Noh (also spelled No) - the classic drama of Japan, comprised of one or two acts, either prose or verse, with a chorus contributing poetical comments, which was formerly acted only at the Shogun’s court. Five or six were acted in succession, presenting a complete life drama: a divine age representation, a battle piece, a women’s play, a psychological piece, a morality play, and a congratulatory piece praising the lords and the reign. Each was designed to evoke a certain mood and used symbolic gestures and chanting. There are about 200 Noh plays extant, traditionally written by Kwanami and his son, Seami. There were no female Noh actors; males played the female roles. The actors wore masks. This form of drama was recently revived. It is comparable with early Greek drama in that it is formal, restrained, subtle, symbolical, and spiritual.
The term is directly from the Japanese noh, meaning “skill” or “accomplishment.”
Noh developed in the Fourteenth Century from ritual dances associated with ancient Shinto worship. The form was perfected in the Fifteenth Century.
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