Or is sympathy dispensable?
Chikamatsu Monzaemon, The Love Suicides of Amijima
1. Does the world of The Love Suicides seem altogether alien to your own
sensibility, or do you think that you can still grasp the logic of the characters’
decisions and situations even if they seem foreign to you or unsympathetic? Are
there characters whose motivations seem familiar, sympathetic, or at any rate
understandable to you? Are there characters whose reasoning for making
decisions or interpreting their circumstances seems strange or even
incomprehensible? Do some of the characters themselves seem puzzled by the
reasoning or the actions of other characters in the drama?
2. With which characters do you most sympathize? Do your sympathies with certain
characters change over the course of the play? Do you think better, or worse, of
characters according to the actions they commit or according to the way they
account for their own actions? How is the meaning of an action defined by the
reasons that are given for it? Is cause or motive a mitigating factor in determining
the meaning of an action?
3. Do you think that sympathy—the act of imagining what it is like for someone else
to go through something, even if you have never gone through something similar
yourself—is a necessary part of the experience of drama? Or is sympathy
dispensable? Would a spectator’s dramatic experience of a play populated by
utterly unsympathetic characters be essentially the same as that of a play in which
there were characters with whose thoughts, predicaments, and actions we could
sympathize and be emotionally involved?
4. What is one to make of the outcome of The Love Suicides? Should we approve or
disapprove, just as some of the very characters do in the play? Should we
withhold judgment? If we withhold judgment, would that be fair and just of us or
would it only show a lack of conviction or bravery in us?