Places: The Love Suicides at Sonezaki

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First produced: Sonezaki shinjū, 1703 (English translation, 1961)

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Tragedy

Time of work: Eighteenth century

Places DiscussedIkutama Shrine

Ikutama Love Suicides at Sonezaki, TheShrine (ih-kew-tah-mah). Place where Tokubei meets the courtesan Ohatsu by chance while making deliveries to his customers. According to legend, the shrine’s origin dates back to when Emperor Jinmu arrived in Osaka and built the shrine. Even after the Tokugawa period, the government protected the shrine’s extensive grounds and magnificent architecture. It is said to have been popular with worshipers and regarded as one of the grand Shinto shrines in Japan.

Temma House

Temma House (teh-muh). Brothel in which Ohatsu works. Located in a disreputable neighborhood, the house is purposefully inconspicuous in architecture in order to keep its patrons anonymous. Tokubei and Ohatsu hold each other and cry under the porch of the house, and Tokubei tells her that the only option left for him is suicide.

Sonezaki Wood

Sonezaki Wood (soh-neh-zah-kee). On their journey to Sonezaki Wood, Tokubei and Ohatsu speak of their love, and a lyrical passage spoken by the narrator comments on the transience of life. The surrounding woods are lonely and deserted and leading to their graveyard. Tokubei apologizes to his uncle, and Ohatsu to her parents, for the trouble they are causing. Chanting an invocation to Buddha, Tokubei stabs Ohatsu and then himself.

BibliographyChikamatsu Monzaemon. Major Plays of Chikamatsu. Translated by Donald Keene. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961. Pages 1 to 38 provide biographical and social background on Chikamatsu and deal with such issues as the structure of the plays and moral issues involved.Gerstle, C. Andrew. Circles of Fantasy: Convention in the Plays of Chikamatsu. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986. Pages 113 to 129 provide a brief synopsis and history of the play, then turn to a discussion of the love-suicide as a dramatic form. Includes a detailed analysis of the structure and dynamics of the play, especially the michiyuki, or final journey to death.Kato, Shuichi. The Years of Isolation. Vol. 2 in A History of Japanese Literature. Translated by David Chibbet. New York: Kodansha International, 1983. Pages 85 to 93 deal with the contrast between the celebration of the lover’s death and the celebration of the warrior’s death in Japanese literature. Examines the michiyuki scene in the play.Keene, Donald. World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the Pre-Modern Era, 1600-1867. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976. Pages 244 to 274 place the play in the context of the author’s entire oeuvre. Points out the importance of the themes of love and money, which provide the tension that drives the play. He also discusses the themes of giri (obligation) and ninjo (human feeling) that provide dramatic conflict.Kirkwood, Kenneth P. Renaissance in Japan: A Cultural Survey of the Seventeenth Century. Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle, 1970. Pages 224 to 312 include a biographical sketch of the author and a discussion of specific works by him. Covers the historical event that provided the basis for the play and a discussion of the phenomenon of lovers’ suicides in Japanese literature.
Categories: Places