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One of the world’s great stage arts, kabuki has in recent years won the acclaim of the Western world—in particular, its theatergoers. Although the first actors made their entrance down the Flower Way three hundred years ago, little of kabuki’s repertory has been available to English readers.
These five plays, translated from tapes made by James Brandon at actual performances, represent basic dramatic types and performance styles. Mixing historical or legendary events with scenes from everyday life, their plots are based on intrigue, love, and the struggle for power. With stylized gestures and colorful costumes and makeup, their actors express violent emotions and sensuality. Courtly dialogue is interspersed with bawdy humor; choruses sing, moons rise, heads fall, and battles are won in kabuki’s brilliant bravura world. The Introduction describes the history of kabuki, its religious background and ties with prostitution, its themes and playwriting systems, its performance conventions, actors, music, and dance. Detailed stage directions and more than one hundred photographs convey vividly the action, drama, and color of this bold artistic form.