What caused social unrest in The Master Puppeteer?
In the eighteenth-century Japanese society in which the play is situated, a rigid hierarchy kept working people indebted to upper-class people. One key mechanism for maintaining inequality was the high cost of food, including the basic staple rice. Closely related was the excessive tax burden imposed on workers. As food became scarce, the ordinary people suspect that the wholesale food sellers were not just manipulating the price but actually withholding food from the market. The situation had grown so dire that rioting frequently broke out in the streets. In this story, he social bandits, led by Saburo, take matters into their own hand: they break into the establishment of Furukawa, a leading rice broker, and freely distribute the food they steal there. Such actions, however, also bring down the wrath of the authorities who want to maintain order more than they want to ensure popular well-being.
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