Yotsuya kaidan 四谷怪談
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
A pictorial subject in *ukiyo-e 浮世絵 taken from the popular *kabuki 歌舞伎 ghost story, TOUKAIDOU YOTSUYA KAIDAN 東海道四谷怪談 (Ghost Story at Yotsuya on the Eastern-sea Road) written by Tsuruya Nanboku 鶴屋南北 (1755-1828) in 1825. The action of the play takes place in the world of *Chuushingura 忠臣蔵 because Yotsuya kaidan was originally performed on the same bill with the older classic. The plot begins with the disgraced warrior Tamiya Iemon 民谷伊右衛門 asking the father of his common-law wife Oiwa お岩 to consent to their marriage. When the father refuses, Iemon kills him. Oiwa bears a child but its crying drives Iemon to visit their neighbor Kihee 喜兵衛, where he falls in love with the old man's granddaughter Oume お梅. Approving of the match, Kihee sends poison disguised as medicine to Oiwa who drinks it and is transformed into a horrifying demon. Returning home Iemon slays Oiwa and his servant Kohei 小平, claiming that he caught them having an affair. He ties their dead bodies to a plank and throws them into the river. Later, after Iemon and his new bride Oume go to bed, Iemon awakens to see the terrifying face of Oiwa in Oume's place. He cuts off her head only to find the slain body is really that of Oume. A similar scene is repeated with Iemon slaying Kohei's apparition to discover it is actually Kihee. Mad with grief, Iemon wanders to the river where he again imagines he sees the mutilated forms of Oiwa and Kohei. In later scenes Oiwa's vengeful ghost wrecks further havoc on Oume's relations and on Iemon.
Yotsuya kaidan provided the subjects for several actor prints *yakusha-e 役者絵 as well as depictions of ghosts and monsters kaiiga 怪異画 included in the *HYAKU MONOGATARI 百物語 series. Of the several ghoulish scenes frequently illustrated, Katsushika Hokusai's 葛飾北斎 (1760-1849) image of Oiwa's deformed face appearing on a smoldering paper lantern offered to her soul and inscribed with the Buddhist prayer nenbutsu 念仏 (entitled 'Oiwa-san' お岩さん from the HYAKU MONOGATARI series), is one of the most vivid.


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