THE PORTRAYAL OF CHARACTER

In document The evolution of Chikamatsu's history plays (Page 78-82)

C h a r a c t e r is a n o t h e r i m p o r t a n t e l e m e n t in t r a g e d y . C r e a t i n g the p e r s o n a l i t i e s of c h a r a c t e r s and p o r t r a y i n g t h e i r natures is a l w a y s i m p o r t a n t for dramatists, and C h i k a m a t s u is no exception. A l o n g with a c h a n g e in dramatic structure in the late plays, the d e p i c t i o n of character also b e c a m e more s o p h i s t i c a t e d . In Naniwa miyage ( S o u v e n i r of N a n i w a , 1738), C h i k a m a t s u is q u o t e d as p o i n t i n g out that since J5ruri must c o m p e t e with the K a b u k i theatre of live actors, a Joruri playwright must give his puppets rich f e e l i n g in order to grip the attention of the audience (1). C h i k a m a t s u also d i s c u s s e d the art of e f f e c t i v e p o r t r a y a l of c h a r a c t e r t h r o u g h t h e c r e a t i o n of s u i t a b l e l a n g u a g e f o r t h e d i f f e r e n t c h a r a c t e r s and the t h i r d - p e r s o n n a r r a t i o n . T h i s dual e m p h a s i s is distinctly mirrored in his later plays.

In C h i k a m a t s u ' s f i v e - a c t history p l a y s , it was a f t e r The Battles of Coxinga (1715) that he started to create vivid and more fully drawn characters. He also began to develop c h a r a c t e r s over several acts. For instance, in The Battles of Coxinga, W a t o n a i is depicted in Act 2, Act 3 and Act 5 as a c o u r a g e o u s , d e t e r m i n e d and r e s o u r c e f u l g e n e r a l . In Act 2 through the t e n s e e n c o u n t e r w i t h t h e f i e r c e t i g e r , C h i k a m a t s u set off W a t o n a i ' s b r a v e p e r s o n a l i t y .

He stands p e r p l e x e d when a gale all at o n c e a r i s e s , b l o w i n g f i e r c e l y e n o u g h to scoop holes in the ground and curl back the b a m b o o leaves. T h e b a m b o o stalks broken by the wind are like swords, and the s c e n e h o r r i f y i n g b e y o n d d e s c r i p t i o n . W a t o n a i is not in the least perturbed (2).

At last "half the tiger's f u r has been pulled out" (3) and W a t o n a i " s e i z i n g the tiger by the base of its tail, f l i n g s it b a c k w a r d , f o r c e s it d o w n . . . " (4). In Act 3, four lines s h o w i n g W a t o n a i ' s d e t e r m i n a t i o n to r e s t o r e the M i n g D y n a s t y and his f o r c e f u l c h a r a c t e r a p p e a r b e f o r e the readers. W h e n he sees the sign of the blood (in fact the p o w d e r ) f l o w i n g in the river, he k n o w s that the General Kanki does not want to join him, so:

His f e e t r u s h f o r w a r d f u r i o u s l y up the rapids of the river. When he reaches the moat at his d e s t i n a t i o n , he leaps across, c l i m b s the i n n e r w a l l , t r a m p l e s d o w n w a t t l e d f e n c e s and l a t t i c e r a i l i n g s , and f i n a l l y a r r i v e s at the spring within the g a r d e n of t h e w o m e n ' s a p a r t m e n t s of Kanki's castle (5).

His c o m m a n d s to his soldiers in the final act show him as a r e s o u r c e f u l l e a d e r .

W e still do not k n o w w h e t h e r my f a t h e r is dead or alive. W e m u s t be extremely c a r e f u l . T h e r e are t w e l v e m a j o r gates and t h i r t y - s i x s m a l l e r o n e s a r o u n d the walls of N a n k i n g , and if we leave even o n e u n g u a r d e d , the e n e m y is sure to

e s c a p e through it. Keep a sharp lookout on all sides, then let's attack (6).

T h i s kind of e x t e n d e d p o r t r a y a l is r a r e in C h i k a m a t s u ' s early history p l a y s . Both the main c h a r a c t e r s , P r i n c e H a n a h i t o and Yorimitsu (Raiko), in the early plays Emperor Ydmei and the Mirror for Craftsmen and the Female Goblin with a Baby r e s p e c t i v e l y , are c l e a r e x a m p l e s . T h e i m a g e of the l e a d i n g c h a r a c t e r K a g e k i y o in Kagekiyo Victorious is d e s c r i b e d t h r o u g h o u t the f i v e acts, and is indeed r a t h e r f u l l y d r a w n . H o w e v e r , we only witness his action as a samurai with strong will to revenge, not his inner thoughts on revenge nor his agony when he is d e f e a t e d and surrenders. T h e r e f o r e , in the depiction of a s a m u r a i ' s character, this play can still not be c o m p a r e d with the later p l a y s .

T h e r e are also a few examples in earlier w o r k s of detailed d e s c r i p t i o n s of s u b o r d i n a t e c h a r a c t e r s and other f i g u r e s in the central tragedy scene, such as Watonai's mother in Coxinga. An a n a l y s i s c o m p a r i n g s e l f - s a c r i f i c i n g ( p a r t i c u l a r y f e m a l e ) c h a r a c t e r s in t h e t r a g e d y s c e n e and h i g h l y - r a n k e d h i s t o r i c a l f i g u r e s in p l a y s f r o m the t w o p e r i o d s s h o w s the i n n o s a t i o n s C h i k a m a t s u b r o u g h t to Joruri.

C h i k a m a t s u created a w i d e r a n g e of f e m a l e c h a r a c t e r s and they i n c r e a s i n g l y c a m e to fill p r o m i n e n t roles in his late w o r k s . W h i l e it is n o t p o s s i b l e to a n a l y s e all the f e m a l e c h a r a c t e r s i n d i v i d u a l l y , a c o m p a r i s o n of s i m i l a r c h a r a c t e r s f r o m t h e t w o p e r i o d s can p r o v i d e s o m e i n s i g h t s i n t o t h e d e v e l o p m e n t of

C h i k a m a t s u ' s t r e a t m e n t of c h a r a c t e r . F o r e x a m p l e , t h e r e a r e s i m i l a r i t i e s b e t w e e n M u n e o k a ' s m o t h e r in Emperor Ydmei and the Mirror for Craftsmen (1705) and the m o t h e r of K a n s u k e in The Battle at the Island in Shinshu River ( 1 7 2 1 ) . T h e s e two samurai m o t h e r s are in the s a m e s i t u a t i o n : both are w i d o w s , both live together with their samurai sons, and both in the end s a c r i f i c e t h e m s e l v e s f o r t h e i r s o n s . H o w e v e r , t h e r e a r e significant d i f f e r e n c e s in their dispositions and their f e a t u r e s . In the e a r l i e r p l a y , to d e l i n e a t e the m o t h e r ' s i n n e r w o r l d of maternal love, C h i k a m a t s u laid particular e m p h a s i s on d e s c r i b i n g the actions of the m o t h e r handling the c o n f l i c t b e t w e e n her son and d a u g h t e r . T h e m o t h e r e a r n e s t l y d e s i r e s t h a t h e r s o n , M u n e o k a , w o r k in the s e r v i c e of P r i n c e Y a m a h i k o and be p r o m o t e d . She does her best to give M u n e o k a c o n f i d e n c e , and she f i n a l l y s a c r i f i c e s h e r s e l f w i t h o u t h e s i t a t i o n in o r d e r to reconcile the conflicts between her son and her d a u g h t e r and the daughter's lover, M o r o i w a . Although this image of the m o t h e r as a good and honest w o m a n is clearly outlined, it is still limited in its p r e s e n t a t i o n . M o r e o v e r , as the m o t h e r first a p p e a r s only in the second part of Act 2 when her son returned h o m e with P r i n c e Y a m a h i k o ' s order f r o m E c h i g o p r o v i n c e , the d e v e l o p m e n t of her character is confined to only a f e w pages.

In c o n t r a s t , C h i k a m a t s u p r o v i d e d a w i d e r b a c k g r o u n d , in The Battle at the Island in Shinshu River, to reveal the nature of a k i n d - h e a r t e d but s t r o n g - w i l l e d s a m u r a i m o t h e r . C h i k a m a t s u c r e a t e d this f i g u r e t h r o u g h t h r e e d e c i s i v e h e r o i c e p i s o d e s . In both the scene of her battle of wits with Shingen and that of her decision to send her son to serve Shingen in Act 2, this s a m u r a i

mother is shown to be a clever, k n o w l e d g e a b l e w o m a n with both pride and d e t e r m i n a t i o n . Indeed Hara Goro, a guard of Shingen, initially t h o u g h t that

She is only a poor ronin ( ) and

In document The evolution of Chikamatsu's history plays (Page 78-82)