The Noh Theater of Japan

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  • Topic: Noh, Mask, Kabuki
  • Pages : 3 (1125 words )
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  • Published : November 26, 2012
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Every culture in the world has its own theater. In Japan one of the most ancient forms of theater is Noh. The Noh theater found its form in the fourteenth century and continues in much the same form, with many of the same plays, in present day Japan. A Noh play portrays one all-encompassing emotion dominating the main character, the shite. Whether jealousy, rage, or sorrow, all music, gesture, dance, and recitation are used to build the emotion to its final climax at the close of the play.

Often the plays depict the return of a historical personage, in spirit - or "ghostly" - form, to the site of a significant event in his or her life. A warrior might return to the battle field, or young woman to the scene of a love affair. According to Buddhism of the fourteenth century, a person could not find spiritual release even after death if he still possessed a strong emotion or desire. To exorcise this emotion, the warrior might appear in his armor and recreate the battle in a dance. The dance would reveal his humiliation at suffering defeat.

Noh plays are extremely intense. In order to express something so abstract as an emotion, words are often inadequate. As the play progresses, then, dance and poetry are used to express the tortured heart. Other elements which contribute to an intensification of the mood are the bare simplicity of the stage which allows no distraction from the main character, and the gorgeous costumes of the main character himself. The stylized movements also help to focus the energy on the emotion rather than on the individual personalities. In Noh as in classical ballet, every movement is choreographed and often symbolic. There is no individual interpretation.

Masks are used in many different cultures. In Japan, Noh masks are used for theatre and dance performances. Each mask represents a certain person, hero, devil, ghost, or legendary animal, depending on what the character is in the performance. As Noh is an...
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