Ah young love, don’t you love it? Love makes people do crazy things, doesn’t it? It might make you, change your look, act like someone you’re not, or in some extreme cases kill yourself cause you cant be with them. William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Chikamatsu’s The Love Suicides at Amijima follows the later of that list. The two plays follow such a similar plot, Love Suicides has been referred to by litary scholars as the Japanese Romeo and Juliet. Let us first observe each play with each of the stories lovers to see how the story shapes out. Ill start with the play that everyone has at least heard of, if not read at some point in their life, Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet follows two high class feuding families known as the Montagues and the Capulets. It is in-between this quarrel that we find our lovers Romeo and Juliet on opposite sides of this feud and yet they fall in love. They know that there is no way for them to be together however, so they devise a plan to fool their families and run off with each other. Juliet took a potion that slowed her heartbeat and gave her the appearance of being dead, so her family moved her to their family tomb so people can observe and pay respect to her before she gets buried. Poor Romeo did not get the memo that this was a trick and thinking that she was dead, decided to kill himself so he could be with his love, and proceeds to drink poison. Romeo dies, and at the same time Juliet wakes up to find Romeo dead. Juliet also doesn’t want to be alone without her lover so she takes a knife and kills herself with it so their souls can be together in the afterlife.
For fear of that, I still will stay with thee
,And never from this palace of dim night
Depart again. Here, here will I remain
With worms that are thy chamber maids. Oh, here
Will I set up my everlasting rest,
Above is Romeo’s dialog when he sees Juliet’s Corpse cementing the idea he wants to be with her forever.
What’s here? A cup, closed in my true love’s hand?
Poison, I see, hath been his timeless end
O churl, drunk all, and left no friendly drop
To help me after? I will kiss thy lips.
Haply some poison yet doth hang on them,
To make me die with a restorative.
Juliet’s last lines are that she wants to die so she can be with Romeo, and she even takes Romeos knife to complete the job when she knows the poison wont be quick enough.
The love suicides at Amijima follows a paper merchant named Jihei, who falls in love with a prostitute named Kohuru. Jihei does not posses the required amount of money to pay for Koharus freedom so they are forced to meet in secret. Knowing that their society would never allow their relationship to happen due to each of their required duties, they decide to kill themselves so that they would be together forever in the afterlife.
The story itself unlike Shakespeare’s was based on a real life event, and these stories made love suicides so popular, the act was outlawed and any survivors would be charged with murder. Now, when comparing these two plays, an important question arises. If these two plays are so similar in plot and clearly very important to their respected culture, why did it take a student like me to this semester to learn about The Love Suicides? This question helps point to a major flaw in our education system and that is that everything that we were required to read in middle and high school, was created by a dead white guy. As a student, every literary great that I learned about in school: Poe, Shakespeare, Wells, Frost, and even Homer, were all white. That is why course like Global Lit shouldn’t only be taught in a college classroom, but should be taught in all schools no matter the grade. If not, the very Point of View when it comes to literature, will be white oriented.