The Noh Theater: Mirror, Mask, and Madness


Mikiko Ishii


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Noh is often misunderstood as a frozen theatrical tradition only, a relic of antiquity, or a suitable subject for a scholarly study of medieval culture in Japan. However, ever since it was first developed and refined as an independent dramatic form it has never ceased to be performed. Unlike the English mystery plays that have been revived in modem productions which have struggled to re-create lost traditions, Noh is a living art, and it also is a representative of those Japanese art forms that have been seen as introducing Japanese culture in a wider sense. Originating in dance and music performed at sacred rituals and festivals, Noh grew out of the Japanese soul's yearning "for a concrete epiphany of the Divine: ... lightning-like incarnation of the gods, god-men, spirits, souls of the dead, souls of animals."1 It was thus indeed born in the days when men felt the gods as living beings in close proximity to them. Even when brought to maturity and refinement by the two great dramaturgists Kan-ami Kiyotsugu (1333-84) and his son Ze-ami Motokiyo (1363-1443), the gods and the spiritual realm which they represented were still close to the people.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.