Criticism: Kabuki And Society - Essay

Donald H. Shively (essay date 1955)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Shively, Donald H. “Bankufu Versus Kabuki.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 18, No. 3/4 (December, 1955): 326-56.

[In the following essay, Shively examines the relationship between the conservative Confucian government, or bakufu, and the popular Kabuki theatre during the Tokugawa period (1603 to 1850), and concludes that the government's repression may ultimately have been beneficial to Kabuki as a dramatic form. Ideographic characters in this essay have been silently removed.]

The kabuki drama of the Tokugawa period was an art form which represented the taste and interests of the class of townsmen. Deprived of political and social...

(The entire section is 11883 words.)

Donald H. Shively (essay date 1978)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Shively, Donald H. “The Social Environment of Tokuawa Kabuki.” In Studies in Kabuki: Its Acting, Music, and Historical Context, edited by James R. Brandon, William P. Malm, and Donald H. Shively, pp. 36-61. Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii, 1978.

[In the following excerpt, Shively argues that the close connection between Kabuki and the quarter of town that was the center of prostitution illustrates how the theatre was a product of the social environment of Japanese cities in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.]


The life of the actor—his background, training, and professional and social...

(The entire section is 8757 words.)

Yoko Takakuwa (essay date 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Takakuwa, Yoko. “Performing Marginality: The Place of the Player and of ‘Woman’ in Early Japanese Culture.” New Literary History 27, No. 2 (Spring, 1996): 213-25.

[In the following essay, Takakuwa considers the problem of marginality and status of “other” of the Kabuki female impersonator in the closed society of early modern Japan.]

The economy of our culture can be analyzed in terms of what it has excluded in its (hi)story (histoire)—what meanings are marginalized in the textual system we inhabit. During the Edo era (1603-1867), the Tokugawa shogunate adopted a policy of seclusion in 1633 and carried it out by 1641, in order to interdict...

(The entire section is 5502 words.)

Samuel L. Leiter (essay date 1999)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Leiter, Samuel L. “From Gay to Gei: The Onnagata and the Creation of Kabuki's Female Characters.” Comparative Drama, 33 (Winter, 1999-2000): 495-514.

[In the following essay, Leiter surveys the role of women in Kabuki theater and argues that despite the persistence of patriarchal attitudes, Kabuki was surprisingly fair to and respectful of women, probably because their characters on stage were played on men.]

From 1629 to 1877, women were officially forbidden to act in Japan's kabuki theater, which—under the leadership of a former shrine priestess named Okuni—they had founded in 1603. From 1629 on, male actors, the...

(The entire section is 7687 words.)