Evil Women of the Lower Classes
A Study of Tsuruya Nanboku’s Use of Chinese Novels in the Kabuki Play Osome Hisamatsu ukina no yomiuri
The kabuki play Osome Hisamatsu ukina no yomiuri was written by kabuki playwright Tsuruya Nanboku IV and first performed at the Morita za theatre in Edo (Tōkyō) in 1813. The plot of the play includes a fraud scene with a corpse, which is based on seventeenth-century Chinese popular novel Jingu qiguan. One of the features of Osome Hisamatsu ukina no yomiuri is that it showcases the attempted fraud by a woman of the lower classes, Dote no Oroku, first performed by onnagata actor Iwai Hanshirō V. Oroku belongs to the kabuki type cast known as akuba, which realistically depicts the life of women of the lower classes. This type of role was first made popular by onnagata actor Iwai Hanshirō IV’s performance in 1792, though lead actor Onoe Matsusuke I already performed evil female fraudsters as early as 1789. There is a possibility that the kabuki actors and playwrights were made aware of this particular female image in the Chinese novel by Dutch scholar and writer Morishima Chūryō. This paper discusses the social interactions between Tsuruya Nanboku, Onoe Matsusuke and Morishima Chūryō, and how Iwai Hanshirō V’s enacting of Dote no Oroku was influenced by Hanshirō IV’s and Matsusuke’s evil old women.