Quote: Benkei as midwife

Another excerpt from Harami Tokiwa, which I quoted before.  The context here is that towards the end of act 3 Yoshitsune’s mother goes into labor in the middle of the street while being paraded around as a criminal.  People call for a midwife, and (translation is rough):

At that moment a tall, dark old lady appeared. Eyes like saucers peered out from the large cotton hat on her forehead. “I am well known in this flower of a capital. I’m called the Iron Granny, a famous midwife. When it comes to birth, I can handle twins or triplets without even breaking a sweat. Breach births, babies with cauls, babies missing limbs, or even gourd-shaped babies that are swollen head and rear and get stuck in the middle, I can drag them all out. That’s why I’m also called the Rake Granny. I’ve come in response to your request.” She sat with a shout, like a mortar being set down. Will the warriors notice she is Benkei?… He reached inside the curtain [hiding Tokiwa], yanked out the babe and held it up.

This is Chikamatsu humor!  First of all Benkei is a huge, burly rough man, so watching him trying to disguise himself as a little old granny is already comedy gold.  But then, because he is a warrior he performs a nanori, a warrior’s customary proclamation of his name(s), rank, abilities and exploits.  Of course, a nanori is hilariously incongruous for a midwifeThat Chikamatsu!


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