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Aoi-no-Ue


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A: Zeami W: late 14th c. Tr: 1921 G: Nø play in 2 acts, Japanese verse S: Palace of the Emperor Shujaku, 10th c. C: 3m, 2f, chorus (m)Aoi-no-Ue, the Prime Minister's daughter, is married to Prince Genji, son of the Emperor. Genji has also been the lover of the Princess Rokujø, an older woman, widow of the Emperor's brother. One day at a festival there is a dispute over which of the women's carriages should have precedence, and their servants fight, Aoi's side eventually prevailing. At the start of the play, Aoi is now struck down by a mysterious illness. A courtier asks a witch to summon the spirit causing this sickness, and the living ghost of Rokujø appears. She bewails her situation and declares her hatred for Aoi, striking her on the head. She is then transformed into a demon. The courtier now summons the Little Saint of Yokawa, whose spiritual strength subdues the angry Rokujø and gets her to walk ‘in Buddha's Way’.

A: Zeami W: late 14th c. Tr: 1921 G: Nø play in 2 acts, Japanese verse S: Palace of the Emperor Shujaku, 10th c. C: 3m, 2f, chorus (m)

One of the best known of the ancient Nø plays, it was written by one of its earliest and most famous exponents, who was also the author of critical writings about the genre. Aoi-no-Ue is an example of the kyøjomono or ‘madwoman’ plays, in which a jealous woman transforms herself into an avenging spirit. The elevated and austere style of Nø theatre, while barely accessible to Western audiences, has held a particular fascination for 20th-century European theatre (notably in the dramatic work of Yeats). The title character never appears, but is represented merely by a folded kimono; Rokujø's assault on her is effected by the masked actor striking the kimono with a fan; Rokujø's transformation into a demon takes place on stage, as masks are exchanged while she is semi-hidden by her cloak. Mishima Yukio's 1954 version is set in a modern hospital.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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