ASIA212Varley

His criticism of the forty seven rnin was that they

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Unformatted text preview: n a vendetta inasmuch as Kira had not killed anyone but had himself been the victim of attempted murder. Nevertheless, whether or not Kira was a proper object of revenge, the rònin were certainly motivated by its spirit and, in the Japanese tradition, came to be idolized as the supreme avengers. The 1748 puppet play Chûshingura, while of course based on the rònin story, is a vastly elaborated and complex tale with many subplots that includes an array of fictional characters in addition to the rònin themselves. Perhaps most striking about this tale is that, despite its complexity of plot, it has been thoroughly cleansed of all the ambiguities of the historical events of 1701–2. The rònin and others who support them are, from start to finish, motivated by only two sentiments: loyalty (for their lord) and revenge. The Kira character9 is a thoroughly despicable, evil man whose death cannot come too soon, and the rònin, led by the Kuranosuke character, do not for a moment think about saving their lord’s house, their personal honor, or anything other than revenge. They plan, moreover, to cap their vendetta—the killing of the Kira character—with the ultimate act of loyalty, their own suicides. The play says nothing about the rònin being arrested by the shogunate and awaiting a decision about their fate. Instead, it ends with them setting off to the temple where their lord is buried to commit suicide before his grave. I believe that much, if not most, of the popularity of the forty-seven rònin story and the impetus that transformed it into the Chûshingura legend derived from the fact that, at a time (the Genroku epoch) when the samurai spirit was thought to be at its nadir, a group of rònin acted in accordance with what was perceived to be its finest values. Chûshingura, although obviously known to be a largely fictionalized version of the rònin story, removed all the shadings and motivational uncertainties from the story and rendered it a pure celebration of the samurai way. At least one contemporary of the rònin, however, was not impr...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.

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