Theater of eternity: Zeami and Anton Chekhov

Date of Completion

January 2006


Literature, Comparative|Literature, Asian|Literature, Slavic and East European|Theater




The main subject of this paper is to reconsider dramatic achievement of noh theater aside from its cultural values as the traditional art form. Despite the fact that social or political factors have been greatly responsible in noh's survival for six hundred years, more internal evidences are found in noh plays themselves. However, unlike Greek or Shakespearian plays, calculated stylizations and precise procedures to establish the authentic performance have been the primary purpose of the existence. Therefore, this paper will analyze plays written and edited by Zeami, the founder of noh theater, and will comparatively discuss them with works of a modern dramatist, Anton Chekhov, an influential dramatist for the foundation of the Modern Drama. By doing so, this paper will disclose dramatic devices to achieve the eternal appreciation of theatrical performance. ^ This paper will first examine the historical origin of noh theater and traces how it has been developed as a socially respectable traditional art form. The special attention will be given toward its religious and spiritual aspects of noh performance that characterize the audience's individual theatrical experience, just as how Chekhov's plays create theatrical moods. Thus, this paper will next examine the primary commonalities between Zeami and Chekhov, the sense of place, which invites the audiences into the dramatic reality of the stage, and also the sense of time, which contains musical elements and unifies spectators' diverse responses into one. This project intentionally compares theatrical performances that differ completely in representational styles for the purpose of introducing technical aspects beyond stylistic categorizations, which have been relatively unexplored in cross-cultural and trans-historical studies through theater. ^