Literature In No Drama Essay

902 words - 4 pages

By nature, Japanese No drama draw much of their inspiration and influence from the classics. Many are based on episodes from the most popular classics, like Atsumori, based on the Tale of Heike, or Matsukaze, which was actually based on a collage of earlier work. Even within these episodes do we find references to yet more classic works of literature, from the oldest collections of poetry to adopted religious texts. That isn’t to say that No is without its own strokes of creativity—the entire performance is a unique adaptation, and the playwrights had to be both highly educated in the classics, yet geniuses at the creative aspect of weaving song/poetry, dance, religion and literature together into a heart-wrenching spectacle.
It might be easier to behold the similarities between no plays than the differences. The basic plot changes little: there is a traveler or monk who encounters a restless ghost or ghosts whose restless souls must be put to rest. The religious implications here are major, and become a central theme of No. In both Atsumori and Matsukaze, the monk chants “Namu Amida Bu,” for the Pure Land sect of Buddhism, as well as recites verses from the Lotus Sutra. The commentary mentions that “…The monk invokes Amida for the spirits of the dead, although the dead are comforted more often with passes from the Lotus Sutra.” (p.41) Atsumori’s ghost, as character “youth,” and Rensho, a monk, both quote together: “If I at last become a Buddha/then all sentient beings who call my Name/in all the worlds, in the ten directions/will find welcome in Me, for I abandon none,” which is from the sutra known as Kammuryojukyo. The chorus expands on this quote until the end of the scene, the song being the playwright’s own creative expression, which begins with “Then, o monk, do not abandon me!” (p.42) Matsukaze has fewer direct quotes regarding religion, and for bits part the conclusion alludes only to one of the two sisters being “saved” from the attachment of the world of the living: “The dream is gone, without a shadow/night opens into dawn./It was Autumn Rain you heard,/but this morning see: Pining Wind alone lingers on…”(p.204)
Atsumori revisits one distinct tragic episode of Heike Monogatari, facing it with a religious mission. However, Matsukaze’s story is not based on any single work of literature, although there are many allusions to the chapter of Tale of Genji when he is exiled to Suma. The location is crucial, because it was in his exile at Suma that Genji took up with the Akashi Lady, and left her his hunting cloak, just as Yukihira did for the...

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