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

Noriko Yamashita    National Institute of Japanese Literature, Tōkyō, Japan    



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.

30 Agosto 2022
08 Febbraio 2022
14 Dicembre 2021

Keywords: Tsuruya Nanboku IVMorishima ChūryōKabukiChinese novels

Copyright: © 2022 Noriko Yamashita. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.