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Fiction and Drama 24.1December 2014National Cheng Kung University & Airiti Press Inc.
Stay, Illusion!: The Image of the Ghost in Three Japanese
Interpretations of Hamlet during the Meiji Period1
Yilin ChenAssociate Professor
Department of English Language, Literature and Linguistics
ABSTRACTIn the late nineteenth century, Hamlet was appropriated, adapted and translated
into Japanese. The ghost in Hamlet was thus represented in at least three different styles during the Meiji period. Kanagaki Robuns Kabuki adaptation, Hamlet with Japanese Woodblock Prints, presented King Hamlet as a fox demon in human form. In Yamagishi Kay and Dohi Shunshos adaptation of Hamlet (1903), King Hamlet became a pathetic ghost, performed by the Shimpa advocate, Kawakami Otojiro. Tsubouchi Shys translation of Hamlet (1911) was staged in the Shingeki theatre (New Theatre), also known as the western realist theatre, and the ghost in this production was a wretched victim rather than a military commander.
These diverse images of King Hamlet are related to the sudden and radical adoption of western culture at this time in Japanese history. In the 1880s, Kawakami and his Shimpa practitioners began to learn from western theatre and apply this knowledge to the Kabuki stage. The Shimpa movement then gradually declined after Tsubouchi brought the Shinengeki to the Japanese stage. As the process of westernization deepened with the passage of time, it became necessary to find ways to integrate Japanese theatrical practices western staging.
1 In this article, Japanese names are given in the Japanese order, that is, family name followed by given name. A macron (^) over a vowel means that the pronunciation is lengthened.
Received: March 16, 2014; accepted: November 11, 2014.DOI: 10.6271/fd.2014.24.1.03
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This paper examines stage directions and devices of the selected productions to detail the ways in which King Hamlet was fashioned into a ghost that was familiar to the Japanese audience. It also demonstrates the extent to which theatrical reforms affected the representation of the ghost, and claims that a degree of appropriation is essential when translating the ghost from one culture to another.
KEYWORDSHamlet; theatrical reforms in the Meiji period; appropriation; adaptation;
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Kanagaki RobunHamuretto Yamato Nishikie 1876Yamagishi KayDohi Shunsho1903Kawakami OtojiroTsubouchi Shy1911Shingeki 1871880
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Fiction and Drama 24.1December 2014
I am thy fathers spirit,Doomd for a certain term to walk the night,And for the day confined to fast in fires,Till the foul crimes done in my days of natureAre burnt and purged away. (I.5.9-13)2
I. IntroductionGhosts are depicted in many different cultures, and the image of the ghost
emerges as a product of collective illusion that is unique to each culture. In Elizabethan literature, the ghost is often a hallucination, a devil, or a soul from Catholic purgatory (Siegel 21) in part due to unresolved conflicts between Puritans and Catholics. This conflict can be seen in Hamlet, as Horatio thinks the ghost of King Hamlet that his colleagues see is an illusion (I.1.30). However, the ghost confesses to Hamlet that he suffers in the infernal flame (I.5.5), the hell described in Catholic doctrine. Hamlet thus believes that the ghost has returned from purgatory, and commands him to seek revenge for his murder. However, he also expresses doubt, The spirit that I have seen/ May be a devil, and the devil hath power/ Tassume a pleasing shape, yea, and perhaps out of my weakness and my melancholy,/ As he is very potent with such spirits,/ Abuse me to damn me (II.2.587-92). The ghosts story draws the audiences attention to the varied Elizabethan views of ghosts (McCoy 123). For a Puritan, purgatory does not exist, and the ghost is a devil. For a Catholic, the ghost has to do penance in purgatory. Seeking revenge is not compatible with Catholic beliefs; therefore, the ghosts demand for vengeance violates traditional Christian ethic. To the Elizabethan audience, the ghost could be taken as a devil working to lure Hamlet into deadly sin (Siegel 22). Even with the same culture, different religious beliefs lead to disagreements on the existence of ghosts. The question whether the ghosts exist in the universe has remained unsettled after four centuries. Therefore, the image of the ghosts has varied across time and cultures.
2 All quotations from Hamlet come from Barrons Shakespeare Made Easy, ed. Alan Durband.
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Hamlet came to Japan during the process of modernization and westernization in the Meiji period (1868-1912). It was one of the first Shakespearean plays introduced to the Japanese, probably because of its themes in relation to the state and revenge. Revenge plays were popular in the Edo period (1603-1868). For instance, the Kabuki play, Kanadehon Chusingura, tells of a samurai, Oboshi Yuranosuke, who sees his lords ghost and decides to avenge him. The emphasis upon loyalty to the state and family in Kanadehon Chusingura is the same as that in Hamlet (Takahashi 102).
Before Hamlet came to Japan, there was also a famous female ghost, Oiwa, in the Kabuki play, Tkaid Yotsuya Kaidan (1825). Both King Hamlet and Oiwa are poisoned and seek revenge on their murderers. Kevin Wetmore observes that King Hamlet appears as a powerful warrior while Oiwa looks hideous, with a disfigured face to terrify her murderer (84-85).
The ghosts in these two plays are thus very different, and these differences confirm that the embodiment of a ghost reflects distinct attitudes towards the afterlife in the Elizabethan and Japanese cultures.
The representation of the ghost of King Hamlet on the Japanese stage materialized the conceptualization of supernatural spirits in Japanese folktale, literature, and performance. This article examines three representations of the ghost in Hamlet during the Meiji period: Kanagaki Robuns Kabuki adaptation, Hamlet with Japanese Woodblock Prints, Yamagishi Kay and Dohi Shunshos adaptation of Hamlet (1903), and Tsubouchi Shys translation of Hamlet (1911). It looks into reviews, promptbooks, and critical opinions to analyze the extent to which different adaptations and translations fashioned the ghost in several notable performances in the early twentieth century.
This paper argues that Kanagakis Kabuki rendering should be taken as an appropriation, while Yamagishi and Dohis Seigeki version as an adaptation, and Tsubouchis Shingeki production is a cultural translation. In a general sense, both Kabuki and Seigeki plays of Hamlet are adaptations because a genre shift is involved (Sanders 18). Shingeki, New Drama, is Japanese retelling of spoken drama in Western realist theatre during the late 19th century through to the early
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20th century while Kabuki is a Japanese practice of dance drama. According to Julie Sanders, both the practice and the effects of adaptation and appropriation intersect and iinterrelate, [yet] appropriation frequently affects a more decisive journey away from the informing source into a wholly new cultural product and domain (26). Kanagakis Kabuki Hamlet falls into the category of appropriation because the text is apparently rewritten to make reference to the fox demon in Japanese mythology and the ghost is contextualized to fit into the Kabuki theatrical conventions. On the other hand, Yamagishi and Dohis Seigeki Hamlet features a significant theatrical reform in Japan. This play attempts to adapt the original text into the Japanese settings. It also demonstrates a preliminary transition from the reformed Kabuki style, shimpa to an imitation of the western spoken drama.
Unlike the other two versions examined in this paper, Tsubouchis Shingeki Hamlet aims to be a faithful translation. It was performed in the style of western spoken drama, and at the same time, it incorporated cultural references to the Buddhist hell in order to make Shakespeare relevant to the Japanese audience. Tsubouchis intention to give the audience an authentic experience of the western theatre was to some extent compromised by adding the Japanese Buddhist concept of hell. The image of the ghost in this production was also a hybrid creature derived from both the western and Japanese conventional portrayals of a deceased person who appears in visible form. Tsubouchis Shingeki Hamlet demonstrated the practice of faithful translation which deals with the cultural differences between the source and target language.
The Meiji period, was a time in which Japan began the process of learning and catching up with western civilization. By studying the three Meiji theatrical versions of Hamlet, this paper explores the changing images of the ghost during this period. It also offers a new perspective to look at the significance of intercultural exchanges because the ways in which the ghost is represented to engage the audience is highly correlated to the Japanese understanding of western ideology, religion, and theatre. Due to the difficulty in distinguishing the terms, appropriation, adaptation and cultural translation in reality sometimes, this paper does so based on the degree to which the three plays are close to the
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original. Although these plays may be considered as appropria