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

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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 Eight: Musical Structure (III)

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← 178 | 179 →CHAPTER EIGHT

Act III consists of only one scene: “Dou E Beheaded (zhan Dou E ).” This scene demonstrates the interactive performances between Dou E and three supporting characters, namely Guizi shou (the executioner), Cai Popo, and Jianzhan Guan (the official supervising the execution), when Dou E is escorted to the market to be executed. The section in which Dou E makes three prophesies before the execution to proclaim her innocence marks the climax of the zaju drama.

In Act III, the zhengdan sings a set of songs to the tunes in the Zhenggong mode. The Zhenggong mode is one of the modes with the largest number of units which can be selected to compose a song-set. Totally five clusters of sequence tunes and nine independent tunes are categorized into the Zhenggong mode.

As Zheng Qian notes, it is difficult to generalize a zhengge (regular form) from various song-sets in the Zhenggong mode, but the Zhenggong act in the Yuan playwright Zhu Kai’s Haotian ta [Haotian Tower] more or less represents the zhengge. The following table shows the Zhenggong song-set in Dou E yuan in contrast to this regular pattern.

← 179 | 180 →Table 8.1 Song Arrangements in the Zhenggong Act of Dou E yuan in Contrast to the Zhengge of the Zhenggong Mode Song-set

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