Chikamatsu Monzaemon took the jruri puppet theater, the leading popular theatrical form of his day, and through his own dramatic and poetic skill lifted a plebeian art form to the heights of serious drama. In this accomplishment, he brought changes to the theater of his age as significant as those achieved by Zeami Motokiyo in the medieval N theater several centuries earlier. The range of his writing, from political dramas on Chinese and Japanese themes to intimate stories about the domestic life of his contemporary society, has given him the nickname of the Japanese William Shakespeare. The two societies were sufficiently different that the appellation cannot hold; nevertheless, the comparison does suggest the power of Chikamatsu’s theatrical creations to hold the attention of audiences down to the present day. Widely admired and often copied, Chikamatsu remains the most important figure in the Japanese theater from the seventeenth century to modern times, when his works have been adapted for the modern stage and for films as well with great success.
Brandon, James R., ed. Chushingura: Studies in Kabuki and the Puppet Theater. Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1982. Focuses on performance aspects of the Kabuki and Bunraku theaters.
Brazell, Karen, ed. Traditional Japanese Theater: An Anthology of Plays. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. Includes one of Chikamatsu’s love suicide plays as well as introductions describing the genre and the specific play.
Gerstle, C. Andrew. Circles of Fantasy: Convention in the Plays of Chikamatsu. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986. A study of the plays of Chikamatsu, focusing on literary conventions. Bibliography and index.
Gerstle, C. Andrew. “Heroic Honor: Chikamatsu and the Samurai Ideal.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 57, no. 2 (December, 1997): 307-381. A look at the samurai in the play Kanhasshu tsunagi-uma (Tethered Steed and the Eight Provinces of Kanto).
Heine, Steve. “Tragedy and Salvation in the Floating World: Chikamatsu’s Double Suicide Drama as Millenarian Discourse.” The Journal of Asian Studies 53, no. 2 (May, 1994): 367. Chikamatsu’s dramas are examined in the light of Buddhist and Confucian theology regarding double suicide.
Kawatake, Toshio. Chikamatsu Monzaemon,...
(The entire section is 462 words.)