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Chikamatsu Monzaemon

(1653-1724). Edo-period playwright, noted especially for the puppet theater called bunraku or ningyō jōruri and also for the kabuki theater. Generally considered Japan's greatest dramatist. His pen name was Chikamatsu Monzaemon, or simply Chikamatsu, and his family name was Sugimori. He belonged to a samurai family from the province of Echizen (now part of Fukui Prefecture). The conflicts of giri and ninjō beset Chikamatsu's domestic dramas and moved audiences to tears. These conflicts became the most characteristic theme of the puppet theater. Another theme Chikamatsu used was that of the love-suicide. His successful portrayals of love-suicides caused such an increase in the frequency of these suicides that the authorities made them a crime. Chikamatsu, Matsuo Bashō and Ihara Saikakau form the trio of outstanding authors of the brilliant late-17th-century period. His puppet plays were works of genius, establishing the tradition upon which bunraku was to develop into the world's most advanced puppet theater. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)

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