Women in Madness: “Hanjo” and “Sumidagawa” in Noh Theater

By Keiko Kimura.

Published by The International Journal of Literary Humanities

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

“Hanjo” and “Sumidagawa“ are mad-woman plays. The first one is written by Zeami and the second one is written by his son, Kanze Motomasa. In “Hanjo,” the heroine Hanago’s endless waiting for her lover, a courtier named Yoshida, reduces her to a state of insanity. In “Sumidagawa,” the heroine Hanago’s wasted searching for her son has the same effect. Zeami established the style of "kyojo’mono" (a play featuring a crazed woman) which belongs to "monogurui noh" (frenzied noh). “Hanjo” and “Sumidagawa” are two of the best known "kyojo’mono.” For Zeami, what was the theatrical reason for describing female insanity on stage? The first Hanago is persistently preoccupied with the loss of her lover, and her grief in losing him arises frequently. According to the Kleinian hypothesis, the loss of the present object in the external world brings with it the person’s unconscious fantasies of having lost one’s internal good objects as well. Every time grief arises, it undermines the feeling of secure possession of the loved internal objects. This kind of mourning-like state makes Hanago feel ambivalently toward her lover. She regresses to the infantile Kleinian paranoid-schizoid position, emotionally oscillating between love and hatred toward him. That is why it is difficult for Hanago to promote separation from him and her self-integration. Hanago’s state of mind seems insane because of her ambivalent feeling toward him. But her insanity is suddenly resolved after the reconciliation with her long-lost lover. The situation is the same in the play “Sumidagawa. “ But in “Sumidagawa’s“ case, the lost loved one is her son.

Keywords: Madness, Melanie Klein, Noh Theater

The International Journal of Literary Humanities, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp.75-85. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 652.921KB).

Dr. Keiko Kimura

Professor, English, Kobe Women's University, Kyoto, Japan

Keiko Kimura teaches at Kobe Women's University, Japan. She specializes in comparative literature and American literature.