In 1926, the first voluminous translation of the Bunraku puppet plays of Monzaemon Chikamatsu, one of the most important playwrights in Japanese theatre history, was published in English. This book, Masterpieces of Chikamatsu: The Japanese Shakespeare, translated by Asataro Miyamori, was a product of the cultural politics of modern Japan, which attempted to present itself not only as a military but also as a cultural power.
Edward Gordon Craig reviewed this translation. But his article “Shakespeare (the English Chikamatsu) Spells Ruin”, published in 1927, has been remained almost unknown until now. The purpose of this paper is to analyze this essay with regard to Craig's early essay “The Actor and the Über-Marionette”, taking into account political, historical and cultural backdrops for it.
The review suggests that a broad public which Bunraku attracted in the 18th century and its temporary role model function for Kabuki actors appeared for Craig to be a late justification for his early concept of the “Über-Marionette”. This paper also analyzes Craig's reception of Chikamatsu's last puppet play “Kan-Hasshū Tsunagi-Uma [The Tethered Steed]”, pointing out similar characteristics of theatre theories between Craig and Chikamatsu.