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Last night you heard the autumn rain;
This morning all that is left
Is the wind in the pines.
The wind in the pines.28
Both The Shrine in the Fields and Matsukaze are mugen or “ghostly
dream” plays. Exploiting the “mystery” aspect of the yûgen aesthetic, the
ghostly dream plays, which were especially favored by Zeami, bring
people (both historical figures and characters from fiction) back from the
distant past as mysterious, haunting apparitions. Among the finest of
such plays are those in the category of women plays, such as The Shrine
in the Fields and Matsukaze. But the ghostly dream format was also wonderfully adapted to warrior plays, nearly all of which are based on episodes from The Tale of the Heike. The most affecting of the warrior mugen
plays are those that recreate the lives of the fate-driven Taira as they are
hounded and destroyed by the Minamoto in the Genpei War. We noted
that, as portrayed in the Heike, the Taira were transformed into courtly
warriors during their long residence in Kyoto in the second half of the
twelfth century. Some became well-known waka poets; others took up
court music, mastering such instruments as the flute and the biwa; and
still others became romantic lovers in the courtier manner. By featuring
the courtly side of the Taira in his warrior plays, Zeami deliberately
catered to the tastes of the shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and the members of his warrior elite who, as residents of Kyoto during the Muromachi
period, themselves acquired courtly tastes and became courtier-warriors.
Typical of the mugen warrior plays is Atsumori, the story of the youthful Taira commander Atsumori, who is killed by the rough eastern warrior Kumagai Naozane as he attempts to escape after the battle of Ichinotani, fought in 1184 on the shore of the Inland Sea near today’s Kobe.
Atsumori adheres closely to the story as it is presented in the Heike. After
the Minamoto rout the Taira at Ichinotani, Atsumori tries to flee by
riding his horse out to boats waiting in the offing. But even as he approaches the boats, he is challenged by...
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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.
- Spring '13