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Ichikawa Kodanji IV as Gosho no Gorōzō (1864)

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About the Art

Shielding himself from the falling cherry blossom petals, Gosho no Gorōzō gallantly glides through the night in a magnificent dragon kimono.

From Kunisada’s series of prints "Heroic Commoners in Kabuki", this scene comes from the play 'Gosho no Gorōzō'; named after the leading character. A tale of love, jealousy and death, this tragedy tells the story of two enemies fighting for a courtesan’s affection. 

Gosho no Gorōzō is married to the beautiful Satsuki, who became a prostitute and is also the topic of Daemon’s (Gorōzō’s enemy's) affection. Daemon tries to buy Satsuki’s favour, but clashes with Gorōzō. In an honourable act at settling her husband’s debts, Satsuki mournfully accepts Daemon’s advances in return for 200 ryō and divorces her husband. Gorōzō refuses to take the money, thinking that she was in love with Daemon. On a dark street, Gorōzō attacks Daemon and his entourage, stabbing the woman he believes to be Satsuki. Realising his wrongdoings the next day, Gorōzō vows to pay for his sin and commits 'seppuku' (suicide). Immediately, Satsuki comes to his house. Seeing Gorōzō dying, she stabs herself in the chest, and the two lie side by side and die together.

Gorōzō is an otokodate, a robin-hood character; they are outlaws who protect commoners with chivalrous acts. They’re recognisable in ukiyo-e by their lavishly patterned costumes, striking a heroic pose with a shaved head and ponytail hairstyle.

Here, Gorōzō’s kimono is patterned with a traditional eastern dragon, symbolic of eternal unity within marriage. 'Sakura' (cherry blossom) float past to suggest a transient, short lived beauty and life.

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