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  • It is late Autumn in ancient Athens (October and November, 411 BC), and the women of the city are about to celebrate Thesmophoria (an annual religious festival in honor of the goddesses Demeter and Persephone). The playwright Euripides has learned that the women are angry with him for the unflattering portrayal of women in his works, and are using the festival to plot revenge against him. Euripides tries to persuade fellow playwright Agathon (who likes cross-dressing), to dress as a woman, infiltrate the festival, and play advocate on his behalf. Agathon fears for his own safety and refuses to help him. Mnesilochus, an elderly relative of Euripides, volunteers for the mission instead. During the gathering of women, Mnesilochus angers the women with disparaging comments. Cleisthenes (a famously effeminate diplomat) warns the women that there is a spy among them. Mnesilochus is soon recognized and captured. The Athenian authorities are notified of the illegal presence of a man at a women-only festival. Mnesilochus is placed under the guard of Scythian archers (local policing forces) until his punishment is decided. Euripides is desperate to rescue Mnesilochus. He repeatedly uses theatrical costumes to disguise himself, and re-enacts scenes from his old plays, in attempts to fool the armed guards. Most of his attempts fail. After making his peace with the gathered women (who agree not to thwart any further escape plans), Euripides uses a dancing girl and a flute player to distract the last remaining guard. Euripides and Mnesilochus escape to safety, while the guard tries to figure out which way they went. The play ends.


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