The Bunraku Puppet Theatre of JapanHonor, Vengeance, and Love in Four Plays of the 18th and 19th Centuries

The Bunraku Puppet Theatre of JapanHonor, Vengeance, and Love in Four Plays of the 18th and 19th Centuries

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780824835620

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press

Abstract

The plays presented here were first performed between 1769 and 1832, a time when the Japanese puppet theatre known as Bunraku was beginning to lose its pre-eminence to Kabuki. During this period, several important puppet plays were created that went on to become standards in both the Bunraku and Kabuki repertoires; three of which are in this book. Only a handful of complete and uncut plays are produced in Bunraku or Kabuki nowadays; included here is one. Two among the four plays in this book are examples of the much more common practice of staging a single popular act or scene from a much longer drama that itself is seldom, if ever, performed in its entirety today. Kabuki, while better known outside Japan, has been a great beneficiary of the puppet theatre, borrowing perhaps as much as half of its body of work from Bunraku dramas. Bunraku, in turn, has raided the Kabuki repertoire but to a far more modest degree. The final play in this book is an instance of this uncommon reverse borrowing. Moreover, it is an example of another way in which some plays have come to be presented: a coherent subplot of a longer work that gained an independent theatrical existence while its parent drama has since disappeared from the stage. Newly translated and illustrated for the general reader and the specialist, the plays in this book are accompanied by introductions, notes on stage action, and discussions of the various changes that Bunraku underwent.