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Four Major Plays of Chikamatsu
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Four Major Plays of Chikamatsu

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Four Major Plays of Chikamatsu

Translated by Donald Keene


The Love Suicides at Sonezaki 

The Battles of Coxinga 

The Uprooted Pine

The Love Suicides at Amijima

Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1725) wrote some 130 plays, chiefly for the puppet theater, many of which are still performed today by puppet operators and Kabuki actors.  The plays included in this volume -- three of the most popular domestic dramas and one history play -- provide a representative selection of Chikamatsu's work for Western readers.  In his introduction to the translations, Dr. Keene provides the reader with the background essential for an understanding of Chikamatsu's work.  He discusses customs and beliefs in Chikamatsu's time, their reflection in the behavior of his characters, and the essential features of Japanese drama as they developed entirely independently of foreign influence. 

Some time before European dramatists turned to the common man as a tragic hero, Chikamatsu, in his domestic tragedies, wrote about the daily life of late seventeenth-and early eighteenth-century Japan.  His plays are accurate reflections of the society and its life: his characters are samurai, farmers, merchants, and prostitutes; who speak colloquially and are placed in the shops, streets, teahouses, and brothels that constituted their daily environment.  The heroes and heroines of these plays gain their tragic stature from the pressures placed upon them by their society.  The closest counterpart in the Western theater to Chikamatsu's characters is probably to be found in the twentieth-century drama of the little man whose dreams and aspirations are doomed to frustration.