LJ 282 - Samurai Final Essay

LJ 282 - Samurai Final Essay - Lo 1 Allison Lo LJ 282...

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Lo Allison Lo LJ 282 Professor Burton May 6, 2007 LJ 282 Final Essay Topic: The Decline of the Samurai Class during the Edo/Tokugawa Period as Witnessed in the Chushingura and the Yotsuya Ghost Stories The Edo or Tokugawa Period of Japanese history marked the beginning of the Tokugawa shogunate. Under the Tokugawa rule, Japan went through an era of relative peace because the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu pacified Japan and united the daimyos and lords. With relatively no warfare, the daimyos and lords had no need to maintain a vast and expensive army. As a result, many samurai lost their jobs as retainers and also gradually lost their importance in society as warriors and defenders. Many samurai had to adapt and re-integrate into society by becoming farmers, merchants, scholars or skilled artisans. For the samurai that lacked the necessary skills to reintegrate into society, they became ronin. Thus, the Edo period witnessed a large increase in ronin as a result of many samurai becoming masterless. The Chushingura is one classic that captures the beginning of the decline of the samurai. The Yotsuya Ghost Stories as another classic that gives further insight into their decline for the story captures the samurai at their worst and depicts how destitute some samurai had became. Using text from the Chushingura and the Yotsuya Ghost Stories , I will compare the two stories and examine how the status of the samurai slowly declined in society and how the samurai code of bushido was often forsaken as a result of their decline. 1
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Lo Background/Summary First performed in 1825, the heroic classic Chushingura preceded the kabuki play Yotsuya Ghost Stories . The Chushingura , also popularly known as the Forty Seven Ronin , was a story about Lord Enya’s forty seven ronin and their elaborate revenge plan to avenge their master’s death. Lord Enya had been insulted and angered by Lord Moronao at the palace and thus struck out against Lord Moronao. As punishment for attacking and wounding Lord Moronao, disturbing the peace in the palace, and for his violation of the code of conduct inside the palace, Lord Enya’s lands [were] confiscated and he [was] ordered to commit seppuku (Chushingura 68). Lord Enya’s ronin felt that their master had been dishonored and regretted not being present to defend him and help him kill Lord Moronao. Thus, even after their master’s death, the ronin planned to break into Lord Moronao’s home and restore their master’s honor by taking revenge and killing Lord Moronao in Lord Enya’s name. The Yotsuya Ghost Stories was an extension of the Chushingura and focused on one of Lord Enya’s lesser samurai, Iemon. In the play, Iemon had become a ronin after Lord Enya’s fall. Desperate to regain his position as a samurai in society, Iemon attempted to get rid of his wife Oiwa in order to marry Master Kihei’s daughter Oume and achieve a position as a retainer under Lord Moronao, his former master’s enemy. In order to get rid of Oiwa, she was falsely given a medicinal potion that was actually a
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LJ 282 - Samurai Final Essay - Lo 1 Allison Lo LJ 282...

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