One story that became famous in Noh drama is Atsumori because it recounts the life of a flute player and young worrier who was killed while in a battle between Genji and Heiki during the 12th century (Campbell 133). Rensho, the priest who was formerly known as the Kamagae wander and warrior, sought peace and forgiveness before his death. Rensho killed Atsumori because he believed that he was a merciful soldier that would have been tortured by the young ones. After doing so, he went back to the battle site to say a word of prayer to him before he was buried. While at the village, Rensho came across the grasscutters and he became spiritually and emotionally moved by the music released from the flutes (Campbell 134). Due to this, Rensho confronted the Atsumori ghost under the chorus music’s guidance to relive the spirit from his final death and battle to find enlightenment and peace with him.
Similar to Noh plays, one element used in Atsumori is mood. For instance, the mysterious yugen created by Zeami from the poetic songs was done to reveal the truths of enlightenment, Buddhism, and balance. While the song was traditionally played, Zeami also used the choreographed and slow movement to the orchestra music, similar to how it was used in the past (Campbell 137). As known, most traditions appearing in Noh dramas had choruses that presented and featured the characters and onstage in the choir before they sat down again. The three characters in this play include the central figure (shite), who is more like the protagonist, and waki, the supporting individual who helped him pursue enlightenment (Campbell 139). The clown (kygoen) is seen assisting in the exposition that interludes between the two characters.
The mood character is also seen in the second and first acts when the interlude takes place. For instance, when the villagers were passing by, they responded to the questions raised by Rensho relating to the backstory in the play. In the intermission, the audience also understood the climactic play-act of kyu (Campbell 141). A good example was when Rensho was singing the waiting song; he showed how much he wanted to do the holy rites to south Atsumori’s soul before the ghost from the boy entered him again to garb the warrior spirit.
Even though Atsumori had rehearsed his passion for death, his obsession would not allow him to gain enlightenment and transcendence traits. The song’s chorus also acted upon the extension of Atsumori’s mind to help him recite his thoughts because the frenzy forces that made him dance were also to relieve him from his last battle (Campbell 142). When the dance reached the climax, Atsumori raised his sword against Rensho. However, Rensho was not the enemy but the Buddhist priest who was to initiate the ceremony.
Atsumori is a story of the life of a flute player and young worrier who was killed while in a battle between Genji and Heiki during the 12th century. The author used various cultural elements to narrate the story. One example that the author used was mood throughout the story, especially during the death of Rensho. This element was also in the intermission to make the audience understand the climactic play-act of kyu.
Campbell, P. A. “Atsumori by Zeami Motokiyo.” How to Teach a Play, 2020, pp. 133-147, doi:10.5040/9781350017566.ch-011.