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A Study on the Thematic, Narrative, and Musical Structure of Guan Hanqing’s Yuan «Zaju, Injustice to Dou E»


Yumin Ao

This book is a study of the thematic, narrative, and musical structure of Yuanqu xuan [A Selection of Yuan Plays] edition of the Yuan zaju (variety play) Dou E yuan [Injustice to Dou E] originally composed by the highly regarded playwright Guan Hanqing (fl. 1260). Although other authors have studied these three aspects of Dou E yuan separately, this is the first comprehensive treatment of the topic as a scholarly monograph in English. Yumin Ao’s analysis is based on the edition of the play in the Yuanqu xuan [A Selection of Yuan Plays] compiled by the Ming publisher Zang Maoxun (ca. 1550–1620). Ao proposes that Dou E yuan, as a dramatic narrative which develops through its enactment on the stage rather than by verbal presentation as a story, displays its integrative structure of narration through its thematic development and within its musical conventions.
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Chapter Seven: Musical Structure (II)


← 162 | 163 →CHAPTER SEVEN

Act II of Dou E yuan can be divided into three scenes. In Scene 1, Zhang Lü’er commits premeditated murder. He purchases a poison from Sai Luyi to kill Cai Popo, so that he can force Dou E to marry him when Cai Popo is dead. The first scene is segmented from the second with the stage becoming temporally empty after the role of fujing (acting as Zhang Lü’er) and the role of jing (playing Sai Luyi) exit.

In Scene 2, Cai Popo does not consume the soup, as she feels sick in her stomach. Instead, Zhang Lao’er eats the soup laced with the poison and dies. After this, Zhang Lü’er seizes the opportunity to accuse Dou E of murdering his father. He threatens to bring a lawsuit against her, unless she promises the marriage. But she insists on her innocence and vehemently rejects his demands. The second scene is separated from the scene which follows by means of an empty stage for the second time after the roles of the zhengdan, fujing and bu’er exit.

In Scene 3, Zhang Lü’er brings charges against Dou E and Cai Popo in court, and the corrupt Prefect Tao Wu accepts these charges. Dou E proclaims her innocence, even though she is tortured, so that she will confess to the crime. However, when Cai Popo is threatened with a beating by Tao Wu, Dou E immediately makes a full...

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