Aoi no Ue (play)

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Aoi no Ue
English titleLady Aoi
Written byZeami Motokiyo
Category4th — miscellaneous
Charactersshite Rokujo no Miyasudokoro (Maejite/Nochijite)
tsure the shaman Teruhi
waki the priest Kojihiri of Yokawa
wakizure Cour official
PlaceImperial Palace, Heian-kyō
TimeHeian period
SourcesGenji monogatari

Aoi no Ue (葵上, Lady Aoi) is a Muromachi period Japanese Noh play based on the character Lady Aoi from the Heian period novel Tale of Genji. It is an example of the fourth category of "miscellaneous" Noh plays. Aoi no Ue was the first of many Noh plays based on the Tale of Genji.[1] It is sometimes attributed to Zeami Motokiyo; the extant version of the text is likely a reworking of a version by a contemporary, Inuō.


In the backstory, Prince Genji, who was married to his wife Lady Aoi at a young age, has taken a mistress, Lady Rokujo. Lady Rokujo had been married to the crown prince, and had been next in line to become empress. The death of her husband robbed her of the chance to become empress and left her powerless. Following an episode in which she is humiliated in public by Lady Aoi, Rokujo is enraged to discover that Aoi is pregnant. Genji begins ignoring Rokujo, and in her jealousy her living spirit leaves her body and possesses Lady Aoi, resulting in Aoi's death.

The action of the play focuses on a miko (female shaman) and a priest exorcising the spirit of Lady Rokujo from the body of Lady Aoi.[2] Aoi does not appear on stage - rather, an empty kimono serves to represent her.[1]

Noh roles being historically played by men, the first woman to play the lead role in Aoi no Ue was Uzawa Hisa.[citation needed].


Victor Turner, in The Anthropology of Performance, wrote about the relationship between the Tale of Genji and Aoi no Ue, calling them different kinds of metaperformance and discussing the difference between the story in a novel and in a theatre.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Shirane, Haruo (2008). Envisioning the Tale of Genji: media, gender, and cultural production. Columbia University Press.
  2. ^ Waley, Arthur. (1921). The Noh Plays of Japan, p. 183., p. 183, at Google Books
  3. ^ Ashley, Kathleen M. (1990). Victor Turner and the construction of cultural criticism: between literature and anthropology. Indiana University Press. p. 164.


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