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Dramatic Action in Greek Tragedy and Noh: Reading with and beyond Aristotle - Greek Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches (Hardback)
  • Dramatic Action in Greek Tragedy and Noh: Reading with and beyond Aristotle - Greek Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches (Hardback)
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Dramatic Action in Greek Tragedy and Noh: Reading with and beyond Aristotle - Greek Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches (Hardback)

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£44.95
Hardback 126 Pages / Published: 21/02/2013
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This book explores the ramifications of understanding the similarities and differences between the tragedies of Euripides and Sophocles and realistic Japanese noh. First, it looks at the relationship of Aristotle's definition of tragedy to the tragedies he favored. Next, his definition is applied to realistic noh, in order to show how they do and do not conform to his definition. In the third and fourth chapters, the focus moves to those junctures in the dramas that Aristotle considered crucial to a complex plot - recognitions and sudden reversals -, and shows how they are presented in performance. Chapter 3 examines the climactic moments of realistic noh and demonstrates that it is at precisely these moments that a third actor becomes involved in the dialogue or that an actor in various ways steps out of character. Chapter 4 explores how plays by Euripides and Sophocles deal with critical turns in the plot, as Aristotle defined it. It is not by an actor stepping out of character, but by the playwright's involvement of the third actor in the dialogue. The argument of this book reveals a similar symbiosis between plot and performance in both dramatic forms. By looking at noh through the lens of Aristotle and two Greek tragedies that he favored, the book uncovers first an Aristotelian plot structure in realistic noh and the relationship between the crucial points in the plot and its performance; and on the Greek side, looking at the tragedies through the lens of noh suggests a hitherto unnoticed relationship between the structure of the tragedies and their performance, that is, the involvement of the third actor at the climactic moments of the plot. This observation helps to account for Aristotle's view that tragedy be limited to three actors.

Publisher: Lexington Books
ISBN: 9780739172421
Number of pages: 126
Weight: 331 g
Dimensions: 236 x 158 x 15 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
Historically, Greek tragedy and Japanese Noh have nothing to do with each other, having developed in different eras and geographical regions. Yet both theatrical traditions tell stories of human joy and suffering through characters and action, and they evoke emotional response in audiences past and present. Noh plays are most familiar as mugen or "spirit noh," in which a wandering soul recounts an event in his or her life that is the cause of longing or torment. There are also genzai or "realistic noh," which deal with living people and present action. Some of the best-loved plays in the repertoire are Genzai Noh, Funa Benkei, Sumidagawa, and Ataka. Smethurst, author of The Artistry of Aeschylus and Zeami uses Aristotle's views on tragedy to analyze the plot structure in a group of lesser-known genzai noh texts, comparing them to examples of tragedies by Sophocles and Euripides. She examines the writers' use of action in these noh plays and their incorporation of third-person speech at the plot climax, features that correspond to Aristotle's principle that a tragedy can have only three actors. Smethurst's study of noh texts is uniquely illuminating for scholars of tragedy. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. * CHOICE *
Smethurst has a fine sense of dramatic action, and it is a delight to read her explication of one effective scene or exchange after another. This alone makes both books of great value to theatre practitioners as well as scholars interested in tragedy or noh. * Bryn Mawr Classical Review *
Mae Smethurst has followed up her pathbreaking book on The Artistry of Aeschylus and Zeami with a new study that compares Greek tragedy and realistic Noh drama with a plot and living characters. Drawing on Aristotle's views of the well structured tragic plot in his Poetics, Smethurst identifies common elements such as conflict, recognition, and fatal reversals in both genres as well as a similar pivotal role for the third actor in tragedy and a climactic stepping outside of character in Noh. The comparison is remarkably illuminating for students of both Greek and Japanese traditions. -- Helene Foley, Columbia University
Mae Smethurst brings to her research a unique balance of expertise in Greek Tragedy and Japanese Noh drama. In a fitting sequel to her path-breaking earlier work `The Artistry of Aeschylus and Zeami,' she here employs her understanding of Aristotle to investigate the workings of several relatively little studied Noh plays. This technique sheds new light on plays set in living reality, as opposed to the dream vision plays that tend to be viewed as the hallmark of Noh. Conversely, her approach to the Japanese works raises fresh issues to consider in the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides. A core focus of comparison concerns the issue of distanciation in text and performance. This rich scholarship, comparing unique juxtapositions of plays, is replete with original insights on multiple levels of analysis. Despite vast differences in time, culture and language, Tragedy and Noh illuminate each other in this exceptional book. It will intrigue specialists of each tradition and engage anyone with an interest in the possibilities and realities of theater in general. -- Susan Matisoff, University of California, Berkeley

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