The time of the year was autumn the season most

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Unformatted text preview: istic manners of speech and movement. The very suggestion of realism is often deliberately avoided by having, for example, an old man play the role of a young girl or a little boy that of a great general (all performers in nò, incidentally, are males). The nò actor is in particular expected to cultivate two qualities: monomane or the “imitation of things”; and yûgen. Monomane does not of course mean the capacity to act realistically, but to perform the various symbolic movements demanded by the roles of the five categories of nò plays—god plays, warrior plays, women plays, miscellaneous plays, and demon plays. Although he regarded mastery of monomane as essential, Zeami stressed that the supreme measure of the nò actor is his ability to convey the mystery and depth of yûgen, one of the most treasured aesthetic values of the medieval age. 116 The Canons of Medieval Taste Earlier in this chapter I discussed yûgen in terms of “mystery” and “depth.” Zeami, in one of his critical writings, has this to say about yûgen: In what sort of place, then, is the stage of yûgen actually to be found? Let us begin by examining the various classes of people on the basis of the appearance they make in society. May we not say of the courtiers, whose behavior is distinguished and whose appearance far surpasses that of other men, that theirs is the stage of yûgen? From this we may see that the essence of yûgen lies in a true state of beauty and gentleness. Tranquility and elegance make for yûgen in personal appearance. In the same way, the yûgen of discourse lies in a grace of language and a complete mastery of the speech of the nobility and gentry, so that even the most casual utterance will be graceful.25 Although Zeami has much more to say about yûgen elsewhere, and although, like other aesthetic terms, it is far too complex a concept to be neatly defined in a few lines, it is revealing that, in this passage, Zeami virtually equates yûgen with courtliness (miyabi): that is,...
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