RASHOMON is a play, authored by Fay and Michael Kanin. It has two acts and three changes of scenes occur as the play progresses. The plot was based on stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa that as far as I have been able to find out are in turn based on ancient Japanese folk tales. This play and it's theme, "What is truth?" has been a major part of my 'life plot'. When I was 14 years old I was told I'd imagined something happened to me when I was very young. Having been told I had imagined what seemed to me to have really happened launched me (unconsciously) into trying to verify whether I imagined things or not.
The play illustrated to me why reality seems so variable, but it took a long time to understand how and why the "Rashomon effect" is a fact about the individual life and its private experience.
This is a short story plot of the play:
There are 9 players: the priest, a woodcutter, a wigmaker, a deputy, the bandit, the husband, the wife, the mother of the wife and a medium. It's about a rape, a murder; the trial that followed in an ancient police court; and how three men sheltering from a violent rain storm talked about the trial. Because they re-viewed the trial and it's strange events no true version was established. Although obviously the man who died told the truth he was not murdered. His ghost testified to what he saw when he watched his wife being raped.
There are three settings in the play: The Rashomon Gate; a forest setting; and the Police Court. The setting switches as the current narrator speaks...a revolving stage moves the plays' action to what is appropriate to the scenario...
The play opens a thousand years ago in front of the Rashomon Gate which stands outside of Kyoto, Japan. The gate is 106 feet wide, 26 feet deep and the stone wall rises 75 feet topped by a ridge-pole. It is in very bad repair, an ancient relic that has become a hideout for thieves and is now a place where unclaimed corpses are dumped; its become the hangout of the poorest of the poor and the truly carefree. (The description of the Gate reminds me of the shape of a large pi symbol.)
It's a cold rainy day when the woodcutter comes running towards the gate where the Priest sits before a small bonfire he's built. He sits staring at the fire, obviously tired, appearing dejected and defeated. He looks older than his 30+ years.
The woodcutter is poor, this is evidenced by his clothing held by a piece of rope around his waist, into which a homemade axe is stuck. He speaks to the Priest anxiously because he's heard in the market place the priest is going away and he's going to leave the Church. The woodcutter tries to restrain himself but he bursts out that he knows what happened in the Police Court is like a nightmare, that what happened makes the very flesh of ones own body creep but it makes no sense for the priest to leave the Temple. He tells the Priest that of all people, he should not lose faith. But its apparent the priest is so desolated, he has lost all faith.
The priest asks "What DOES make sense?" The priest speaks about how he can understand the violence of nature, its beyond human control but he cannot understand the violence and savagery done by men to others. He points out the woodcutter was present in the court, he saw and heard what happened so he should understand, that not even Buddha could understand what happened in the Police Court. The woodcutter replies that the people learn very much from the Priest, they will have nothing to hold onto if the priest goes.
The priest reveals how he was born into a rich family and became a priest against his fathers' wishes. Now he feels helpless, not knowing how to explain anything even to himself after what happened in the Police Court.
From above the gate the wigmaker enters the story, he complains that he cannot sleep, they have disturbed him in the only place he finds quiet. As he comes into view the woodcutter tries to get the priest to leave, fearing the wigmaker may be a bandit. The wigmaker is arrogant; he behaves without reverence to the priest. The woodcutter accuses him of being a thief because he steals hair from corpses to make his wigs; he's a swindler.
To which the wigmaker replies he cannot live any other way, and he has to live. He steals hair from only the finest corpses in Kyoto and nobody can live an honest life anymore, anyway.
He isn't ashamed or downcast as he proudly describes the wigs he's made from corpses whose history he knows. He recites incidents to prove he isn't the only person who resorts to trickery to survive, and he does something useful with what would be lost otherwise. He has a degree of pride in what he does and he has no shame at all in standing up for himself.
The woodcutter is angry and doesn't accept this sort of reasoning; he says the woodcutter is no better than the three at the Police Court. The wigmaker is now interested enough to want to hear about Police Court, He asks what happened.
The woodcutter muses that it wasn't the murder alone that was disturbing, but how it happened and the things they'd heard in the Court. He was there to testify because he found the body of the dead man. He describes the summer day it had happened, how he found the murdered man. He describes how they looked, the samurai, his robes, the sword at his side, the bow and arrow on his back and his wife sitting on a white horse. The husband had been run through with a sword when his body was found.
The priest had seen the man and his wife earlier in the day, before the murder so he identified the corpse. However no weapon was found.
The woodcutter describes how he saw the face of the dead man and ran away very fast. The wigmaker is very contemptuous of this saying only the living are to be feared, what can a corpse do? The woodcutter says that Tajomaru, the bandit was arrested and without doubt he is the killer. He recites the reputation of Tajomaru, who is a thief also who plunders on a grand scale; he murders this victims without remorse and he is very famous.
The wigmaker becomes excited: They both steal, but he, the wigmaker only enough to live while the bandit steals and robs for pleasure. The wigmaker is considered to be a sneak thief, there is only contempt for him, he has no honor. He expresses both envy and disdain for the honored reputation of the fearsome bandit.
The priest remarks the wigmaker wasn't present in the Court so he doesn't know what happened there, he could not understand unless he had been there and heard himself. He begins to talk....
The scene changes to the Night Court where the deputy recites the criminal record of Tajomaru. He describes the murder scene, how the bandit was found with the murdered man's white horse; the bow and arrow with its quiver that were taken obviously from the dead man which was found in the bandits possession. The bandit was found groaning in the sand, presumably thrown from the horse which was standing nearby.
The deputy smirks that the great bandit is reduced to a common behavior, wretching and sick as an ordinary man would be. He takes pleasure in reciting that being thrown from a stolen horse is just as painful to the famous bandit as it would be to anybody else.
In the Police Court, Tajomaru interrupts saying the horse that could throw him does not live; he explains at great length what really caused him to be wretching. He defends himself saying he had stopped to drink from the stream then awoke wretchedly ill after he dozed for a while. He'd had a busy afternoon, he'd gotten tired from all his work so he had rested after drinking deeply of the stream. It was obviously poisoned by something and he was wretching with pain from the poisoned water.
He begins to speak of the toil of his afternoon: how he saw the samurai and his wife ride by, how a breeze lifts the veil that covers the woman's' face briefly so that he catches a glimpse of her. He says that but for the breeze he would have not bothered them because it was in the heat of the afternoon but after seeing a whisp of her face he decided to have her.
He describes the ruse he uses to stop them, offering the husband water from his pouch and saying its a long way to the next water. The wife refuses, but the samurai husband drinks deeply. Tajomaru begins to talk about swords, noticing the husbands elaborate sword. He says he knows about an ancient tomb that nobody else knows about, full of 'things like that'. He has no use for them and offers to sell them to the husband. The husband is interested and follows the bandit into the bushes.
Tajomaru in the Court laughs at how a little puff of air trapped him, he'd decided to have the woman even if it mean killing her husband. He doesn't see anything wrong with himself, he describes how blood is so ugly to the people who kill with power and money instead of the sword. Their victims don't bleed but in a sense they are killed, they are dead in Tajomaru's view. He describes how he kills only to live, to have pleasure. He didn't mean to kill this man however, in this case he felt differently than he had before. He wanted if possible to take the woman once without killing the man. He tells about how he overpowered the husband and tied him to a bamboo root on the way to look at the treasures in the ancient tomb. If things had gone as he planned the husband would not have been killed.
After binding the husband he'd gone to the woman, telling her the husband was looking at the treasure. She is to wait with him but the woman runs towards where her husband entered the bushes. The bandit follows her, perversely wanting her to see her husband helpless and without power. She realizes what the bandit wants and pulls a dagger from her robe, leaping at him. After a struggle, during which Tajomaru becomes excited at her anger and resistance he overcomes her and accomplishes his aim.
The wigmaker interrupts the recitation and describes some feats he knows about the bandit, relishing the telling very greatly. The woodcutter is repulsed by the beastly behavior but the wigmaker says women loved being overpowered by the bandit, they even enticed him. He becomes very vulgar in his descriptions, which angers the woodcutter because the priest is present.
Returning to the Police Court setting, Tajomaru resumes his story saying he had intended to do no harm to the husband, he figured this woman was one he wanted in a different way. After the act she was crying; he was affected by her tears so much that he tried to explain himself to her, telling her to go untie her husband, they could go on their way now. She had not really been harmed.
The bandit prepares to leave but the wife calls to him. He asks what she wants to which she replies she cannot live in such dishonor, she asks that her husband be given the chance to avenge her. The bandit resists, saying honor has no place in his life and she is wise enough to know she can escape now, she is alive and her husband is alive. But the woman insists her husband be allowed to avenge her, she says that if her husband is defeated she will go with the bandit and be his woman, but she must have justice done.
The bandit is very contemptuous of her reasoning but he begins to be swayed when she tries to plunge her dagger into her throat. He takes the dagger from her, kisses her before pushing her aside then cuts the husband free.
They fight savagely, the bandit in his self-taught way is overcome by the samurai eventually. As he lays with the samurai's sword at this throat he slithers away and grabs the husbands' legs throwing him to the ground just as he's about to be dealt the death blow. They scramble out of view into the bushes, where the struggle continues. In the bushes Tajomaru gets the sword and plunges it into the man's chest. From the bushes a piercing cry is followed by silence. The bandit walks into the clearing but the wife is not to be seen.
Tajomaru speaks well of the husbands' prowess to the Police Court but he has no idea where the woman went.
The scene returns to the Rashomon Gate where the three men are huddled around the fire. They are talking about the woman, each in his own way. She was found later hiding but alive. They know she will be able to accuse the bandit and he will certainly hang.
But the Priest says: "She didn't accuse him. That is not what happened. She told a completely different story."
The wigmaker is amazed and wonders what could be different in the wife's' story. The priest begins to talk. He describes the woman; she is delicate and defenseless not a worldly-wise woman as Tajomaru talked about her.
The setting returns to the Police Court where the wife's mother is a witness before the Magistrate.
She speaks of her daughter, who was as beautiful as a flower, a gift given to her after many childless years. She describes the tiny delicate child, and how she never dressed herself or played as common children did, having such grace that she stood out from the ordinary even as a child. Her husband was a rich noble man, a brave warrior who deserved such a flower of womanhood as her daughter.
She remarks that bandits roam freely and prey like beasts, the samurai protect others from such wildness. She tells about how many offers of marriage her daughter had, all very high ranking prospects but the samurai was the most eager in the mothers' view, the most worthy. She describes how she had to persuade her daughter to marry him however...
The wife is angered, she interrupts her mother asking if she has no shame to speak in the presence of death the way she is doing...she wonders in amazement at her mothers vanity... The mother is startled and says her daughter is distraught, not knowing what she says.
But the wife begins to speak. She tells that her mother was a maidservant in the samurai's house, she is the daughter of a maidservant who worked in the samurai's house. Her mother pleads that it matters to no one if she engages in small fantasies. The wife describes her mother as a good and trusted servant, she has nothing to be ashamed of.
She describes how she as a small child watched the samurai and grew to love him, watching him and never daring to think he would ever look at her. But one day he had noticed her and then eventually she became the samurai's wife. She describes how he had chosen her clothes, instructed her in how to walk, talk and be a lady. She did everything to please him, finding her life with him as close to a realized dream as could be had. The death of her husband at the hands of a bandit was a terrible thing...she still hears the bandits laughter. She is obviously anguished as she speaks...
The scene changes to the forest where the husband sits tied to the bamboo stump, his eyes shut. The bandit has finished his act and drinks wine from his goatskin. He taunts the bound up warrior asking why he doesn't show fear as he should. He speaks to the weeping wife, telling her that in her old age she can brag to others that she was taken by the famous Tajomaru. He taunts the husband because it was so easy to capture him with his story about the jeweled swords. He moves to kill the husband but the wife runs towards him and stops him. The bandit turns and walks from the clearing.
The wife falls on her husband, weeping and trying to comfort him but laughing that they are still alive and the bandit is gone. She weeps as she says she knows how hard it was for him to watch, she could see him straining against his bonds wanting to rescue her. She tells how she thought only of him, that the brutal bandit had not really touched her or him, they would forget it all. Then she stops and looks at him, seeing on his face something that makes her ask him not to look at her the way he is; what she sees makes her shrink back with horror, and anguish. She reaches for his sword and asks him to take it and kill her, rather than look at her that way.
Then she becomes angry, saying she is no longer a maidservant but is his wife, she has shared his table, his bed. He remains silent, staring at her although she demands he answer her. She begs him to not throw her away but he sits silently, looking at her with contempt.....
The scene changes to the Police Court, where the mother is holding her daughter, and stroking her with compassion, tenderly comforting her with an understanding she has never known before...
The wife speaks dully saying she must have fainted then because when she came to her husband was dead, the sword in his chest. She realized she must have killed him. She ran into the woods, deeper and deeper trying to drown the sight of herself in the river but couldn't do it. Even the river wouldn't take her. She feels so worthless that even the river rejects her.
In Scene two the RASHOMON Gate is the setting. The wigmaker mimics the forlorn sadness of the wife...the priest remembers the woman's face saying its impossible to forget. The wigmaker disdains the tears saying a woman's tears are a weapon they use that makes idiots of men. They should be ignored. The priest wonders why she would confess to a crime she didn't commit however.
The wigmaker makes a number of remarks about women, their devious ways and how they win sympathy by various means but the woodcutter breaks in and tells the priest not to let himself be hurt or baited by the wigmaker. The priest wearily wonders to himself, saying that some of what the husband said is true but he cannot understand how he can believe the wife's' story after what the medium said....
The wigmaker is interested and alert at this new subject; the woodcutter says they brought into the court a medium to evoke the spirit of the murdered man. The wigmaker is eager to hear what the husband said...asking if it was different from what the others had said...
The priest speaks quietly, more to himself than others remembering the wife's misery, wondering how it could be pretense. She admitted killing her husband who Tajomaru has said he killed. She described how Tajomaru left her and her husband alone but alive. He thinks about Tajomaru, remembering how he feared nothing, not even hanging. He wonders why a condemned man would lie; the wigmaker says there's no reason for a man to lie when he faces death and when he IS dead there is certainly no reason to lie. They must consult the spirit of the dead man.
The scene changes to the Police Court. The medium is getting ready to reach into the world where the husbands spirit dwells, and struggles to make contact with him. Finally she speaks but the husbands' soul voice is heard through her mouth. The husband describes where he is, cursing those who put him there.
He begins to describe the scene he saw after the bandit is finished with his wife. He sees Tajomaru admire the woman, stroking her hair, and describing her in a rapt and poetic way. He hears the bandit speak to the woman, asking her why she wants a man like her husband, too weak from too much easy living. The husband hears the bandit describe what he would offer her if she would come with him.
The husband sees his wife look at the bandit in a way she has never looked at him in all their married life... and hears her beg the bandit to take her away with him. But she says he must kill her husband because she cannot be the bandits wife as long as she has a husband. The husband hears his wife urge the bandit to kill her husband...kill him....kill him.
The soul-voice of the husband speaks about how the cursed words and foul mouth of his wife roar through him still. They were so dreadful that even the bandit was horrified as she spoke them...
The bandit is repulsed by her. Some deep feeling against the female animal who feeds on her mate rises, overwhelming him. The bandit grabs her by the throat and tosses her aside. He asks the husband what to do with her, suggesting he cut her black heart out. The wife struggles to her feet as he addresses the husband then she runs for her life into the thicket. The bandit doesn't go after her, but he cuts the husbands' bonds saying they are both better off without her. He leaves.
The husband's soul voice says he was left in silence and then he heard sobbing. Who could be sobbing? Then he realizes his eyes are filled with tears, he hides his face, his hopes, his pride gone. he is the one that is sobbing....then his face becomes again the warrior face. He draws his sword..raises it above his breast......and thrusts it deeply.
The scene darkens and changes to the Police Court... as the medium screams and shakes with the motion of the sword thrusting into herself. The husbands voice still speaks, he describes feeling no pain, only a coldness creeping through his body, a mist gathering. He hears nothing he lays in stillness... for a time then someone seems to approach. Who? He tries to see, but the darkness is too heavy...someone's hand reaches for the sword in his breast and draws it out, very carefully, slowly. He feels a lump in his mouth rise up to end his breath and he feels the blackness of space pull him down...
The woodcutters voice breaks in. He screams that the husband is lying, lying... The whole story is a lie...he didn't kill himself...he was...then he stops himself and is silent. He's said too much. The ever alert wigmaker wants to know what he was going to say...could it be the woodcutter knows something...he isn't telling everything he knows....?
The priest and wigmaker look at him. The woodcutter stumbles that he doesn't know anything but he can't look at them. So the wigmaker says that a dead man did lie.
The priest however knows the woodcutter is concealing something...he looks and waits as the woodcutter begins to talk..
"Maybe he didn't lie...maybe..." The priest interrupts him, saying "You are the liar..."
"I swear..." says the woodcutter." but the priest persists "..in court you said..." but then he thinks of something..."You didn't find a dead man...you saw him when he was still alive. The bandit and the woman....".
The wigmaker is delighted with this new development: "He must have seen everything..."
The priest urges the woodcutter to tell what he saw...asking why he didn't speak up in court. The woodcutter becomes unable to keep his secret under the priests insistent eyes...he is accustomed to confessing to a priest.
"I am a poor man." he says. The priest reminds him that truth is not a luxury only the wealthy can have but the woodcutter stumbles that he didn't want to get involved...
The priest is now really angry, saying that every time justice blunders it is the woodcutter that cries out for mercy, that a person who could unravel such a mystery and refused to do it was worse than a fool. Whatever the motives of those three, at least ONE of them had to be telling the truth...
The woodcutter says..."No.. none of them were telling the truth....". The priest and wigmaker look at him and echo him: "No? None of them were telling the truth? What do you mean..?" The woodcutter very painfully tells them that none of the stories told in the Police court are true...they could not be true,.....they all were lies...all of them...
The priest is stunned.
The wigmaker doesn't know what to think as he looks from one to the other but he bursts into chortles of derisive laughter as the woodcutter looks miserably apologetic. The wigmaker cannot believe what he is hearing or seeing and he thinks its a great joke that is being revealed. The woodcutters' sudden outburst highlights his lack of candor in a way that only the wigmaker will address openly for what it is, the utmost of hypocrisy.
The woodcutter is hesitant still, he just didn't want to get involved. But now he sees he's wrong. The wigmaker doesn't let him off the hook easily, as he points out the only concern the woodcutter really had was for his own skin. But he cannot resist saying that Justice will go astray no matter what...
The priest tells the wigmaker to leave the poor woodcutter alone and this turns the wigmaker accusative towards him now: "What are you offering him for his honesty? How have you ever helped anyone, have you rotted in a prison yourself or felt your life was threatened by a policeman's sword at your own throat...? Its very well for you to tell him to have courage when you have never felt the threats he knows are just waiting for him..."
The priest is accused of being safe from threat and living such a clean life that he cannot face the real world without wanting to escape from it. He seems amazed at what the wigmaker knows is a very familiar fact, a fact everybody but the priest knows. "...three people told lies in a Police Court just yesterday. This burst your dreams, eh...its beyond you to endure the truth...eh? "
The priest is humbled and admits he has received a shock. But he thinks there must be some reason. The wigmaker is adamant that everyone tells what he wants the world to believe. This isn't a satisfactory answer to the still wondering priest who thinks there's got to be a better answer. He protests that some miracle may be there but they cannot really see it. He looks at the wigmaker and says wonderingly, as though some new thought just came to him:
"Maybe you are the miracle.."
This really causes the wigmaker to gasp: "Me??!!"
The priest seems to gain confidence. "Yes, you kept us here with your wanting to hear what happened. We stood together talking about what we had each seen. Except for your mockery and contempt we would not have talked as we have... nobody would ever have known what we know now...you are what brought out the untold story..."
The wigmaker again thinks the priest is looking for heavenly intervention and Divine purpose that isn't there...but he urges the woodcutter to tell why he thinks everybody in the Police Court lied...
The priest urges the woodcutter to speak the truth without fear so this makes him nod his head and say he will tell what he saw happen...
The woodcutter begins his story..he was traveling through the woods when he saw a woman's hat on a bush...its the sedge hat with a veil the wife wore..obviously...he hears sounds and quietly creeps closer so he can peer behind the bush. The husband is tied to a stump, still alive.. The wife was fixing her hair.
This astonishes the wigmaker...but the priest pauses and considers that's what a woman would ordinarily do. The bandit was on his knees says the woodcutter. He is pleading with the woman, saying he is sorry. He tells her she is like the great ladies he's seen, and always desired; he urges her to come away with him. The wife tells him to leave her alone and continues to arrange her hair.
The bandit wants to know why she won't come with him, asks if she wants money. He has lots of money he tells her. He can buy her jewels and silks, he brags about his store of jewels. He makes quite a story for himself, he could take care of her every desire if she would come with him but she continues to arrange her hair.
Then the bandit realizes she, being a woman of quality couldn't possibly accept stolen goods, so he offers to get a job, stop being a bandit and work. He promises to make her happy if she will just be his woman.
The wife looks at him disdainfully and asks how he could even think of such a thing. Tajomaru persists, trying to kiss her.
She struggles, making him stop by shoving him powerfully away from her. He tears her robe as he stumbles, which angers her very much. Its only the second time she's worn it.
He threatens to kill her if she doesn't do what he says. She thinks he wouldn't dare but then pleasurable excitement flushes her cheeks and she looks at him, seeing a forceful predatory animal. She says her duty is to her husband.
To this the bandit replies he will kill the husband and he begins to make ready to do it but she stops him. This is not the way to win a lady, she prizes only a man who will fight for her. This astonishes Tajomaru; she wants a duel? The wife cuts her husbands bonds but this makes the bandit apprehensive. The wife says its up to them, they should fight for her.
Tajomaru gets ready to fight but the husband merely brushes his robe and tells him to put the sword away. He's not going to cut the bandit down. This amazes the bandit, needless to say but the samurai says he has no intention of using his sword on such a worthless object. Its a weapon of honor and he is not going to use it on this lowborn bandit.
The wife wonders at this. She asks him about her honor but the husband says she doesn't know what the word honor means.
"I've just been raped." she says. This makes the husband snort with disbelief, but she insists she struggled. She was overcome. The husband tells her he wasn't blindfolded, he saw what happened. She insists there was nothing she could do.
He reminds her that 'naturally, being what you are...' there was only one thing she could do.
The veneer of being a lady slips as the wife asks what he means by that.
The husband tells her that she just cut his bonds with a dagger. A woman of nobility would have driven it into her own throat immediately, to wipe out her disgrace... The wife realizes then that her act of not taking her own life at the first opportunity is what causes him to find her less that a woman of true nobility..
"You will always be a kitchen maids daughter..a slut.."
Even Tajomaru stares at this.. A kitchen maid's daughter...? He has been fooled???
The wife describes how she has been a faithful and devoted wife. Her husband laughs bitterly and asks if she thinks he's a child. He has seen all the smiles she gives to any man who ever entered their home. She wasn't even skillful enough to hide her smiles behind her fan. And the sounds from the garden, in the darkness...the whispers behind the screens...
The wife is very much affronted.
He tells her to stop playing the lady,, he's her husband and he knows her. He knows where she came from...he's ignored all this to save face.
This really gets to her...she gets noisy: "FACE?? FACE!!! You never think of anything but face..."
He says he should have thought about it before he married her, to which she says he's a boor and a snob.
Tajomaru has had enough. He begins to think about how all this began, with just a stinking breeze. He would be peacefully dozing if not for that stinking breeze..."Lets forget the whole thing." he says.
The wife says they cannot forget what happened but the bandit says he's already forgotten it.
She begins to cry after looking at both of the men. The two men talk to each other about her, as though she's not there. When the bandit suggests putting her back into the kitchen she gets really mad. Well, she is the kitchen maid's daughter but she has learned one thing, she says, she can smell garbage. Her husband hushes her but she is really mad now.
"You, my gallant brave husband, all that talk about nobility, you? Everybody knows that a samurai has the right to destroy anybody over a trifle but you? What has this man done? Overpowered you, bound you, gagged you, raped your wife right in front of you..and you...? your reply to this is that I should drive my dagger through my throat?? I was giving you the chance to be a real man, one last change... I've lived with you, felt you tremble with fear, held your head while you threw up before you rode to battle in wondrous splendor. You are a coward.. a coward...'
The bandit is put off now at her outburst. He tells her to be quiet so she turns on him...Ah, yes, the Tajomaru the Terrible, I have long heard of your savage strength, your escapes...your daring...." (Tajomaru begins to preen a bit...) "I hoped you would beat me, fight for me, tear me away from this stupid life I've been living" she says. "When my husband was tied up you were willing to kill him but when I untied him your passion took a nose-dive very quickly. You want to vanish to save yourself. "
She has a picture of a reputation without a body...the bandit isn't courageous at all...
The husband is a little upset.."Vomited with fear, did I?"
He reaches for his sword, turning towards the bandit who brings out his blade and they assume en garde positions. They slash and shout while the wife looks on triumphantly.
They circle each other, without coming into contact, each asking the other why he doesn't attack. She watches them as they feint and slash at the air in each others direction, they forget her then they notice her and tell her to get behind a tree, she might get hurt.
She thinks that is more than is likely to happen to either of them, they will never hurt each other... but she moves behind a tree as they look sheepishly at each other. Then they get real and begin to fight.
The battle gets savage and each has a turn at nearly being the victor but for some sudden use of skill or cunning by the other. Tajomaru makes a sudden lunge to kill his enemy with his sword but the samurai steps aside and the sword embeds itself into a tree. He cannot pull it out....The bandit begins to plead for a chance but the husband advances towards him...the bandit is green with fear....he picks up hands full of leaves, throws them, throws dirt, but all the while whimpering in terror....the dirt blinds the samurai and the bandit grabs the sword so that it flies into the bushes. While the bandit tries to get his own sword free the husband comes back with his sword, the dirt throwing continues and he again blinds the samurai so that he falls into the bushes just when he gets his sword free...
The bushes slowly part and her husband staggers into momentary view his sword impaled deeply into his chest...She gasps....as he says: "I fell...." and then he falls backwards into the bushes...
Tajomaru stumbles out, exhausted but reaching for his prize with outstretched arms. She is overcome with revulsion and backs away. The bandit follows her a few steps but then he falls to his knees looking off into the direction she has run.
The scene changes to the Gate, where the woodcutter is speaking...he held his breath, waiting behind the bush afraid the bandit would hear him. The bandit finally rose, picked up his sword and passing within a hairs breadth of the hiding woodcutter, leaves. When he is certain he's alone the woodcutter runs as fast as he can from the scene, to the Police.
The wigmaker tells him he's leaving out something....what is he not telling...?
The woodcutter says he should have spoken up in court, but all those different stories made me doubt my own senses...I couldn't understand why they all lied.
The wigmaker is amused as he asks if the people really lied in court to which the woodcutter says they must have because he saw with his own eyes...his face shows distress as he pauses, apparently remembering what he'd seen.
Aha! The wigmaker is going to have the truth. He asks to know why anybody would believe the woodcutter rather than the other three. He knows that people see what they want to see and they say what they want others to hear....The wigmaker does say that he would believe the woodcutter rather than any of the others because it has the smell of truth. Its disappointing to think that way about big heroes and big villains but in the final crisis they are small, weak, whining cowards...faithless.
He looks at the priest: "Here is your miracle, holy man..." This does not make the priest happier. He goes silently to the corner of the gate where he looks off towards the road leading away from the city.
The woodcutter cannot let the wigmaker have his moment of glory, he needs to know why he has to chop everything that's good to bits. The wigmaker has an answer for everything. He has no illusions or delusions about what is good. The trees the woodcutter cuts are alive and good but he cuts them down. The truth is nothing but a firefly and lies are no more than the bugs that get into his bed. "I swat them for amusement....its the only cleanliness I can afford..."
A sudden sound in the back makes them all quiet. What is that...? The wigmaker runs off, disappearing behind some beams then returns with a blanket wrapped bundle. The priest is astonished...a baby, someone has put a baby...
The wigmaker is busy unwrapping it...the blanket is wool, real wool.. it must be worth....
The priest is outraged and reaches for the baby but the wigmaker manages to keep the precious blanket.
The woodcutter is doubly outraged...the baby has been left in the dumps and the blanket has been stripped from it. He thinks he should break the bones of the wigmaker, he's a ghoul, to which the wigmaker responds that the parents are worse. They had their pleasures then dumped the consequences like rubbish. If he is a ghoul what are they?
The woodcutter wonders how the wigmaker can know anything about parents or children. The wigmaker shrugs that sometimes they throw you away...sometimes you throw them away. The woodcutter looks at the baby. It's not new born; it's four or five months old. What agonies the people must have suffered to abandon such a child.
The wigmaker is mocking with his pantomiming a display of great pain...he has had enough stories for one day..
The baby whimpers....so the woodcutter tries to get the blanket. They struggle for it while the woodcutter threatens to tell the Police. The wigmaker responds that the Police might be interested to know what he knows about the woodcutter, so he isn't afraid of that threat. The wigmaker says he has been very generous to the woodcutter thus far...pausing in tugging at the blanket.
This makes the woodcutter pause..."YOU have been generous to ME..?"
The wigmaker is on top now as he points out the woodcutter is a lying hypocrite like the rest of them. He has fooled the Magistrate but he has NOT fooled the wigmaker.
The priest doesn't understand.
The Wigmaker says the woodcutter is hiding something. "Where is the sword? The jeweled sword...it was never found. Where is it? The Police couldn't find it....did it just melt away?"
The woodcutter says he doesn't know, but he's not very convincing.
The wigmaker remembers what the medium said when the husband's spirit spoke through her..."Someone approached softly and drew the sword out of my chest....and this stopped my breath."
The wigmaker asks how much money the woodcutter got for the sword. He turns to the priest and begins to wield his dagger-like words to cause him grief. The woodcutter is collapsed in anguish and then the wigmaker wilts also. He knows the woodcutter tried to spare the feelings of the priest, and as one thief to another, he wanted also to help. But somehow the good turn he was going to do ...
The priest turns away, brokenly. The wigmaker remarks that a storm is brewing. He turns to the woodcutter and tells him not to take it so hard. He describes a painting he saw long ago of a man hanging from a precipice. On top were wild beasts waiting to eat him, below a dragon lay waiting for him to fall...A white rat and a black rat were gnawing on the rope...the white rat symbolized day, the black rat symbolized night... What is right and what is wrong.?
Well, the wigmaker has had enough for one day. he thinks at least he has some profit because he has the rich wool blanket... he tucks it under his arm and walks out.
The priest holds the infant, who begins now to cry. The priest cannot quiet the baby, so the woodcutter hesitantly holds out his arms to take it..."Let me.."
The priest turns away angrily.. What could the woodcutter want...to strip away the rest of its clothes...?
The woodcutter watches the crying baby and says he doesn't blame the priest but he has babies at home. Sometimes they are cold and hungry, they cry. He begins to speak.....
"About the jeweled sword...What can I say...a sword can dry a lot of tears..." he cannot go on... The baby really begins to rage now so the woodcutter cannot resist taking it and the priest doesn't resist. Clasping it expertly in his arms, patting and rubbing tenderly, comforting the baby with sounds and touch, the woodcutter shows that he knows what to do. The baby's crying trails off as the woodcutter looks at the priest. But he is thinking...it would be hard for the priest to take a baby and as for himself, he has six at home, that's enough but ...but maybe...a baby this small doesn't eat much.. I can take it home.....I could find a way for just this one more...
He realizes how the priest looks at this, and cannot talk any more. The priest tells him to take the baby home, which astonishes the woodcutter.
"You know I am a thief, a liar, a coward..."
"You are a man, like all men..." says the priest..
The woodcutter's eyes fill with tears..."You forgive me. You forgive me?"
The priest thanks him for what he has taught him; you have taught me. I am the one to be forgiven. I have not known what other people could teach me, I thought only of teaching them..."
The woodcutter doesn't understand. He says he is too ignorant to understand what the priest means.
The priest finally smiles..."The Buddha be thanked for such ignorance..." He says..
The rain has stopped and the sun is beginning to break through the clouds. The priest looks around at the Gate. Its not so fearsome to him now, the corpses and crows and jackals, even out of the crumbling ruins life comes. The woodcutter says he has to go, they are waiting for him at home...
The priest thanks him
and they leave, the woodcutter cuddling the baby to warm it...
I saw Rashomon in the fifties on The Play Of The Week in the early days of black and white television, the early 1950s. At the end of the play I remember a thought that occurred into my mind about it: "That probably explains why people quarrel so about reality." The quiet thought created a lasting impression. The play as well as the thought produced spontaneously was a kind of 'comment' made to me, not by myself, the words of that thought were impressed into my memory. They were more significant than I would have suspected.
The thought remained in a special place of memory, I believe because it is evident now that some kind of 'foresight' installed it into a memory reservoir that contained other events that made sense much later in my life. There were events that had already happened before I was 13 years old, and others that had not yet occurred, such as seeing the play, Rashomon on a black and white tv that was almost a magical device.
I was nearly 30 when I saw it. The memory of this event was intended for future use and I observed it's use and remembered always the original moment, complete as it had happened. The play and the thought was one moment, one package because the thought comment after the last scene was always part of the memory. That kind of thought comment has occurred only a few times in my life. ("When it came, it did not come as it was expected to come." is a link to one of the most important re-occurring moments.)
Some of these memories was made prominent only by the unexplainable repetitions, they came into my mind, a complete memory of the event, its complete content included the thought. They would have been 'lost like tears in rain', embedded and indistinguishable if their unexplainable repetition hadn't made me curious about them eventually.
The real problem was and still is a problem: the nearly unexplainable visibility of inner content in my mind that could not be related to immediately, when the event happens. I was in my 40's when I wondered to myself about the few re-occurring memories. Decades had passed before I wondered to myself about the repetitions and then about the long period of time before I wondered to myself about them. I was in my mid forties (1975) when I began to notice things like that about myself and my mind.