Lurid stories and staging
In the first half of the 19th century, the population of the big cities grew even larger and social structures became complex. Culture developed in diverse ways as society turned to pleasure-seeking. Kabuki was linked to printing and publishing, and flourished so much that it became deeply connected to people’s everyday lives. Styles known as kizewa-mono, which openly dealt with the lurid customs of the people born at the bottom of society, became popular. Ghosts appeared in these works, which incorporated exciting production and depicted the absurdities of the world. These plays created new stock characters, such the villainous man who commits many evil deeds and the beautiful, dauntless woman.
Aesthetics at the end of the Edo period
The government and the economy were reaching their limits, and restraining measures were enacted repeatedly by the shogunate (the samurai government) and feudal domains during the period from 1830–1843. Entertainment was harshly suppressed, but Kabuki’s momentum did not decline. It interacted with storytelling arts such as kodan and rakugo, leading to the popularity of a style called shiranami-mono, which depicted the activities and downfall of thieves on stages of picture-like beauty with intricate music and well-modulated monologues. New stock characters were created, such as the commoner-born thief, and the pretty youth who tricks people by wearing women’s clothing.