The Other Self as a Spirit: The Noh Play “Aoi-no-Ue (Lady Aoi)”

By Keiko Kimura.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Aoi-no-Ue (Lady Aoi) is a play about a malevolent spirit, written in the fourteenth century Japan. The title is derived from a chapter of The Tale of Genji, written by Murasaki Shikibu. Aoi is the wife of Hikaru Genji who is the son of the emperor. One of Genji’s lovers, Lady Rokujo, is consumed with hate and jealousy for Aoi who is pregnant with the child of her husband, and Rokujo’s living spirit haunts and torments Aoi. Rokujo’s self is divided: Her conscious self and her unconscious self as a spirit. Rokujo is a cultured woman and the late ex-emperor’s wife, but her other self is a malevolent character who becomes an ogre. With the ogre mask, she is feared yet sympathized with, her laments bringing humanity to the horror expressed through the mask. In the original story, Aoi is killed by Rokujo’s spirit after Aoi’s childbirth. In the Noh version, Aoi survives, and Rokujo’s spirit is healed by a spell incantation enacted by a Buddhist priest. The play is written from the viewpoint of Rokujo’s other self though the title suggests it is named after Genji’s wife. On stage, a bedridden Aoi is symbolized by a folded robe laid on the floor. What is seen (Aoi) is unseen, and what is unseen (Rokujo’s spirit) is seen in human form by the audience. In the article, I would like to explore Rokujo’s divided selves in Aoi-no-Ue comparing the play with the original story of The Tale of Genji.

Keywords: Noh Theater, <i>The Tale of Genji</i>, Japanese Literature, Divided Selves, Melanie Klein

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 9, pp.157-166. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.244MB).

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 Noh Theater.

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