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Zeami's Confucian Theatre

From: Asian Theatre Journal
Volume 30, Number 1, Spring 2013
pp. 30-66 | 10.1353/atj.2013.0010



Buddhism, particularly Zen, is by far the most widely recognized extratheatrical influence on Zeami's drama theory and practice. This article argues that while Zeami draws extensively on Buddhist ideas to conceptualize his performance practices and especially to describe the relations between actor and audience, Confucianism is the fundamental influence on his thinking about . Confucianism establishes the purpose of as a performing art, namely, to promote peace and harmony among the people. To Zeami, the distinctive way that can realize this purpose is by fostering empathy in the audience through their identification with the experience and feelings of the characters on stage. This conviction inspires his lifelong search for the most effective means of engaging the audience in this process of identification. He regularly resorts to Buddhist aesthetic, psychological, and philosophical ideas to elucidate those means. But the purpose they serve always retains its Confucian inspiration.

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