’ve actually penetrated a women-only space many times and gotten passionate kisses and moans of pleasure in appreciation.

Shakespeare: Success in the WICCA festival depends on impressive words, nothing more. I want Judith Butler to perform on my behalf in that women-only space.

Business student: Is they a woman?

Shakespeare: Don’t cause gender trouble. Look, there’s Judith Butler! One of their slaves is wheeling them out on their academic high chair!

Judith Butler:

I hate men!
I can’t abide them, even now and then.
Than ever marry one of them I’d rest a virgin rather,
for husbands are a boring lot and only give you bother.
Of course I’m awfully glad that mother deigned to marry father!
But I hate men!

Of all the types I’ve ever met within our university,
I hate the most the scholar with his manner bold and brassy.
He may have hair upon his chest, but sister, so has Lassie!
Oh I hate men!

I hate men!
They should be kept like piggys in a pen!

Business student:

Oh goddesses of childbirth, what a pretty song!
How feminist and tongue-gagged
and deep-kissed! Just hearing it
brought a tingle to my very butt!

{ ὧς ἡδὺ τὸ μέλος, ὦ πότνιαι Γενετυλλίδες,
καὶ θηλυδριῶδες καὶ κατεγλωττισμένον
καὶ μανδαλωτόν, ὥστ᾿ ἐμοῦ γ᾿ ἀκροωμένου
ὑπὸ τὴν ἕδραν αὐτὴν ὑπῆλθε γάργαλος. }

Shakespeare: I’m sure Judith Butler can penetrate the WICCA festival since it’s all-women. Then they can advocate on my behalf without raising suspicion.

Judith Butler: You feeble-minded, dogmatic cis-gender male author backstabbing transmen, you want me to join the haters at the hateful WICCA festival? They are fascists walling off the term “women” and using it as a weapon to threaten the existence of non-binary persons. They want to destroy me!

Business student: Blah blah blah, la la la, Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall!

Shakespeare: Doctor Professor Butler, most highly esteemed celebrity professor, I need your help, please!

Judith Butler: Transphobic, misogynist, homophobic white nationalist, bug off! Imagine a different future!

Shakespeare: Ah triple-wretched me, thus to perish {ὦ τρισκακοδαίμων, ὡς ἀπόλωλ᾿}.

Business student: Butler’s blather is worthless to anyone not aspiring to win a clown performance. I’ll help you, really.

Shakespeare: Really?

Business student: Yup.

Shakespeare: You’re a good man. Take your clothes off. I’m going to shave your face, singe the hair from your groin and bottom, and dress you as a woman. Then you can penetrate the WICCA festival and perform for me.

Business student: Anything to save you, my dear in-law Shakespeare. But you have to swear that you’ll do anything to save me if I get into gender trouble.

Shakespeare: Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and caldron bubble. Yes, I swear. Quickly now, into the WICCA festival!

Shakespeare departs. The business student joins a group a women heading to the festival assembly. There the woman leader Critylla mounts the rostrum.

Critylla: Ritual silence, please! Form a circle and hold hands. Now chant our creed. Patriarchy, misogyny, oppression, history no herstory, misogyny, misogyny, patriarchy. Grandpa, leave that grandma alone. Women weren’t allowed to work and fight in wars. Patriarchy, misogyny, oppression, history no herstory, misogyny, misogyny, patriarchy. Helen was raped and didn’t feel safe during the Trojan War. Patriarchy, misogyny, oppression, history no herstory, misogyny, misogyny, patriarchy. Women have been men’s property throughout history. But no longer. Because we say so.

All the women in the circle nod their heads up and down.

Critylla: Attention everyone! The Women in Classics Coalitional Agon — Timocleia presiding, Lysilla being secretary, Sostrate proposing — has passed the following motion: this Assembly will have as its principal agendum deliberation about the punishment of Shakespeare, who in the view of us all is a criminal. Who wants to speak first against Shakespeare?

Mica raises her hand with an inverted-V gesture and then is called to the rostrum.

Mica: By Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, I have not risen to speak, sororal women, out of any personal ambition. No, I’ve risen because I’m enraged by seeing you get dragged through the mud by Shakespeare, that son of a glove-maker. With what abuse has this man not besmirched us? He’s called us foolish, mad, pernicious, and wretched. While he has affirmed our strong, independent sexuality by calling us whores, and he honored the great woman Photis by using the term “kitchen wench,” he’s also called some women fat. He insinuated that Desdemona cheated on Othello. His Iago even said that women rise to play and go to bed to work. Some men now don’t believe that all women are angelically chaste. He had Maria falsify a letter to Malvolio, and now men question whether all women are as honest as the mother of God. He called Katherina cursed when she was blessed to be an unruly woman. Measure by measure, Shakespeare documented that men are punished more severely than women for illicit sex, and that men have historically been deprived of free choice in marriage. His plays have contributed to calls for justice for men, concern for men’s lack of reproductive choice, the Capitol insurrection of January 6, and fascism. He drove Ophelia mad, causing adolescent girls to commit suicide. Lady Macbeth and other ladies are committing suicide just because they have incited the killing of men. I therefore propose that we brew up a way to destroy Shakespeare, either with poison, mass twittering, or some other way to ensure that he’s canceled, dead, and his works never again read.

Choir of women at the assembly:

I’ve never heard a woman
more intricate of mind
or more impressive as a speaker.
Everything she says is right.
She’s reviewed every aspect,
she’s weighed each detail in her mind,
and she’s sagaciously devised a whole spectrum
of well-chosen arguments.

{ οὔπω ταύτης ἤκουσα
πολυπλοκωτέρας γυναικὸς
οὐδὲ δεινότερον λεγούσης.
πάντα γὰρ λέγει δίκαια,
πάσας δ᾽ ἰδέας ἐξήτασεν,
πάντα δ᾽ ἐβάστασεν φρενὶ πυκνῶς τε
ποικίλους λόγους ἀνηῦρεν
εὖ διεζητημένους. }

The business student, disguised as a woman, steps up to the rostrum.

Business student: Sororal women of eminence, you are rightly enraged at Shakespeare, and you deserve honor and respect for your bile being aboil. I too hate Shakespeare. I would be crazy not to hate him. “I hate” with hate to me he said, and cursed my life, saying, “I wish you dead.” All the same, since no men are here, we should have an open and fair discussion. Why are we getting so angry with him for depicting us as fully human persons who are equal to men in doing evil?

I myself am conscious of my potential for evil and my actual misdeeds. Why, when I had been married for only three days, my husband was sleeping beside me. Yet two decades earlier, when I was seventeen, my boyfriend initiated me into the joy of being penetrated. To this day I’m still hot for him, and he for me. That day he came singing sweetly on the street. I started to sneak out of the house and my husband asked, “Where are you going, dear wife?” I said, “I have a stomach ache, husband, and I’m going to take a shit.” “Oh, poor dear,” he said, “go ahead.” And then he got up and started preparing a stomach-soothing soup for me. Meanwhile, I flushed the toilet a couple of times and went out to meet my lover on the street. There I bent over a fire hydrant, and my lover pumped me well. Shakespeare never wrote about that!

Shakespeare also never wrote about how we get sexually serviced from servants and mule drivers. Or how when we spend the night getting thoroughly balled by some lover, we chew garlic in the morning so when the husband gets home from military service he’ll smell it and won’t suspect that we’ve been doing anything nasty. Shakespeare never said anything about that, right? And if he represented Katherina as a shrew, what’s that to us? He never told about how the wife held up a robe in her husband’s face so her lover could sneak out of the house, or about the wife who pretended to be in labor for ten days until she could buy a baby boy. The old lady who bought the boy for her told her husband, “You’ve got a lion, sir, a lion, the very image of yourself, sir, with everything a perfect match, even his little penis too, curled over like an acorn.”

Why get mad at Shakespeare, when he’s represented us fully according to what we’re capable of doing?

The women are the festival assembly are astonished and outraged at the business student’s speech.

Mica: This harridan is abusing women with frank speech. This can’t be tolerated. Do something!

Upset, the women look at each other with expressions of pain. They do nothing.


I myself, along with my slave girls, will get hot coals somewhere
and singe the hair off this woman’s pussy. That’ll teach her
never again to badmouth her fellow women!

{ ἡμεῖς
αὐταί τε καὶ τὰ δουλάρια τέφραν ποθὲν λαβοῦσαι
ταύτης ἀποψιλώσομεν τὸν χοῖρον, ἵνα διδαχθῇ
γυνὴ γυναῖκας οὖσα μὴ κακῶς λέγειν τὸ λοιπόν. }

Business student:

Women, please no, not my pussy! There is
for every citizen the right of speaking frankly at the assembly,
so if I merely said in Shakespeare’s defense what I know to be fair,
am I to be punished by depilation at your hands?

{ μὴ δῆτα τόν γε χοῖρον ὦ γυναῖκες. εἰ γὰρ οὔσης
παρρησίας κἀξὸν λέγειν ὅσαι πάρεσμεν ἀσταί,
εἶτ᾽ εἶπον ἁγίγνωσκον ὑπὲρ Εὐριπίδου δίκαια,
διὰ τοῦτο τιλλομένην με δεῖ δοῦναι δίκην ὑφ᾽ ὑμῶν }

Mica: Why shouldn’t you be punished? You’ve defended a man! And you haven’t cried like a woman to gain forgiveness for this crime. You should be whipped!

Business student: I haven’t even said anything about how us women make more money from child support by having six kids with six baby-daddies than six kids with one baby-daddy.

Mica: Poor me, what nonsense {τάλαιν᾿ ἐγώ· φλυαρεῖς}.

Business student: Unlike men, we easily have sex without having to pay money for the service. I’ve had thousands of free dinners, too!

Mica: I hope you die {ἐξόλοιο}!

Business student: We women can rape men and no one cares.

Mica: Must we listen to this {ταῦτα δῆτ᾿ ἀνέκτ᾿ ἀκούειν}?

Business student: You got a man to pay you $10,000 so that you would …

Mica: You wouldn’t. Keep silent. Shut your snout!

Business student: … so that you would agree to have an abortion.

Mica: I’ll pull all the hair out of your pussy with my own bare hands!

Business student: Don’t you dare lay a hand on me {οὔ τοι μὰ Δία σύ γ᾿ ἅψει}!

Mica: Just watch me {καὶ μὴν ἰδού}.

Business student: Just watch me {καὶ μὴν ἰδού}!

Mica: Servant woman, hold onto my coat and bag.

Business student: Just touch me, and by the Holy Chaste Moon Goddess I’ll {πρόσθιγε μόνον, κἀγώ σε νὴ τὴν Ἄρτεμιν} …

Mica: You’ll what {τί δράσεις}?

Business student: That sesame cake you gulped down, I’ll make you shit it out {τὸν σησαμοῦνθ᾿ ὃν κατέφαγες, τοῦτον χεσεῖν ποιήσω}!

Critylla: Sisters, sisters, please, don’t assault each other. We’ve got to uphold the myth that women hardly ever commit domestic violence, or else women and men might be incarcerated gender-equally!

Look, there’s a woman news reporter rushing to our assembly.

Anderson Cooper: Dear ladies, my audience, my constituency, I’m devoted to women and I represent your interests always. While I was in the marketplace, I accidentally uncovered a news story. Now I’m here to inform you about it so you can take action to prevent a terrible trouble. I don’t want it to engulf you while your guard is down.

Critylla: What is it, what is it, my boy, tickle me with your lips!

Anderson Cooper: Rumor reports that Shakespeare has sent some kinsman of his, an old man, up here today to this women-only festival. That man, dressed and gender-performing as a woman, intends to penetrate and report on your assembly.


It’s a terrible business that’s been reported.
Well, women, we shouldn’t sit around doing nothing!
We’ve got to look for this man and
find out where he’s been sitting unnoticed in his disguise.
And you, Mr. Woman’s Reporter, help us search,
and so add this to our debt of gratitude to you!

{ τὸ πρᾶγμα τουτὶ δεινὸν εἰσαγγέλλεται.
ἀλλ᾽ ὦ γυναῖκες οὐκ ἐλινύειν ἐχρῆν,
ἀλλὰ σκοπεῖν τὸν ἄνδρα καὶ ζητεῖν ὅπου
λέληθεν ἡμᾶς κρυπτὸς ἐγκαθήμενος.
καὶ σὺ ξυνέξευρ᾽ αὐτόν, ὡς ἂν τὴν χάριν
ταύτην τε κἀκείνην ἔχῃς ὦ πρόξενε. }

Anderson Cooper: I’ll have to ask questions. As you all know, Shakespeare has been discredited as an author because he was a cis-gender white male pretend-heterosexual who slandered women. It’s been agreed that he must be killed. So for a penetrating, emmm, question, why does that woman behind the bush appear so tall while taking a piss?

Business student: Bad knees from bearing so many children. I have to stand.

Anderson Cooper: Women don’t do that. She must be a man!

Critylla: Grab her and strip her. Check if she has a dick to us in hock!

Anderson Cooper: I know cock. What I see there is a big, thick cock!


Now you’re lookin’ at a man that’s gettin’ us mad.
His kin wrote lots of stuff, but it’s all been bad.
No matter how he struggles and strives,
he’ll never get out of this world alive.

His dickin’ pole’s broken, his face’s full of sand,
his woman’s run away with another man.
No matter how he struggles and strives,
he’ll never get out of this world alive.

A distant uncle Soph passed away
and left him many a buck.
And he was living high until that fateful day
the law proved he wasn’t true-born, but just a cuck.

Everyone’s agin’ him and he must go down.
If he jumped in a river, we’d hope he’d drown.
No matter how he struggles and strives,
he’ll never get out of this world alive.

We’re not gonna worry wrinkles in our brow
cause he ain’t worth nothing, no-how.
No matter how he struggles and strives,
he’ll never get out of this world alive.

Anderson Cooper: Keep him under close guard. Since I work for the police state, I’ll report him to the police state, and it can then add another man to the mass incarceration of men.

Anderson Cooper departs. Women at the WICCA festival guard the business student. The Assistant Dean for Thesmophoria Security arrives and binds the business student to a plank. When night falls, the business student sees Shakespeare coming toward him dressed as Pyramus.

Business student: I’ll be his Thisbe, and I’ll hug him joyfully if he takes me home.

Shakespeare walks behind the plank to which the business student is bound.

Shakespeare as Pyramus:

O grim-looked night! O night with hue so black!
O night, which ever art when day is not!
O night! O night! Alack, alack, alack!
I fear my Thisbe’s promise is forgot.
And thou, O plank, O sweet, O lovely plank,
that stand’st between her backside’s round and me,
thou plank, O plank, O sweet and lovely plank,
show me thy chink to blink through with my rod.

Business student as Thisbe:

O plank, full often hast thou heard my moans
for parting my fair Pyramus and me.
My cherry lips have often kissed thy knots,
thy knots with sweat and hair knit up in thee.

Shakespeare walks around to the other side of the plank.

Shakespeare as Pyramus: My love! Thou art my love, I think.

Business student as Thisbe:

Think what thou wilt, I am thy lover’s grace,
And, like Limander, am I trusty still.

Shakespeare as Pyramus: And I like Helen, till the Fates me kill.

Assistant Dean for Thesmophoria Security: Hey you, stay away from that dirty old man, that cis-gender crook, that heterosexist creep.

Shakespeare as Pyramus: Nonsense, learned Dean. This is my beloved Thisbe of Babylon.

Assistant Dean for Thesmophoria Security, lifting Thisbe’s dress and pointing: Gaze at that patriarchal phallus. It doesn’t look marginalized in your truth, does it?

Shakespeare as Pyramus:

Give me her hand, that I might clasp the woman.
Please, Dean, all human flesh is weak.
In my own case, love for this girl
has me in its grip.

{ φέρε δεῦρό μοι τὴν χεῖρ᾽, ἵν᾽ ἅψωμαι κόρης:
φέρε Σκύθ᾽: ἀνθρώποισι γὰρ νοσήματα
ἅπασίν ἐστιν: ἐμὲ δὲ καὐτὸν τῆς κόρης
ταύτης ἔρως εἴληφεν. }

Assistant Dean for Thesmophoria Security: Stop threatening my safety, or I’ll bind you to a plank, too.

Shakespeare as Pyramus:

Why don’t you let me unbind her, Dean,
so that I may squeeze her in the nuptial bower?

{ τί δ᾽ οὐκ ἐᾷς λύσαντά μ᾽ αὐτὴν ὦ Σκύθα
πεσεῖν ἐς εὐνὴν καὶ γαμήλιον λέχος }

Assistant Dean for Thesmophoria Security: One more microaggression from you, and then your life will be worth nothing.

Shakespeare as Pyramus (aside):

Ah me, what action, what clever logic now?
All wit is lost upon this savage lout.
For work a novel ruse upon a clod
and you have worked in vain. I must apply
a different stratagem, one suitable for him.

{ αἰαῖ: τί δράσω; πρὸς τίνας στρεφθῶ λόγους;
ἀλλ᾽ οὐ γὰρ ἂν δέξαιτο βάρβαρος φύσις.
σκαιοῖσι γάρ τοι καινὰ προσφέρων σοφὰ
μάτην ἀναλίσκοις ἄν, ἀλλ᾽ ἄλλην τινὰ
τούτῳ πρέπουσαν μηχανὴν προσοιστέον. }

Shakespeare as Pyramus exits.

Thesmophoria Chorus:

Who run the world? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!

I’m so good with this, I remind you, I’m so hood with this.
Boy, I’m just playing,
come here, baby,
hope you still like me, fuck you, pay me.

Who run the world? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!

My persuasion
can destroy a nation!
Endless power
with our love we can devour.
You’ll do anything for me.

Who run the world? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!

Shakespeare enters wearing a t-shirt proclaiming “The future is female!”


Ladies, if you want to make a permanent peace
treaty with me, now is the time. I’ll stipulate
that in the future I will never again in any way
criticize women. That’s my official proposal.

{ γυναῖκες, εἰ βούλεσθε τὸν λοιπὸν χρόνον
σπονδὰς ποιήσασθαι πρὸς ἐμέ, νυνὶ πάρα,
ἐφ᾿ ᾧτ᾿ ἀκοῦσαι μηδὲν ὑπ᾿ ἐμοῦ μηδαμὰ
κακὸν τὸ λοιπόν. ταῦτ᾿ ἐπικηρυκεύομαι. }

Crytilla: Why should we agree to that? What about the past?


Look, this man on the plank here is my kinsman.
If I may take him away with me, you’ll never
hear another insult from me. But if you refuse,
whatever you’ve done behind your husbands’ backs while
they’ve been away at war, I’ll denounce when the survivors return.

{ ὅδ᾿ ἐστὶν οὑν τῇ σανίδι κηδεστὴς ἐμός.
ἢν οὖν κομίσωμαι τοῦτον, οὐδὲν μή ποτε
κακῶς ἀκούσητ᾿· ἢν δὲ μὴ πίθησθέ μοι,
ἃ νῦν ὑποικουρεῖτε, τοῖσιν ἀνδράσιν
ἀπὸ τῆς στρατιᾶς παροῦσιν ὑμῶν διαβαλῶ. }

Critylla: Ok, we’ll accept your treaty. But rescue your wretched kinsman yourself!

Shakespeare exits, then enters dressed as Justin Trudeau in blackface. He has with him Melinda Gates.

Justine Trudeau in blackface: Respected Dean, would you please take me to the President’s mansion? Melinda Gates wants to talk with her about funding a massive new university building to house an institution for studying empowering women in Africa. Ms. Gates is a busy philanthropic business leader. She’s ready to leave on her private jet in frustration at not being able to find the President’s mansion.

Assistant Dean for Thesmophoria Security: Of course I will. Nothing is more important to the President than fundraising. Guiding donors isn’t my job, but I might get a promotion out of it.

Melinda Gates exits led by the Assistant Dean. Shakespeare then unbinds the business student and exits in the opposite direction with him. They head to Shakespeare’s father’s house in the glove-makers’ quarter of Athens. That night a neighborhood feast celebrates the return of Shakespeare and his kinsman.

Head of the weaver’s union:

So we fairies, that do run
by the triple Hecate’s team
from the presence of the sun,
following darkness like a dream,
now are frolic. Not a mouse
shall disturb this hallowed house.
I am sent with broom before,
to sweep the dust behind the door.

Now, until the break of day,
through this house each fairy stray.
To the best bride-bed will we,
which by us shall blessèd be,
and the issue there create
ever shall be fortunate.

With this field-dew consecrate
every fairy take his gait,
and each several chamber bless,
through this palace, with sweet peace.
And the owner of it blest,
ever shall in safety rest.
Trip away. Make no stay.
Meet me all by break of day.

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The above play is a modernization of Aristophanes’s comedy, Θεσμοφοριάζουσαι {Women at the Thesmophoria / Thesmophoriazusae}, first performed in 411 BGC, probably in Athens. English text followed by Greek text signal a quotation (with some small but significant changes) from Thesmophoriazusae, using the Greek text and English translation (modified slightly) of Henderson (2000). In other instances, I’ve loosely followed that translation. The Greek text of Hall & Geldart (1907) is freely available online, as are the English translations by Eugene O’Neill (1938) and by George Theodoridis (2007).

The above play of Pyramus and Thisbe includes quotes from the Rude Mechanicals’ performance of Pyramus and Thisbe in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5, Scene 1. The concluding song is built from verses from the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. On Aristophanes’s use of fragments of Euripides’s tragedies in the Thesmophoriazusae, Bierl (2020).

Verses preceding the included videos are adaptations of some of the lyrics from the videos (see image references below).

The in-law protests against being punished for speaking frankly at the assembly. That suggests a norm supporting speaking frankly. Translators have used the term “freedom of speech.” Lu objected:

Ancient Athenian freedom was the freedom of opportunity. In the case of parrhesia, it was a custom or value which was not a feature of government or law, but part of the Athenian character. The fact that Athenians valued free speaking was formalised in political practice under the democracy through the equal opportunity to address the political assemblies known as isegoria. There was in Athens no explicit or implied protection against the negative consequences of what one said.

Lu (2017), abstract. However, a norm of frank speaking associated with the Athenian character and an institutionalized practice of frank speaking implicitly devalue attempts to punish someone for frank speech. That norm and that institution give weight to the in-law’s protest against being punished for his frank speech.

In an influential article, Froma Zeitlin provided a gynocentric orientation to Aristophanes. She concluded that at the end of the fifth century BGC in Athens, woman is “the domain of art itself.” Moreover, according to Zeitlin, Euripides was a pioneer of the feminization of Greek culture. Zeitlin (1981) p. 327. Such a critical orientation, while at least acknowledging the long history of gynocentrism, tends to essentialize gender and devalue men. Duncan, in contrast, observed:

the figure of Agathon in the Thesmophoriazusae unsettles the tidy boundaries between masculine and feminine — even between male and female — from within the system.

Duncan (2001) p. 35. So too, of course, does Judith Butler.

[images] (1) Kathryn Grayson performing “I hate men” in the 1953 film Kiss me, Kate (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios), music and lyrics by Cole Porter for the 1948 musical Kiss Me, Kate. This musical adapted William Shakespeare’s play, The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare is thought to have written that play between 1590 and 1592. Via YouTube. Furthering its reputation for misandry, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) featured Alexandra Silber singing “I hate men” at the 2014 BBC Proms at The Royal Albert Hall, with The John Wilson Orchestra live. (2) Hank Williams singing “I’ll never get out of this world alive,” which he released as a single in 1952. It was included on Williams’ 1954, posthumous album, Low Down Blues. Via YouTube. (3) Beyoncé’s official music video for “Run the World (Girls)” from her 2011 studio album 4. Via YouTube. According to Wikipedia, ‘“Run the World” was used to awaken the crew of the final mission of the US Space Shuttle Atlantis and was dedicated to Mission Specialist Sandra Magnus.’


Bierl, Anton. 2020. “Paratragic Fragmentation and Patchwork-Citation as Comic Aesthetics: the Potpourri Use of Euripides’ Helen and Andromeda in Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae and Their Symbolic Meaning.” Pp. 453–480 in Lamari, Anna A., Franco Montanari, and Anna Novokhatko, eds. Fragmentation in Ancient Greek Drama. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Duncan, Anne. 2001. “Agathon, Essentialism, and Gender Subversion in Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae.European Studies Journal. Special double issue: Performing the Politics of European Comic Drama, S. Carlson and J. McGlew, eds. 17 (2)/18 (1): 25-40.

Hall, F.W. and W.M. Geldart, eds. 1907. Aristophanes. Aristophanes Comoediae. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Henderson, Jeffrey, ed. and trans. 2000. Aristophanes. Birds. Lysistrata. Women at the Thesmophoria. Loeb Classical Library, 179. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lu, Chin-Yu Ginny. 2017. On Misconceptions Generated by Translating Parrhesia and Isegoria as “Freedom of Speech.” Master’s Thesis in Classics. The University of Arizona

Zeitlin, Froma I. 1981. “Travesties of gender and genre in Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazousae.” Critical Inquiry. Theme issue: Writing and Sexual Difference. 8 (2): 301-327.