Literary Sources and Their Significance in Noh Essay

Literary Sources and Their Significance in Noh Essay

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I believe that universally, theater is the concentration of passing down history, whether factual or mythical, to future generations paired with various degrees of artistic dignity. Like many other staged performances, the root of Noh is based off of a storytelling tradition, enhanced or exaggerated to be viewed by a wider audience. In the end, it was supposed to be somewhat entertaining, the viewer perhaps receiving a more dramatic interpretation of a past tale accompanied by dance, music, and visuals. In general, another characteristic not as significant from the original literatures and stories that seeps its way into Noh are the religious undertones and shrinking the distance between the world of the living and the world of spirits. In Zeami’s Atsumori, the play concerns characters from a scene in a probably already overdramatic depiction in Heike Monogatari, bringing in a single frame from Japanese military history into a different context. Sumidagawa has a slightly different way of coming into existence, since it does not depend so heavily on an exact picture from Ise Monogatari, and is only loosely associated with it. Nevertheless, both Atsumori and Sumidagawa have interesting ties to literature from earlier periods that make each unique in their presentation.
Although I am aware that we are focusing on literary sources and their relationship to their Noh counterparts, one cannot help but notice that the background of Atsumori dates back to actual historical events, and then establishes itself in Heike Monogatari. Anyway, any audience in Japan should already be familiar with the stories of Heike Monogatari, and the Noh play is only a touching extension of one aspect from the battle between the Minamoto Clan and th...


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...spair at the mortal separation between a parent and child, especially at the loss of the child. In this manner, Sumidagawa’s lack of literary tie-in serves its own purpose.
As seen in Atsumori, the knowledge of the literary source a play was based upon can be key to the perception of the play as a whole. On the other hand, not having a stable background in a literary source may not be very significant to a play at all. This connection depends solely on the wants of the author of the play, and perhaps on what was acceptable in that circle at the time. In the end, both stratagems need to be able to somehow connect the audience to the performance on stage, either through common knowledge, like widely known literary works, or through common instincts, such as filial relationships.



Works Cited

Tyler, Royall. Japanese Nō Dramas. London U.a.: Penguin, 2004. Print.

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