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Abstract

In his paper, "Teaching Merchant-Class Virtues with Chushingura and The London Merchant," David S. Escoffery examines the different styles of teaching merchant-class virtues in eighteenth-century Japan and England through an analysis of the classical Japanese play Chushingura and the didactic British play The London Merchant. He holds that in both Europe and Japan, the eighteenth century saw the rise of a whole new class, the middle class, to either economic or social power or both. That century was also a didactic age for the theatre. For the first time, the audience could see characters from the new merchant class on stage, and they were expected to learn proper behavior from what they saw there. It is interesting to note, however, that the teaching methods used in Japan were vastly different from those used in Europe. In Japan the teaching was done in a positive way, with representations of virtuous merchants dominating the stage. The merchant class in Japan was not allowed to move up the strict social hierarchy, so they often focused their attention on art as a substitute form of social advancement, which could explain the use of positive teaching methods. In England, on the other hand, the teaching usually came through negative examples with characters showing the audience what not to do. At that point, the middle class in Europe was attempting to naturalize its new value system, teaching those at the bottom of the middle class as if they were children.

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