Lady Aoi and Teachings on Style and the Flower - Critical Analysis of the Play

Published: 2021-08-02
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George Washington University
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Lady Aoi is a Japanese play based on the character Lady Aoi from the Heian period novel Tale of Genji. The text is a revised edition by Zeami. It talks about young Genji who had an affair with Lady Rakujo, who is the widow of the late crown prince. The play has a female demon as the protagonist, a monk, and a vengeful spirit. In the teachings on style and the flower, Zeami talks about the passing and the true flower. The passing flower represents the beauty of the youth while the true flower represents the flower does not fade even after 50 years of age. The paper explores the idea of fate and past life, how the texts define life, the reason bad things happen to people in the two plays, and how they cope with sorrow.

In Lady Aoi, life is defined as one that passes like lightening. When speaking to the Courtier, the spirit of Lady Rakujo affirms in this world, where all passes like lightening, there should be none for me to hate nor any fate for me to mourn. The text implies that in life, nothing lasts forever. On the other hand, in the teachings on style and the flower, life is defined as one, which blossoms at its appointed time. The text provides an example of a flower that blooms at its proper occasion. Just like flowers, life has its various stages of development. Additionally, just as some flowers may wither at a particular stage, in life, human beings may stay strong until they bloom like the true flower while some may remain inactive like the passing flower.

In Lady Aoi, the idea of fate and past life is explored in the character of Lady Rakujo and Lady Aoi. In the text, the writer describes Lady Rakujo as beautiful and sophisticated. Lady Rakujo was a widow of a crown prince and Genjis current lover. However, she feels disregarded because there is minimal communication between her and Genji. Lady Aoi is Genjis wife, and she is pregnant. Lady Rakujo needs to see Genji, and she decides to go to the Kano festival to see him. During the festival, Genji is unable to recognize her because she concealed her identity using an unobtrusive carriage. When Genji acknowledges his wife, Lady Rakujo becomes jealous. The idea of fate comes in when the spirit of Lady Rakujo possesses Lady Aoi and she dies shortly after giving birth to Genjis son. When Genji opted to have a lover, it was inevitable to prevent jealousy that might arise. The spirit, which killed Lady Aoi is an evil, vengeful, and jealous spirit of Lady Rakujo, which wandered from her body without her knowledge. In the text, the writer explains that Lady Rakujos spirit tormented and killed other wives of Genji. Apparently, even in real life, the spirit of jealousy is disastrous. As well, the idea of fate is evident because when Lady Rakujo felt ignored by Genji, the evil spirit of jealousy was bound to be in her body. On the contrary, the idea of past life is explored through Rakujos spirit meditation. It laments,

Why did I leave the way of the truth? (Speaks to Teruhi)

(Kudoki) Attracted by the birch bows sound,

Here I now appear. Do you still know me?

I am the spirit of Lady RakujoIn days of old when I moved in society

On spring mornings I was invited

To the flower feasts at the palace,

And on Autumn nights

I viewed the moon in the royal garden.

Happily thus I spent my days

Among bright hues and scents

Fallen in life, today I am no more

Than a morning glory that withers with the rising of the sun

In the section, the evil spirit of Lady Rakujo thinks aloud about its past life and the way it used to focus on the goods things in life until it became evil.

In the teachings on style and the flower, the ideas of fate and past life are represented. Regarding fate, it is apparent that most flowers are destined to blossom. In the text, the author states, there is no flower that remains and whose petals do not scatterand just because the petals scatter, then, when the flower blossoms again, it will seem fresh and novel. Beyond doubt, most flowers wither fast. Even so, looking at the explanation of roses, most people know that at some point, they will wither, which is a proverbial application of its fate. Concerning past life, one aspect that explains it is the seed of the flower. The author avers that the concept of the flower implies a seed that was grown years before. In life, people are always in control of their destiny. In the text, the writer states that an actor, who has mastery of his art, can hold the seeds of the flower that blossoms in all seasons. Justly, the foundation they built in their past life would determine what would happen in their future.

In Lady Aoi, bad things happen to people who seem undeserving of them. For example, the death of Lady Aoi and other wives of Genji happen to them due to circumstances that were beyond their control. The reason bad things happen to Genjis wives in the text are because they chose to love a man who had a lover that has an evil spirit wither her. In that circumstance, it is difficult to cope with their sorrow and died peacefully. On the other hand, regarding Lady Rakujo, the spirit inside her decided to turn into an evil one. As the text outlines, it is apparent that neither of Genjis wives were aware of his lover. Lady Rakujo chose to let her jealousy take the better part because Genji could not acknowledge her at the Kano festival. When the spirit talks to Teruhi, it tells him that in the past, it used to live happily in life among the bright hues and scents before it became fallen in life. When the spirit reminisces about its past life, it seems like it regrets what it has become, but still ensures that it must take its revenge on Lady Aoi. When a holy man comes to perform an exorcism on Lady Aoi, he fingers his scared rosary. A background song has words that say whoever hears my teaching will receive the purity of Buddhahood. The spirit copes with sorrow by hearing the words of the holy man. The chorus of the song states, hearing the voice of incarnation, the demons heart grows gentle. Lady Rakujos spirit became peaceful to an extent that it was capable of becoming a Buddha.

The reason bad things happen to people in teachings on style and the flower is their failure to have the appropriate mastery of their art in life. In the text, the writer affirms that if an actor possesses all the flowers, then they can perform to any expectation on any occasion. They cope with sorrow by practicing all aspects of their art to the utmost. The author states if an artist practices his art, then it will take a long time before their artistic elements are exhausted. The author refers to yugen as elegance and grace, which is the highest ideal of perfection in various forms of art. However, the writer states that many actors do not have the real yugen, which prevents them from possessing the quality. In the text, the moment when a flower withers represents bad things. Seemingly, the author implies that in life, if one has not organized him or herself, the chances of them failing to blossom are high.

In summary, both Lady Aoi and teachings on style and the flower have their deeper meanings. In both texts, the elements of life, fate and past life are explained. Despite the fact that Lady Aoi has a straightforward story about love and jealousy, teachings on style and the flower has a secret teaching. Zeamis teachings on the true and passing flower explain the lives of people. As well, the lives of Lady Rakujo, Lady Aoi, and Genji in Lady Aoi revolve around the things that happen in real life. Overall, both texts have meaningful life lessons, which people should emulate.

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