Kesa and Morito: A Tale of Forbidden Love and Tragedy
Kesa and Morito is a short story by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, one of the most acclaimed writers of modern Japanese literature. The story is set in the Heian period (794-1185), a time of cultural flourishing and aristocratic decadence in Japan. The story revolves around the illicit affair between Kesa, a married woman, and Morito, her cousin and former suitor. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of the two lovers, who reveal their conflicting emotions and motivations as they plot to kill Kesa's husband, Wataru.
The story explores the themes of passion, guilt, betrayal, revenge, and fate, as well as the dark side of human nature. Akutagawa uses a minimalist style and a subtle irony to portray the psychological complexity and moral ambiguity of his characters. The story also reflects Akutagawa's interest in classical literature and history, as he draws inspiration from various sources such as The Tale of Genji, The Pillow Book, and The Tale of Heike.
Kesa and Morito is considered one of Akutagawa's masterpieces, and has been adapted into various media forms such as film, opera, and manga. The story is also one of the six stories included in the collection Rashomon and Other Stories, which was translated into English by Takashi Kojima in 1952. The collection also contains Akutagawa's most famous story, Rashomon, which inspired the 1950 film by Akira Kurosawa.
If you are interested in reading Kesa and Morito, you can download a PDF version of the story from this link: http://msradio.huji.ac.il/ryunosukother05rashomon.pdf. Alternatively, you can also buy the book Rashomon and Other Stories from Amazon or other online retailers.
The story begins with Morito's monologue, in which he confesses his mixed feelings for Kesa. He admits that he was obsessed with her before she married Wataru, but that his lust turned into hatred after he seduced her and saw her true self. He describes her as a cold and cruel woman, who lied about loving her husband and agreed to his plan to kill him. He also fears that she might betray him and kill him instead, as he sees a mysterious sparkle in her eye. He regrets his impulsive proposal, but feels that he has no choice but to go through with it.
The story then shifts to Kesa's monologue, in which she reveals her reasons for yielding to Morito and consenting to his scheme. She explains that she was lonely and unhappy in her marriage, as Wataru was a weak and boring man who only cared about poetry. She also felt guilty for having rejected Morito in the past, as he was her cousin and a brave warrior. She hoped that by giving herself to him, she could ease his pain and hers. However, she was shocked and disgusted by his violence and his demand to kill Wataru. She decided to sacrifice herself to save her husband and punish Morito, by switching their places in bed and letting him stab her instead.
The story ends with a brief scene of the murder, in which Morito sneaks into Kesa's house and plunges his dagger into what he thinks is Wataru's body. He realizes too late that he has killed Kesa, who smiles at him with a triumphant and mocking expression. He is overcome with horror and remorse, as he understands that she loved Wataru after all and that she tricked him into killing her. He cries out her name in despair, as the moon shines brightly on the bloody scene. ec8f644aee