Essay about Noh Drama

Essay about Noh Drama

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In the same way Japanese poetry often alludes to or derives from the canon of poetry that precedes it, noh plays are often based off of classical Japanese literary sources that form the framework for the play’s themes and moral message. Many of these plays reference poems from revered anthologies, such as the Shinkokinshū, within the play’s dialogue, but it is the monogatari or tales that provide the foundation for certain noh plotlines because of their vast array of character references and plotlines. These tales are the primary sources of information for two plays in particular written by the famous Japanese playwright Zeami: Atsumori and Matsukaze. The warrior-play Atsumori draws from the famous war epic The Tale of Heike to further an anti-war message grounded in the original text, as well as to further explore Buddhist themes of attachment and karmic ties. Matsukaze draws its origins and background from Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji and Ariwara no Narihira’s The Tales of Ise for location, tone, and themes of longing in order to juxtapose the Buddhist duality of attachment and detachment from this world.
Zeami’s Atsumori directly utilizes the characters of Kumagai and Atsumori from “The Death of Atsumori” in The Tale of Heike as the central characters (waki and shite respectively) of the play. Having these established characters and their well-known background story allows for the play’s storyline to move in a different direction from the original text in terms of a message and meaning. The original Atsumori text in The Tale of Heike focuses on the contrasts between the characters of Kumagai and Atsumori in terms of class and refinement, as well as the Buddhist theme of non-violence and salvation through prayer in the...

... middle of paper ... emotions as a foundation for a Buddhist message on attachment. In the end of the play, Matsukaze is unable to forsake her love for Yukihira, while her sister Murasame finally recognizes the madness in their pining and leaves her sister behind, detaching from the world and her own passionate longing.

Works Cited

Narihira, Ariwara. “The Tales of Ise.” Anthology of Japanese Literature. Ed. Donald Keene. New York: Grove Press, 1955. 67-71.

Watson, Burton and Haruo Shirane. “The Death of Atsumori.” The Tales of Heike. Columbia University Press, 2006. 11 April 2011.

Zeami. “Atsumori.” Japanese Nō Dramas. Ed. Royall Tyler. London: Penguin Books, 1992. 37-48.

Zeami. “Matsukaze.” Japanese Nō Dramas. Ed. Royall Tyler. London: Penguin Books, 1992. 183-204.

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