The Noh Theater: Principles and Perspectives

The Noh Theater: Principles and Perspectives

The Noh Theater: Principles and Perspectives

The Noh Theater: Principles and Perspectives

Excerpt

Noh is the classical stage art of Japan, developed from a variety of sacred rituals and festival entertainment arts and brought to a state of refinement and maturity during the Muromachi period (1336-1568). The form of the Noh drama that we know today has a history of about six centuries. The chanted and danced Noh plays, which often have tragic or spiritual themes, are performed alternately with Kyōgen plays, which are lighter, often comic, and composed mostly of dialogue. Noh and Kyōgen taken together are known as Nohgaku (accomplished entertainment). The texts of Noh, which serve as scripts for the plays and are also read and sung for their beauty as literature, are called yōkyoku.

Noh is sometimes misunderstood as being little more than a frozen tradition, or, even worse, as being of worth merely because it is ancient. But to have endured down through the centuries the Noh art form must have had an original, intrinsic value that has survived an unceasing process of refinement as successive generations inherited the art, poured the best of their wisdom and techniques into it, and then passed it on. An art that is not kept alive through these rigors can exist in our day only as a museum piece or a curio, its past glory severed from the present by time.

Fortunately, Noh has come down to us vibrantly alive, and, if . . .

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