Noh Drama

The Noh Drama

As I featured three women as representatives of the Classical, or Heian, Period (794-1185) in Japanese literature, emphasizing the feminine, courtly, sophisticated qualities of the literature of that period, so I am using three units to represent the Medieval, or Kamakura (1185-1333) unto Muramachi (1333-1600) Periods: first the religious-philosophical essay My Ten-Foot Hut (the product of one man early in the Kamakura Period--of which I am particularly fond); then The Heike Monogatari (the product of a kind of oral epic tradition coming out of crucial social political changes effected by warfare, from about the same time--though the telling of the story took a while to permeate the society); then this third unit--the most important of all--the Noh Drama, which developed over centuries, and was a theatre tradition, depending as much on highly codified discipline in production as content, the plays serving the actors, many "slices" from both the Genji Monogatari (Classical) and the Heike Monogatari (Medieval), still a vital tradition today.


The most important author of the Noh drama, author of many of the plays still most often performed, was Zeami Motokiyo (1363-1443), so these dates can be seen at the center of the development of the Noh.  The aesthetic values of the Noh are associated strongly with those developing in Zen Buddhism, and other varieties of aesthetic experience developed contemporary with it--like the tea ceremony, flower arranging, and, partiucularly, bushido, the code of the warrior.