The forms of drama that developed during Japan's feudal period
Noh. This form started from the ancient Shintô ceremony. Later
the stories of Noh plays developed Buddhist themes dealing with the
great sadness of life, especially death of loved ones and lost hopes.
Kyôgen. These humorous plays were usually performed at intermissions
of Noh plays. Most are about the "lesser" sadnesses of life,
such as inequalities of wealth, beauty, and health. Resolution of these
disparities rests on the fine line of individuality and universality
of the human condition.
Kabuki. These plays were the most in tune with what was timely and in
vogue during the Tokugawa period (1600-1868). Kabuki is tied to urban
life. The plays deal with tales of merchants rising in the world, star-crossed
lovers from different classes, or the flight and fancy of the entertainment
world of old Edo.
Bunraku. Bunraku was originally called Jôruri. It is
the oldest form of puppet theater in Japan. The name derives from Lady
who had a brief affair with Minamoto Yoshitsune, a great general and
hero of many dramas about the early samurai period. At the end of the
sixteenth century, puppets, romantic tales, and samisen (Japanese banjo)
music were combined to form a new popular theater, called bunraku.
The same plays are often used in kabuki and bunraku.