The commentary on
“Sukeroku Yukari no Edozakura”
１) Historical Background
The case that Soga (曽我) brothers slew their enemy Suketsune Kudo (工藤祐経) at the night of Kamakura Shogunate’s military exercise at the foot of Mt.Fuji in 1193 is very famous. When brothers were young, their father, Sukeyasu Ito (伊東祐泰) was murdered by Suketsune Kudo. The brothers grew up in severe life and slew the enemy at last. The story of Soga brothers has permeated throughout people by traveling entertainers’ oral tradition. In Kanto area around Edo in particular, the Soga brothers were respected as Gods by people. In other words, the story showed the lesson that dreams come true someday by making efforts with strong wills
There were a lot of revenges in Edo era. As the revenge story of Soga brothers was popular among people of Edo in particular, everybody knew its outline. Therefore many Kabuki plays in which Soga brothers were chief characters were made. People thought Soga plays very happy because the theme that dreams come true someday by making efforts with strong wills. This was why New Year’s performances of Edo Kabuki have always begun with Soga plays.
２) on “Sukeroku Yukari no Edozakura”
“Sukeroku” was played first by Danjuro ICHIKAWA the second (二代目市川団十郎) in Edo early in the 18th century. It is one of the oldest Kabuki plays that remain fragrant with Edo Era. The story is very really simple. There is a premise that Soga brothers pursue their enemy in Edo Yoshiwara where was a licensed area for prostitution, with the elder becoming a salesman of White Sake, with the younger changing his name“Sukeroku”. but you would doubt whether this play is related to Soga story or why this is revenge play when you view Sukeroku. However, once this premise has been received, any plays can be easily converted into Soga plays or revenge plays. This is the Kabuki’s mysterious dramaturgy. If you understand it, you will enjoy it enough, thinking simply that the play describes a quarrel case concerning the favorite Yuzyo (遊女 prostitute) between men in Yoshiwara
There are some important things in the play. First Sukeroku is the most handsome guy in Edo and is pretty popular among Yuzyos. Second there are certain drama characteristics when Sukeroku curses by way of a greeting. Sukeroku’s curse is not malicious and hateful but frank essentially. Of course the person who is said gets angry as he has face but there is a sense of game which means how he hurls a curse sexily, how he hit back elegantly and how he beat by returning a cool curse. This shows the character of “Kabuki-mono” well, the audience watches it and enjoys it. The curse has a dramatic meaning like that.
３） Summary od Skeroku
The scene is gorgeous licensed quarters for prostitution in Edo Yoshiwara. There is the villain who goes to Yoshiwara every night and picks quarrels with customers to draw their Katanas(刀 swords). His name is called Sukeroku Hanakawado and he is strong, manly and energetic. He is pretty popular among Yuzyos and especially “Agemaki” (揚巻) who is number one Yuzyo is his lover.
“Ikyu” (意休) who lavishes money on to win Agemaki’s affection comes over to the storefront. Ikyu is disliked by Yuzyos. As Ikyu speaks ill of Sukeroku severely, angry Agemaki says a curse back on him. Sukeroku comes up there, speaks ill of Ikyu terribly and makes fun of followers to draw their Katanas. However, Ikyu endures and enters the shop draw his Katana.
One salesman of White Sake calls out to Sukeroku. In fact he is Sukeroku’s elder brother and comes to Yshiwara to warn quarrelsome Sukeroku. It is revealed here that brothers are Juro Soga (曽我十郎 elder brother, salesman of White Sake) and Goro (五郎younger brother, Sukeroku). Sukeroku explains that he comes to Yoshiwara to look for their enemy and picks a quarrel with customers to draw their Katanas to check whether the Katana is Tomokirimararu (友切丸) that is the enemy ‘s evidence .
Furthermore, brothers’ mother appears, warns Sukeroku’s rough actions and makes him put on a kimono of paper as an admonition. As easy to be torn, the kimono is teaching that he has to endure and be well-behaved.
Ikyu comes up again. When he finds Sukeroku is Goro Soga, he preaches Sukeroku who cannot resist him and cuts the incense burner stand by his Katana. Sukeroku finds the Katana is Tomokirimaru that he has been looking for. Sukeroku who finds his enemy is Ikyu waits until a night, kills him and escape in a turmoil.
Written by Yamamoto Kichinosuke
Translated by Rakunosuke
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