Seven characters speak to a magistrate about their knowledge of a man found stabbed in the chest in the woods near Kyoto after a woodcutter discovers a dead samurai soldier in a secluded grove. The woodcutter reports to the magistrate the details of the scene of the crime and the condition of the body, recounting that the well-dressed victim was stabbed in the chest, but that there was no sword nearby. A priest saw the soldier with a woman and a horse the day before. The man had a bow and a lacquered quiver holding more than twenty arrows. An officer has arrested a notorious thief named Tajomaru and has no doubt that this criminal committed the murder. Tajomaru’s weakness for women and his violent activities are well known, explains the officer; the fact that the lacquered bow and arrows found in Tajomaru’s possession belonged to the dead man further convince the officer that he has arrested the right man. The quiver, however, contains only seventeen arrows. The thief also has a horse that matches the description given by the priest. An old woman approaches the magistrate and asks the court to find her missing daughter. She defensively acknowledges her daughter was spirited, but she insists that the young woman was devoted to her husband, twenty-six-year-old Takehiro.
Tajomaru confesses that he has murdered the samurai because he wanted the man’s wife: When he saw the couple, he decided he must have the woman. He lured Takehiro into the dense grove by appealing to his greed, promising to sell him some valuable swords and mirrors at a bargain. He...
(The entire section is 642 words.)