The balance between warrior and artist was important to the samurai class as they were trained in painting, calligraphy, poetry, flower-arranging, the tea ceremony, and all enjoyed a form of theatre known as Noh. Noh plays were popular because the themes reflected samurai history.

Noh began in the1300s and is a combination of Sarugaku and Dengaku which involve acrobatics, juggling, dancing and recitations. During the Edo period (1603-1868), Noh became the official performing art of the Shogun and many daimyo had their own troupes and even performed themselves.

Using dance, drama, and music Noh is acted out with slow, subtle movements. The actors wear elaborate costumes and dramatic masks, whose expressions tell the age, sex and social status of the character. Made of wood and lacquer, many Noh masks are considered important examples of Japanese art.

To offset the serious content of the Noh plays, kyogen plays – short farces to lighten the mood – would run between the Noh plays.

The balance between warrior and artist was important to the samurai class as they were trained in painting, calligraphy, poetry, flower-arranging, the tea ceremony, and all enjoyed a form of theatre known as Noh. Noh plays were popular because the themes reflected samurai history.

Noh began in the1300s and is a combination of Sarugaku and Dengaku which involve acrobatics, juggling, dancing and recitations. During the Edo period (1603-1868), Noh became the official performing art of the Shogun and many daimyo had their own troupes and even performed themselves.

Using dance, drama, and music Noh is acted out with slow, subtle movements. The actors wear elaborate costumes and dramatic masks, whose expressions tell the age, sex and social status of the character. Made of wood and lacquer, many Noh masks are considered important examples of Japanese art.

To offset the serious content of the Noh plays, kyogen plays – short farces to lighten the mood – would run between the Noh plays.

© 2006, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. All Rights Reserved.

Upper right corner of a woodcut print depicting a Noh actor wearing a demon mask and costume.

Noh actor wearing demon mask.

Utagawa / Kiyomitsu Toyokuni II
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Morris Shumiatcher
19th Century
JAPAN
AGGV 2001.020.012
© 2006, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. All Rights Reserved.


Woodcut print depicting the central figure of a Noh play character with white hair on an orange background.

Central figure of a Noh play character with white hair on an orange background.

Kogyo Tsukioka
Gift of Margaret Turner
19th/20th Century
JAPAN
AGGV 87.11.1
© 2006, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. All Rights Reserved.


Female mask with smooth features.  Style reflects the fashion for blackened teeth, high forehead & shaved eyebrows.

Female mask with smooth features. Style reflects the fashion for blackened teeth, high forehead & shaved eyebrows.

Kawachi No Kami
Gift of Professor Toru Mori
20th Century
JAPAN
AGGV 68.86
© 2006, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The following learning objectives have been created with considerable and specific reference to the Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLOs) for various grades and subjects as outlined by the Ministry of Education for the province of British Columbia. The portions that directly reflect curricula language have been italicized. All applicable texts, websites, and other learning resources are listed in the bibliography under References.

• After reading an historical overview of Noh Theatre students will demonstrate an understanding of theatre styles in selected cultures and historical periods and also analyze how a society’s artistic expression reflects its culture
• Students will appreciate how important it was for a samurai to be a ‘balanced’ and ‘cultured warrior’ and understand that theatre is created in response to needs of the community.
• Students will appreciate the level of sophisticated training necessary for such actors and as such understand the significant and esteemed role that the arts held (and still hold today) in Japanese culture and also identify ideas and emotions expressed in dramatic work from a variety of cultures.


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