Chikamatsu Essay

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Aileen Nguyen Professor Bialock EALC 342 24 April 2012 The Conflict Between Giri and Ninjo in the Works of Chikamatsu Chikamatsu Monzaemon, one of the most prominent playwrights in Japanese history, was most famous as a dramatist in the writings for kabuki and bunraku. In bunraku, which was puppet theater, Chikamatsu produced two type of plays – the historical play (jidaimono) and contemporary or domestic plays (sewamono). The most prominent development of all of his plays concerned the conflict between giri (duty) and ninjo (human emotions). This conflict is especially important because it applied directly to society at that time. Most of his plays were created based on a real scandal that had happened a few weeks to a month prior that everybody knew about. At the time of his writings, Japan was in the period of the Tokugawa Shogunate, which ruled from 1600-1867. During this time, there were four main classes – the samurai, famers, artisans, and merchants. Within the classes, especially for the samurai, there was a strict code of honor and duties that each person followed. This strict code of honor was further evoked with the concepts of Song Confucianism, which was the official ideology of the period. The two main principles from Song Confucianism were ri (rational principle) and vital energy. Ri (rational principle) as the importance of one’s accomplishment of duties to their family and filial piety, as well as loyalty to a master. Since these principles were important to observe and accomplish in society, Chikamatsu’s plays of conflict between giri and ninjo were in a sense, controversial. His puppet plays about recent scandals thus provided the internal conflict for the main characters who had internal conflicting thoughts between what was right by following one’s duty, and what was wrong, by following one’s feelings to disobey his or her obligations.
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