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Shopping for an Umbrella


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A: Priest Genne-Høin ? Pf: early 17th c., Japan G: Kyøgen play in Japanese prose S: The Master's home and a street in Kyoto, medieval period C: 3m, musiciansThe servant Tarøkaja is sent by his master to Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, to buy some fans for a New Year's party. Unfortunately, Tarøkaja is unfamiliar with the special name for these fans, suehirogari, and arrives in the city, uncertain what it is that he is meant to buy. Taking advantage of his ignorance, a clever market-trader sells him an old umbrella, assuring Tarøkaja that it is a suehirogari and instructing him how to reply to his master if the latter questions him. Returning home, Tarøkaja finds his master furious at his mistake and is unimpressed with the carefully rehearsed answers that Tarøkaja has learned. Tarøkaja is thrown out of the house, but he begins to sing and dance with such gusto that his master relents and joins in the fun.

A: Priest Genne-Høin ? Pf: early 17th c., Japan G: Kyøgen play in Japanese prose S: The Master's home and a street in Kyoto, medieval period C: 3m, musicians

Deriving from a popular oral tradition, kyøgen plays portrayed brief, farcical incidents, with witty dialogue, stock characters, and slapstick. They correspond in many respects to the European commedia dell'arte, although kyøgen lasted for much longer. Only after many years of being performed were the first kyøgen plays published (an anthology of 203 plays appeared in 1638), and this one is a fairly typical example of the genre. Tarøkaja is a stock servant figure (with similarities to the commedia Arlecchino), who traditionally wore a medieval costume of a kimono with broad checks, baggy trousers, and yellow socks. The kyøgen plays were conventionally performed in a programme with the much more elevated Nø drama, rather as the ancient Greeks combined tragedy with satyr plays.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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