Page 55

48 TORSTEN SANNAR in the samurai ideals was renewed by ritual participation in this massive ceremony” (Keene 1982, 11; italics added). Along with other codified behaviors, suicide was depicted as a real option when duty called for it. Significantly, it was not only a behavior for members of the samurai class, but due to its dramatic presentation in a public forum open to people of various classes, suicide was presented as a viable choice for men and women of all societal distinctions. Keene’s use of the male pronoun in the quote above is not incidental. The patriarchal attitudes often displayed by the characters onstage can be linked to yet another aspect of kabuki – the lack of equal consideration of women in kabuki scholarship. Although this trend has been somewhat abated more recently by Keene himself and others, it seems prevalent in earlier publications. Thus, I propose an important variation on Keene’s statement: that the female characters portrayed in Chushingura and Mirror Mountain were a rich source of ideals that a female audience member might feel were her own. Within the Brandon translation of Chushingura, Lady Kaoyo, Hangan’s wife, lacks the agency that her husband and other male characters possess. As a widow, she is condemned to a life of religious contemplation. The play informs the reader that “she will pray as a nun, till her end” (Brandon et al. 1982, 196). Like Hangan, Lady Kaoyo also conducts a ritual of loss upon learning of her husband’s death, but she is only to cut her hair in preparation for the nunnery, not her own throat. Yet when, in spite of her assigned fate, she moves to grab the dagger that killed her husband and take her own life, the stage directions characterize her impulse as rising “as if to follow her husband” (Ibid., 197). Even here, at her moment of greatest autonomy, the agency of her action is further undermined by Yuranosuke’s “commanding gesture” to which she “falls back weakly” (Ibid., 197). What audiences of the Tokugawa era might interpret as an expression of her fidelity to her husband, serves as a stark reminder of her lack of status within the samurai world. Female characters also functioned as convenient scapegoats for the ruling order when trouble descended upon the kabuki world. This trope is echoed specifically within the text of both Chushingura and Mirror Mountain. Just prior to her banishment to the nunnery, Lady Kaoyo exclaims, “I think of why my husband had to die, and that I was the cause” (Ibid., 196). Similarly, Mirror Mountain reminds the audience of gender inequalities in the words of Lady Onoe. She complains to her maidservant, “Obviously since your master is a woman, you feel that there is no need to respect her orders” (Oshima 2002, 200). Ironically there is a certain type of gender equality not available in life that is made manifest in death. The strictures of the samurai code, though in operation during suicide, could not fully contain the moment of self-inflicted

Sagar XVII — 2007  
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you