Saturday, November 15, 2008

Week 08, Motokiyo, Medieval Russian Tales

General Notes on Zeami Motokiyo’s Atsumori.

Atsumori, the slain warrior who now wanders as a ghost, must let go of his murderous obsession, and it seems that his old foe Kamagai (a member of the Genji or Minamoto clan), disguised as the priest Rensei, must do the same with regard to the remorse he feels over having killed this virtuous member of the Heike in 1185. Behind the play is the earth-shaking history of the fall of a powerful clan that had once controlled half of Japan. The play’s action seems to consist in the “letting-go” on Atsumori’s part of his desire for vengeance. But Kamagai’s Buddha-like gentleness and prayer surely helps set Atsumori free. Motokiyo’s drama relies upon ec
onomy of expression and restraint in all things; it’s highly symbolic and not at all mimetic in the sense that many western plays are. A good website for further study: Traditional Theater in Japan.

Notes on Medieval Russian Tales