The Artistry of Aeschylus and Zeami

The Artistry of Aeschylus and Zeami: A Comparative Study of Greek Tragedy and No

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 356
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    The Artistry of Aeschylus and Zeami
    Book Description:

    By means of a cross-cultural analysis of selected examples of early Japanese and early Greek drama, Mae Smethurst enhances our appreciation of each form. While using the methods of a classicist to increase our understanding of no as literary texts, she also demonstrates that the fifteenth-century treatises of Zeami--an important playwright, actor, critic, and teacher of no--offer fresh insight into Aeschylus' use of actors, language, and various elements of stage presentation.

    Relatively little documentation apart from the texts of the plays is available for the Greek theater of the fifth century B.C., but Smethurst uses documentation on no, and evidence from no performances today, to suggest how presentations of the Persians could have been so successful despite the play's lack of dramatic confrontation. Aeschylean theater resembles that of Zeami in creating its powerful emotional and aesthetic effect through a coherent organization of structural elements. Both playwrights used such methods as the gradual intensification of rhythmic and musical effects, an increase in the number and complexity of the actors' movements, and a progressive focusing of attention on the main actors and on costumes, masks, and props during the course of the play.

    Originally published in 1989.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6005-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)

    Anyone choosing at random and reading the texts of a Japanese nō play and an ancient Greek tragedy cannot help being struck by the differences between them: the former will most likely be a play short in length, lyric in tone, and lacking in dramatic conflict; the latter will probably be long and involve dramatic action and confrontation between characters. And yet, one continues to see references of a comparative nature to nō and Greek tragedy by scholars both of Japanese and of Greek theater and of the theater in general.¹ The reason is that most of these scholars have...

  6. ONE Structure in Nō
    (pp. 23-80)

    The successful playwright of nō constructs his work in such a way that he engages the audience’s attention by means of a progression that controls the mood of the play from beginning to end and that focuses onto the main character the visual appeal of costume, mask, and props; the meaning of the nō; the story on which the author has drawn; and the modes of presentation—the music, the words, the stage action. Because the number of characters is limited; the visual effects—costumes, masks, and stage props—are used economically in most nō; the subject is chosen on...

  7. TWO Structure in Aeschylean Tragedy
    (pp. 81-147)

    Aeschylus’sPersiansis longer, has more dialogue, and employs Gvb a larger number of major characters and theatrical effects than Zeami’sSanemori. And yet, because the overall structure of Aeschylus’s play is more nearly comparable to that of the warrior nō written by Zeami than are the tragedies written by Sophocles and Euripides, or for that matter, others written by Aeschylus himself, I have chosen thePersiansas the focus of this chapter. To be sure, many of these other tragedies, like plays from other theaters, are composed so that they develop from implicit to explicit, from less to more...

  8. THREE The Style of Nō
    (pp. 148-204)

    From the discussion of structure in the two preceding chapters, it should be apparent that, although the finales of both Aeschylus’sPersiansand Zeami’s Sanemori feature vigorous movements and gestures, excited rhythms and music, the effective use of “literary” sources, religious formulas, emotional intensity, and the most important presentation of the main character, the finale of thePersianslacks some of the interest that an audience can derive from that ofSanemori, namely, an engrossing account of the tragic event enacted by the main character. The messenger’s narrative account of the battles of Salamis and Psyttaleia in the middle of...

  9. FOUR The Style of Aeschylean Tragedy
    (pp. 205-275)

    The third chapter has characterized the style of nō and, in preparation for this final chapter, has pointed to Aeschylean passages, especially from theAgamemnon, that are analogous to that style. The purpose of the present chapter is to demonstrate not only that Aeschylus’s works, like Zeami’s, must be thought of as the product of a talented artist who composed his tragedies with the theater audience in mind, but also, and more specifically, to examine how Aeschylus attracted attention to the words of his plays so that the audience in the theater could be made to appreciate them, and how...

  10. Coda
    (pp. 276-278)

    The works of Aeschylus and Zeami played similarly crucial and formative roles in the historical development of Greek tragedy and nō. For this reason, if for no other, a comparison of the two authors is important to the study of the history of drama in general. To be sure, there are obvious cultural differences between the early classical period in Greece and the middle Muromachi period in Japan; however, as demonstrated in the Introduction, the theatrical and cultural milieus in which Aeschylus and Zeami worked exhibit sufficient similarities to motivate and justify a comparative study of these particular playwrights. Moreover,...

  11. Appendix 1: A Comparison of Structural Parts in Nō
    (pp. 279-281)
  12. Appendix 2: A Comparative Translation of Sections of Sanemori and The Tale of the Heike
    (pp. 282-286)
  13. Appendix 3: Japanese Passages Analyzed for Style in Chapters Three and Four
    (pp. 287-292)
  14. Appendix 4: Greek Passages Analyzed for Style in Chapters Three and Four
    (pp. 293-304)
  15. Glossary of Japanese Terms
    (pp. 305-307)
  16. Glossary of Greek Terms
    (pp. 308-310)
  17. Works Cited
    (pp. 311-322)
  18. Index
    (pp. 323-336)
  19. Index locorum
    (pp. 337-343)