shinju

double suicide


   The most popular theme of both kabuki and joruri was the theme of double suicide, shinju, as thwarted lovers, unable because of social restrictions to live a life together, desperately chose to kill themselves in a mutual suicide hoping to be reunited in the Pure Land of Bliss promised by Amida Buddha. Many of these double suicide plays involved ukiyo themes, such as the love between an upper class or noble man and a prostitute. Because of the tremendous social gap between the two lovers there is no chance that such a love can result in a life-long union; this is the theme of the most famous of the shinju plays was Sonezaki Shinju, by Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1725). Such shinju plays often inspired a rash of real double suicides, so the Tokugawa regime in 1723 stepped in and banned shinju not only on the kabuki and joruri stage, but in real life as well.