The Inauspicious Sword

桜鍔恨鮫鞘

さくらつばうらみのさめざや

sakuratsuba urami no samezaya


Written by Kamesuke Takeshiba, this play was first staged at the Takemotoza Theatre in 1773.


At Unagidani, Osaka

unagidani

Hachirobei, a former samurai and now a dealer in second-hand articles, is in need of money to aid him to achieve the recovery of a treasured sword stolen from his former master's house. To provide him with enough money to achieve his end Otsuma, a former courtesan who lives with him as his wife, after consultation with her mother but without Hachirobei's knowledge, decides to marry Yahei, a wealthy perfumer, on condition that he give her 50 ryo. In Hachirobei's absence Otsuma drinks the nuptial cup with Yahei.

When Hachirobei returns with a cake for his little daughter Ohan in his hand, Otsuma and her mother call him names. Though hurt and astonished at the sudden change of attitude, he goes out of the house, refraining from quarrel or violence for fear that this might only bring misery to his dear daughter. Hachirobei having gone away, Yahei thrusts Ohan out into the street. Hachirobei comes back to his house to find Ohan shivering in the cold night air and learns from the little girl that Otsuma is in bed with Yahei. Furious with rage, he rushes into the house and slashes Otsuma and her mother to death. Yahei barely escapes with his life.

Hachirobei tries to commit suicide but Ohan restrains him and recites illiterate Otsuma's verbal will that she has been trained to memorize. Hachirobei learns now, all too late, of Otsuma's true devotion to him. He also learns more when he finds a letter that Yahei left behind in his precipitate flight. The letter is from an accomplice of Yahei and reveals that in fact Yahei himself stole the sword Hachirobei is seeking.


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