CHIKAMATSU MONZAEMON I

Playwright names:

Chikamatsu Monzaemon I In Japanese

Real Name: Sugimori Nobumori

Line number: SHODAI (I)

Existence: 1653 ~ 22nd day of the 11th lunar month of 1725

Connection:

Disciples: Takeda Izumo I, Chikamatsu Kannosuke

Career:

1653: born in the city of Furue in the province Echizen; he is the second son of the samurai Sugimori Ichizaemon Nobuyoshi.

9th lunar month of 1683: premiere in Kyto at Ujiza of Monzaemon's first official puppet play "Yotsugi no Soga"; this is Monzaemon's first work for the jjri reciter Uji Kaganoj.

1st lunar month of 1685: premiere in saka at the Takemotoza of Monzaemon's play "Shusse Kagekiyo"; this is Monzaemon's first work for the jjri reciter Takemoto Giday. This jidaimono is considered as the first "new" jjri (in opposition to the "old" jjri (kojjri), a new style which will be called Giday in the future.

3rd lunar month of 1693: the first drama written by Monzaemon for the star Sakata Tjr I is performed in Kyt at Miyako Manday's theater. The play's title is "Butsumo Mayasan Kaich" and the others actors in the casting are Yamashita Hanzaemon, Yoshizawa Ayame, Kirinami Senju I, Kaneko Kichizaemon and Iwai Heijir.

11th lunar month of 1696: premiere in Kyto at Miyako Manday's theater of Monzaemon's play "Thsaku", which is produced by Sakata Tjr I.

4th lunar month of 1697: premiere in Kyto at Miyako Manday's theater of Monzaemon's play "Uzuki Kokonoka Sono Akatsuki no Myjgachaya", which is produced by Sakata Tjr I.

1st lunar month of 1698: premiere in Kyto at Miyako Manday's theater of Monzaemon's play "Kamigy Uta Hajime", which is produced by Sakata Tjr I (it is said that the actor revised the script quite a lot himself).

1st lunar month of 1699: premiere in Kyto at Miyako Manday's theater of Monzaemon's play "Keisei Hotoke no Hara", which is produced by Sakata Tjr I. This is a huge success.

10th lunar month of 1699: premiere in Kyto at Miyako Manday's theater of Monzaemon's play "Amidagaike Shin Teramachi", which is produced by Sakata Tjr I.

1st lunar month of 1700: premiere in Kyto at Miyako Manday's theater of Monzaemon's play "Keisei Guzei no Fune", which is produced by Sakata Tjr I.

5th lunar month of 1701: Takemoto Giday takes the name of Takemoto Chikugonoj.

1st lunar month of 1702: premiere in Kyto at Miyako Manday's theater of Monzaemon's play "Keisei Mibu Dainenbutsu", which is produced by Kokon Shinzaemon; the 2 leading roles are played by Sakata Tjr I and Arashi Kiyosabur I.

5th lunar month of 1703: premiere in saka at the Takemotoza of Monzaemon's first his first shinjmono "Sonezaki Shinj"; it is also Monzaemon's first sewamono and it is based on a real event that happened in saka in the 4th lunar month of 1703; "Sonezaki Shinj" will be adapted to Kabuki a few years later and staged for the first time in Edo in the 4th lunar month of 1719 at the Nakamuraza [more details].

11th lunar month of 1704: premiere in Kyto at Miyako Manday's theater of Monzaemon's drama "Kissh Tennyo Anzan no Tama".

Summer (?) 1705: the play "Keisei Kinry no Hashi" is staged in Kyto at Miyako Manday's theater; this is the last script written directly for Kabuki actors by Monzaemon.

2nd lunar month of 1707: premiere in saka at the Takemotoza of Monzaemon's play "Horikawa Nami no Tsuzumi"; it will be adapted to Kabuki for the very first time more than 2 centuries later, in April 1914 in saka at the Nakaza.

End of 1707: premiere in saka at the Takemotoza of Monzaemon's play "Shinj Kasane Izutsu"; it will be adapted for Kabuki for the first time in the 1st lunar month of 1720 in Edo in the 3 main theaters (Nakamuraza / Ichimuraza / Moritaza), to commemorate the 16th anniversary (17th memorial service) of the suicide of the couple Tokubei and Ofusa.

8th lunar month of 1708: premiere in saka at the Takemotoza of Monzaemon's play "Keisei Hangonk"; it will be adapted for Kabuki for the first time in the 1st lunar month of 1719, staged in saka at the Kado no Shibai [casting].

1st day of the 11th lunar month of 1709: the actor Sakata Tjr I dies.

21st day of the 1st lunar month of 1711: the jjri master Uji Kaganoj dies.

3rd lunar month of 1711: premiere in saka at the Takemotoza of Monzaemon's play "Meido no Hikyaku". It is based on a real event that happened in saka the 5th of the 12th lunar month of 1710: a messenger named Chbei was executed because he used some official money, which was entrusted to him, for the love of a courtesan named Umegawa.

7th lunar month of 1712: premiere in saka at the Takemotoza of Monzaemon's play "Komochi Yamamba"; it will be adapted to Kabuki more than 8 decades later, in the 3rd lunar month of 1795 in saka at the Kado no Shibai [more details].

10th day of the 9th lunar month of 1714: the jjri master Takemoto Chikugonoj dies.

11th lunar month of 1715: premiere in saka at the Takemotoza of Monzaemon's play "Kokusen'ya Gassen". It is extremely successful and is extended up to the 3rd lunar month of 1717 (this is the longest run in Japan theater history, all genres taken into account). It will be adapted to Kabuki for the first time in Fall 1716 in Kyto at Miyako Manday's theater [casting].

8th lunar month of 1717: premiere in saka at the Takemotoza of Monzaemon's play "Yari no Gonza Kasane Katabira"; It is based on real events, which occurred in saka in the 7th lunar month of 1717.

1st lunar month of 1718: premiere in saka at the Takemotoza of Monzaemon's play "Yamazaki Yojibei Nebiki no Kadomatsu".

2nd lunar month of 1718: premiere in saka at the Takemotoza of Monzaemon's play "Nihon Furisode Hajime"; it is immediately adapted to Kabuki the same month and staged for the first time in Kyto [casting].

11th lunar month of 1718: premiere in saka at the Takemotoza of Monzaemon's play "Hakata Kojor Nami Makura"; it is based on a real incident involving a gang of seven smugglers who were caught in Nagasaki and were nose-cutted and put in the stocks for three days in saka in the 10th lunar month of 1718.

8th lunar month of 1719: premiere in saka at the Takemotoza of Monzaemon's play "Heike Nyogo-ga-Shima"; It will be adapted to Kabuki for the first time in the 1st lunar month of 1720 in saka at the Naka no Shibai [casting].

12th lunar month of 1720: premiere in saka at the Takemotoza of Monzaemon's play "Shinj Ten no Amijima". It is based on a real event that happened in saka the 14th day of the 10th lunar month of 1720: the double suicide in Amijima in the precinct of the Daichji Temple of Kamiya Jihei (a paper merchant from the Tenma district) and the courtesan Kinokuniya Koharu (from the Kita-Shinchi pleasure quarter). This drama will be adapted to Kabuki the following year and staged for the first time in Edo at the Moritaza [more details].

7th lunar month of 1721: premiere in saka at the Takemotoza of Monzaemon's play "Onna Goroshi Abura no Jigoku". It is not a hit and quickly goes into oblivion. It will adapted to Kabuki for the very first time by Takeshiba Manji in October 1907 at the Misakiza, where it will be staged by a troupe of female Kabuki. A new script will be written by Watanabe Katei for the actor Jitsukawa Enjir I. It will be successfully staged in November 1909 in saka at the Asahiza [casting], in January 1910 in Kyto at the Minamiza [casting] and in Tky at the Shintomiza [casting].

1st lunar month of 1724: premiere in saka at the Takemotoza of Monzaemon's play "Kanhassh Tsunagi Uma"; this is Monzaemon last drama.

Comments:

"The most renowned of puppet theatre and Kabuki playwrights, popularly but unrealistically called the Japanese Shakespeare".
(Samuel Leiter in "New Kabuki Encyclopedia")

"The giant among the playwrights of his time was Chikamatsu Monzaemon, but as his best plays were written for the Doll-theatre, he does not rightly belong to an account of Kabuki playwrights. It is true, however, that the great influence his compositions had upon Kabuki, even to the present day, can hardly be over-estimated.
His real name was Sugimori Nobumori, and the little town of Hagi, in the Province of Hizen, that has produced so many men famous in Japanese history, regards him as an illustrious son. This is disputed, since several other villages in different parts of the country also put forward claims as to Chikamatsu's birthplace. Even his last restingplace is not known, for his grave is found in two places, the cemetery of Hymyji, a Buddhist temple in saka, and in a village near this city. And so the greatest playwright of Japan, who wrote more than one hundred plays, was born and died in obscurity. It is thought that he was an illegitimate son, since there seemed to have been some cloud upon his life. The Sugimori family were of good repute, and served the lord of Hagi.
In his youth Chikamatsu entered the temple named Chikamatsu, at Karatsu, in the province of Hizen, and it was from this temple that he took his professional name later in life. While dwelling there he must have laid the foundation for that large knowledge of Buddhism, history, and literature he displays so abundantly and convincingly in his plays. The calm of the Buddhist retreat soon became monotonous to his vigorous spirit, which sought for new worlds to conquer. He went to Kyto, where he remained for some time with a brother, then entered the service of the noble house of Ichij, where he became familiar with the customs and ceremonies of the aristocracy, and more particularly with the traditions of the N, which influenced his earlier writings greatly. When he severed his relation with this princely establishment, he had conferred upon him a certain rank in acknowledgement of his service.
So little is known concerning Chikamatsu's life that it is impossible to conjecture the reasons that led him to write for Kabuki, and associate with the "riverside beggars". His first success was at the Miyako Mandayza, Sakata Tjr's theatre. "Kokon Yakusha Taizen", or "Account of Ancient and Modern Actors", a chronicle of the theatre, published in 1750), records that Chikamatsu surprised the audience by a novelty, in the form of the ghost of a Court lady called Fujitsubo that came out of wisteria flowers and was transformed into a snake. People in the audience were so pleased they shouted: "Monzaemon! Monzaemon! Monzaemon!"
In spite of his apparent popularity, Chikamatsu had a sudden change of heart, and at the age of 38 he left for saka there to collaborate with Takemoto Giday, the Doll-theatre minstrel. What was Kabuki's loss at this time proved to be a gain later on, for his masterpieces were absorbed by Kabuki and generations of actors since Genroku have performed the varied characters of his plays.
A brother, with whom Chikamatsu had stayed when he first went to Kyto, was a medical authority in his day, who had published books on medical subjects, and also works on history. This younger brother once suggested to Chikamatsu that he could utilise his talent to better advantage than in writing for the Doll-theatre, as we are told by Dr. Fujii in his Life of Chikamatsu. But the latter retorted that the profession of writing plays might be less harmful than the writing of treatises on medicine, because in the latter case misprints or errors might prove very harmful to the lives of men.
Chikamatsu took his materials from all sources. He helped himself liberally to the plots of the N drama and of Kygen, Buddhist sermons that were recited to popular tunes, songs of the people, children's airs and even vulgar ditties, while the songs of folk-dances he used to advantage. He was a scholar, familiar with the Chinese and Japanese classics, and learned in Buddhism. But he always aimed to make the common people understand, and considered that the lower classes were his regular audience and chief patrons. He died at 64, in 1724, having written steadily for thirty years, composing one hundred and thirty pieces."
(Zo Kincaid in "Kabuki, the Popular Stage of Japan")

"Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653~1725), generally ranked as the greatest Japanese dramatist, by some estimates wrote 160 plays for the puppet and Kabuki theaters. There are doubtful attributions, and other works of slight literary importance, but no matter how we pare the list, we are left with at least thirty or forty plays of exceptional interests."
(Donald Keene in "Major Plays of Chikamatsu")

"Chikamatsu, who never hesitated to take his ideas, plots, and materials from any source that suited his purpose, borrowed to some extent from Kabuki. One of his plays, "Tamba Yosaku", was originally played twenty years before his own composition by the first Arashi San'emon. "Yuki Onna Gomai Hagoita" (lit., "the Snow-Woman-Five-Battledores"), a Chikamatsu masterpiece, was in reality one of Arashi San'emon's favourite plays."
(Zo Kincaid in "Kabuki, the Popular Stage of Japan")

Chikamatsu Monzaemon I

 
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