A. Critical and Comparative Studies

44. Arnott, Peter. ‘Some English Imitations [of the nô]’. Appendix to The Theatres of Japan. London: Macmillan, 1969.

A knowledgeable discussion of the nô adaptations of Yeats and the collaborations of Britten and Plomer (BJ18, 19, and 21), focusing both on the degree of faithfulness to sources and the degree of dramatic success. Notes the ‘spiritual affinity’ of Yeats to the nô even before he was introduced to the form, and outlines those elements to which he was drawn, including the ‘highly allusive verse style’, staging techniques, performance conditions, dramatic merging of the past and present, and the ‘fleeting and illusory’ nature of the sensible world ‘emphasized’ by a ‘metamorphosis’ of character. The discovery of the nô for Britten, as for Yeats, ‘caused . . . immediate excitement and gave a new turn and a new form’ to previously-held aesthetic ideals, but Curlew River (BJ18) succeeds where Yeats’s adaptations ‘partially failed’ because Britten and Plomer ‘recognized from the outset the artistic invalidity of merely imitating the Japanese conventions’, and ‘sought instead . . . a workable equivalent, and a ritual form more immediately meaningful to a Western audience’.





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