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Shinei, Actor Nakamura Utaemon V as Masaoka

Shin'ei, dates unknown

Actor Nakamura Utaemon V as Masaoka

signed at right, Shin'ei hitsu, with publisher Matsuki Heikichi's mark and seal at lower left, Ryogoku Ohira ban, ca. 1920s

oban tate-e 15 1/4 by 10 1/8 in., 38.8 by 25.8 cm

Nakamura Utaemon V (1865-1940) is in the role of Masaoka from the Goten (The Palace) scene of the drama Meiboku Sendai Hagi (Precious Incense and the Flowers of Sendai). The play involves a palace coup against the young Prince Tsurochiyo and tells the story of the brave retainers who defended him against the attackers. Masaoka is the prince's guardian who trained her own son to test the prince's food for poison. When the coup plotters send poisoned cakes to kill the prince, Masaoka watches helplessly as her son eats of and is killed by the deadly treats. However, Masaoka remains a loyal servant to the prince. She bides her time to learn as much about the coup as she can and, when the moment is right, kills one of the plotters and steals a scroll that lists all the coup's participants.

References:
Arendie and Henk Herwig, Heroes of the Kabuki Stage, 2004, pp. 242-249
James R. Brandon and Samuel Leiter, Kabuki Plays on Stage: Villainy and Vengeance, 1773-1799, 2002, pp. 48-52
Helen Merritt, Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints, 1992, p. 137
Waseda University Theatre Museum (enpaku.waseda.ac.jp), accession no. 201-0340

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