Kabuki Essay

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Kabuki: A Brief History Created around the year 1600, around the same time the English began to form colonies on the American continent, the history of Kabuki is as long as that of the United States and just as multi-faceted. While it barely scratches the surface, the brief description of the history of Kabuki that follows will attempt to give a general overview of the theater. Kabuki was created by Okuni, a shrine maiden from Izumo Shrine. Her performances in the dry river beds of the ancient capital of Kyoto caused a sensation and soon their scale increased and a number of rival companies arose. Early Kabuki was much different from what is seen today and was comprised mostly of large ensemble dances performed by women. Most of these women acted as prostitutes off stage and finally the government banned women from the stage in an effort to protect public morales, just one in a long history of government restrictions placed on the theater. This ban on women, though, is often seen as a good move because it necessitated the importance of skill over beauty and put more stress on drama than dance, putting Kabuki on the path to become a dramatic art form. Another development was the appearance of onnagata female role specialists, men who played women. The last quarter of the 17th century is referred to as the Genroku period and was a time of renaissance in the culture of Japanese townspeople. As the main form of theatrical entertainment for commoners, there was a great flowering of creativity in Kabuki. It was during this period that the stylizations that would form the base of Kabuki were created. The playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon and actors like Ichikawa Danjuro and Sakata Tojuro left strong legacies that can still be seen today. It was also during this period that the close relationship between Kabuki and the Bunraku puppet theater began and the two would

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