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Kyogen: A Demon in Love
From: Noh and Kyogen Illustrations Kyogen: A Demon in Love

Kyogen is a theatre of laughter that is based upon auspicious words, satire, and humor, that uses medieval life and folk tales as its main themes, and that developed as a dialogue-drama, as a drama of story-telling that places great importance on words. It is the direct descendant of the mimetic art of Sarugaku, and, in order to depict the heart of things in a lively manner, it did not stop at mere realism but devised a stylized form of expression. It simplified the types of characters, the stage, and the props, and its masks underwent exaggeration. The comedy of Kyogen became an official entertainment in the Edo period, and it thus underwent refinement. While its Edo-period satire and vulgar humor were weakened, its art of witty jokes and tasteful humor was polished, and its move toward becoming an art of gentle humor and auspicious words was strengthened. An "art of words," its cheerful mood and vocal production is such that even when two characters speak at the time, their speeches can still be heard and distinguished by the audience. On the basis of its sparse correctness and stylized acting style, its stories develop many scenes that evoke a joyful laughter that leaves a good aftertaste.

There are about 260 plays in the current Kyogen repertoire. Beginning with the servant Taro Kaja, they all feature large-hearted, strong characters who breathe life into the everyday situations of the common people in feudal times. They can be divided into categories, according to the types of characters they depict, into plays featuring lucky people, gods of good fortune, farmers, daimyo (feudal lords), the servants Taro Kaja and Jiro Kaja, sons-in-law, wives, demons, warrior-priests, Buddhist monks, blindmen, thieves, or con-men. The production, method of expression, and costuming of the plays is closely related to this classification, which is the most common method.

God Kyogen, Daimyo Kyogen
Demon / Warrior Priest / Blindman Kyogen
Demon / Warrior Priest / Blindman Kyogen
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Copyright 2004, by the Japan Arts Council. All rights reserved.