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The Love Suicide At Amijima Analysis Essay

The Love Suicides at Amijima was created by Chikamatsu Monzaemon in 1721. This play was originally written as joruri, better known as puppet theatre but was later performed into kabuki, the form of theater in which a play is interpreted through dance and song. The Love Suicides at Amijima was created during a time period called the Edo Period, this point in history was critical to the different forms of literature and art. During this period, Monzaemon as well as other artists became popular amongst the “commercial culture” (Keene, 46) which led to rise of Monzaemon’s various plays.

This play is widely known for its tragic love story between two characters, Jihei and Koharu who because of their social statuses cannot be together, and seek suicide as their only option. This theme presented within the play is strange to viewers, suicide today is frowned upon and what considered a “happy ending” in the play is not how it is seen today. According to various databases suicide was seen as an honorable and noble act amongst the Japanese culture in the early 1600s.

Monzaemon’s common theme of love-suicides were influenced and developed within his plays due to a history of honorable suicides being practiced within the Japanese culture such as seppuku, kamikaze, and banzai charge. According to the article Seppuku written by Kallie Szczepanski, seppuku is a form of suicide that started in the year of the samurai and daimyo in Japan. Through this article viewers are able to determine underlying reasons as to why these two groups practiced such traditions, and why this type of suicide is considered honorable amongst the Japanese culture.

Seppuku was the act of the suicide by cutting the abdomen open of the warrior; it was believed that through this process the samurai’s sprit would be released to the afterlife. “Samurai warriors, served to protect the lives and property of the daimyo, large landowners, and vassals of the Shogun” (Szczepanski) both of these groups committed seppuku for various reasons that evolved around honor. The Samurai would seek seppuku when shame was brought upon them during battle, committing a dishonest act, or losing the aid of a daimyo or leader.

As for the daimyo, the head shogun could ask them to perform seppuku as part of a “judicial punishment. (Szczepanski) Many of those who performed seppuku were doing so in order to gain their honor back, but in the case of Jihei and Koharu in The Love Suicides at Amijima they believed “that they could be reborn on the same lotus in the Buddhist Pure Land if they committed suicide together. ” (Keene, 47) The story created by Chikamatsu Monzaemon ties into the tradition of seppuku because of the relation the author had to this historical time period. “Chikamatsu was born into a provincial samurai family” he was aware of the practices and traditions the samurai upheld within their household, including the samurai code of conduct, bushido.

When Chikamatsu created The Love Suicides at Amijima, the Edo period was in effect and most of the theatre performances were influenced by “the higher rungs of Edo society, mostly samurai and rich merchants; it was sponsored by the shoguns as official state theater. ” (Keene, 46) Seeing that most of the arts were influenced by the time period in which they were in, it is more evident as to why Monzaemon contributed suicide into his play as well as the characters.

The Love Suicides at Amijima was a reflection of current events present within theater, later creating “a new subgenre: the contemporary-life play. ” (Keene, 47) Seppuku was not the only influential suicide tradition being practiced in Japan; kamikaze was another form of sacrifice that was being practiced by pilots in the 1900’s. According to the article Kamikaze Pilots written by Shyle Mehta the suicidal practice called kamikaze first appeared in July of 1944 after the Battle of Midway.

During this time “Japanese Vice Admiral Takashiro Ohnishi, commander of the First Air Fleet in the Philippines, had noted that the most effective way to inflict damage upon Allied warships was to crash planes into them” (Mehta), they needed something affective and believed that this new tactic was the best decision for them in order to defeat their allies. In order for them to complete this new tactic, and put it into action men were being asked to intentionally crash their planes into the rivals, and basically put their lives in the hands of death in order for them to successfully complete their mission.

Many of these men were students in their twenties studying science at local universities, only willing to be a Kamikaze pilot as an obligation to remain loyal to not only his friends and family but to his country as well. This particular reasoning behind the Kamikaze suicides relates to the story of The Love Suicides at Amijima by revealing the theme of being loyal to their families. During the Edo Period in which the play was written, social order played a big role in the society.

It was shameful for men of higher standing to have relationships with the lower class, in the case of Jihei and Koharu it was prostitution. In order for Jihei to be with Koharu but also protect the reputation of his family he decides a love suicide is the best option, seeing that if he were to be with Koharu and take her home to his family shame will be brought amongst them , “My husband’s reputation concerns me more. ” (Osan, 63) Another form of suicide that contributed to the development of The Love Suicides at Amijima was the Japanese tradition called “banzai charge”.

Through the article 1944: Japan’s Largest Banzai Charge in World War II written by Tin Pongrac, readers are able to become aware of the serious injuries the banzai charge brought amongst the Americans, and what the reasoning was behind this new war tactic by Japanese soldiers. Banzai charge was a form of suicide consisting of a group, knowing that they would be defeated this group would charge toward their allies’ full force even at times with bombs on their backs in order to defeat their rivals and die honorably.

This form of honorable suicide was practiced in World War II as well at the Battle of Saipan. This attack was one of the largest and led to a serious number of loses amongst the America troops. “This term originated from the Japanese phrase “Tenno Heika Banzai” (meaning roughly “Long live the Emperor,” (Pongrac) through this definition it is apparent that many of these attacks were for the sake of the country and leader at the time. To Japanese soldiers banzai charge was a more honorable way of dying, sacrificing their lives, rather than being defeated by the Americans.

Through the various articles analyzing the historical traditions practiced within Japan, It is apparent that perhaps Chikamatsu Monzaemon was greatly influenced by these traditional practices when creating his love suicides. Through the article Notes on Chikatmatsu Mon’zaemon and The Love Suicides at Amijima by Bret Mailloux viewers are given a historical background on not only the text by Monzaemon, but the author as well. Monzaemon was born into a traditional samurai family, he was aware of the customary traditions such as seppuku and bushido.

The Samurai is bound to the code of Bushido that permeates their every action. Bushido is literally “the way of the warrior” and requires that the warrior always save face or act honorably. The price of redemption for dishonor is taking one’s own life in the act of “seppuku” or ritual suicide. ” (Mailloux) Suicide in Japan during the creation of The Love Suicides at Amijima was a normal customary practice, especially amongst the samurai.

Monzaemon was aware of these practices and many of his works were reflective of current situations that were happening within Japan. Without the customary traditions such seppuku, kamikaze, and banzai charge, Monzaemon would not have incorporated a love suicide within his story. It was customary for the Japanese to uphold an honorable reputation, and make no mistakes, but if such a tragedy occurred they were able regain their honor through the different forms of suicide.

Through this article by Mailloux readers are able to see the themes presented within The Love Suicides at Amijima, as well as cultural background, historical, and biographical perspective within the play. With these various articles, the understanding behind the development of the story as well as its meaning becomes clearer to the reader, and how honorable suicides practiced within traditional Japan influenced the production of The Love Suicides at Amijima.

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