The Double Suicide at Sonezaki

double suicide suicide sewamono

曾根崎心中

そねざきしんじゅう

sonezaki shinjū

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Written by Monzaemon Chikamatsu, this play was first staged at the Takemotoza Theatre on May 7, 1703, or only one month after its models, Tokubei, a soy shop clerk, and Ohatsu, a courtesoan, committed a double suicide in Osaka on April 7, 1703.


In Front of the Ikudama Shrine

生玉社前

Tokubei, a clerk in his uncle's soy shop in Osaka, comes to the front of the Ikudama Shrine in the course of his round of calls on customers, accompanied by Chozo, an apprentice. He happens to find Ohatsu, a courtesan with whom he is in love, taking rest in a tea stall. So, he orders Chozo to visit a few more customers by himself and go home.

Now alone with Ohatsu, Tokubei addresses Ohatsu and asks why she looks unwell. In reply Ohatsu tells him that she is indisposed due to sorrow because she has not seen or heard from him so long. Tokubei says he has been in such a trouble that he simply has had no time to contact her. According to Tokubei, his uncle arranged without his knowledge that he shall marry the niece of his wife, hoping to make Tokubei his successor in his soy business. Tokubei learned to his astonishment that his step-mother secretly met his uncle and gave her consent to the marriage in place of Tokubei, taking a dowry of two kamme of silver to herself.

As it was farthest from his thought to marry any one but Ohatsu, Tokubei protested to his uncle. The uncle got angry and said that if Tokubei were to oppose the marriage he should pay back the dowry by the 7th of April and told him not to set foot in Osaka again.

Tokubei tells Ohatsu that he intends to pay back the dowry but he does not know how to meet her if he were not able to come to Osaka. Ohatsu says the will discover some way to meet even if Tokubei is barred from Osaka, adding that if it is utterly impossible for them to meet she is ready to die with him. She also advises him to return the money soon, for tomorrow is the 7th of April.

Tokubei thereupon reveals to her that although he went to his home village toward the end of March and recovered the dowry from his stepmother he was persuaded by Kuheiji, a friend of his, into lending the money to him, because he badly needed the money just for one day. In spite of the fact that Kuheiji promised to pay back the money by the 3rd of April, he has not fulfilled his promise so far and Tokubei is desperately looking for him.

Just as Tokubei is telling Ohatsu of his plight, Kuheji enters, considerably intoxicated, together with two friends. Tokubei calls on Kuheiji to return the money he borrowed, which is already three days overdue. But Kuheiji denies all knowledge of his debt. When Tokubei produces Kuheiji's IOU, Kuheiji declares that it is a forgery. Tokubei, desperate, attacks the swindler but is badly beaten up by Kuheiji and his friends.

Ohatsu rushes out to appeal to the spectators to stop the fighting, but her customer, a country bumpkin, forcibly takes her away, telling her that there is no point in getting hurt.

After stamping and beating Tokubei, Kuheiji and his friends flee. Tokubei picks up his battered hat, puts it on and makes his way back home in utter despair.

The Temmaya Tea House

天満屋

At night Tokubei visits Ohatsu at the Temmaya tea house with the determination to die with her now that he has been swindled out of his money by Kuheiji. In the midst of their talk in front of the tea house her master calls to Ohatsu that a guest is coming and she takes Tokubei into the house, hiding him beneath the skirt of her kimono. Unnoticed by others, Tokubei lurks under the matted floor.

Just at this moment Kuheiji bursts in and talks ill of Tokubei, calling him a swindler. He says Tokubei was beaten up so hard that he was lucky to have got out of it alive. He warns Ohatsu, her master and others not to believe Tokubei even if he comes here and makes a statement contrary to what Kuheiji has said.

Ohatsu refutes Kuheiji and, as if speaking to herself, says that the should like to hear Tokubei say that he is resolved to die. Tokubei, unnoticed by any one but Ohatsu, takes her ankle and strokes his throat to let her know that he is willing to die with her. At Ohatsu's mention of death Kuheiji feels uneasy and goes home.

Late that night after all have gone to bed Ohatsu puts out the ceiling light in order to make good her escape with Tokubei from the house. Awakened by the sound caused by her action, the master orders Otama, a maid, to put on the light again. Taking advantage of the sound of her striking fire from a flint, Ohatsu and Tokubei slip out of the house unnoticed.

The Woods of the Sonezaki Tenjin Shrine

天神森

Arriving at the woods of Sonezaki Tenjin Shrine, Tokubei says to Ohatsu that he would be glad to introduce her to his deceased parents in the other world. Ohatsu, whose parents are still alive, says that they would certainly lament over her death when the news of their love suicide spreads the next morning.

Tokubei draws his sword to stab Ohatsu first and then himself.


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