May we not say of the courtiers whose behavior is

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Unformatted text preview: ntree to the highest social circles in Kyoto, these two men elevated and refined sarugaku to a dramatic art of great beauty and sublimity that could appeal to the most aristocratic of sensibilities. Kan’ami and Zeami were not only actors but also playwrights; and many of the finest plays in the nò repertory can either positively or with reasonable assurance be attributed to their brushes. Zeami, moreover, was an outstanding critic of his day and has left invaluable commentaries on medieval aesthetic and dramatic tastes, tastes that he himself was so influential in molding. When Zeami first met Yoshimitsu in 1374 he had been a mere child of eleven, and quite likely it was his physical beauty as much as anything that first attracted the shogun, who had a particular fondness for pretty boys. After Yoshimitsu’s death in 1408, Zeami and his school of nò were temporarily forced into eclipse by those in the shogunate who resented the extraordinary privileges he had previously received. But the popularity of nò was by this time too firmly established to be readily destroyed. Before long, it was once again in favor with the Ashikaga shoguns and enjoyed their patronage for the remainder of the medieval age. Donald Keene has defined nò as “a dramatic poem concerned with The Canons of Medieval Taste Fig. 32 115 Scene from a nò play (Japan National Tourist Organization) remote or supernatural events, performed by a dancer, often masked, who shares with lesser personages and a chorus the singing and declamation of the poetry.”24 The main dancer or actor is known as the shite, and the lesser personages include the waki or “side person,” who usually introduces the play and asks the questions that induce the shite to tell his story, and one or more tsure (companions) (fig. 32). To the uninitiated, nò can seem painfully slow and its plots so thin as to be almost nonexistent. Moreover, there is little if any attempt made in nò to be realistic. It is a theatre of symbolism, employing highly stylized, even ritual...
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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 The University of British Columbia.

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