Ichikawa Danjuro IX as Benkei
Sold with a 8 1/2" X 11" copy of a photograph of Danjuro IX performing Benkei in Kanjincho
Kanjinchö, a drama inspired by the Yoshitsune legends, is one of eighteen celebrated Kabuki plays. It evoked deep sympathy from the audience and helped immortalize Yoshitsune as one of the most beloved tragic heroes in Japanese history. Fleeing the manhunt ordered by his brother Yoritomo, Yoshitsune, accompanied by a handful of followers disguised as yamabushi (mountain priests), reaches the Ataka Barrier, only to be recognized by the barrier keeper, Togashi. In one of the most dramatic moments of the play, Yoshitsune’s servant, Benkei, first reads a blank scroll which he proclaims to be a subscription list, then snatches Yoshitsune's staff and furiously beats his master in order to allay Togashi's suspicion. In a classic example of the Kabuki theme of giri (sense of duty) in conflict with ninjö (human sympathy), Togashi, deeply moved by Benkei's loyalty and agony, lets the party cross the barrier and offers wine to Benkei. After they have safely crossed the barrier, there is an emotional scene in which Benkei tearfully begs his master's forgiveness. Yoshitsune, also weeping, thanks Benkei and laments his tragic fate.
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