In 1982, Shimazaki Tōson translated Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, and published it in the Jogaku Zasshi as “Natsukusa”. When the Bungakukai School of writers made its first appearance in 1893, Tōson published three dramas, Hikyoku biwa hoshi, Hikyoku cha no kemuri, and Shumon no urei in succession. We can see how Tōson was greatly influenced by Hamlet. Many striking parallels can be found in these works in terms of plot development, characterization, theme, and solution. Tōson was strongly influenced by Shakespeare in two areas at this time.
Tōson’s first introduction to Shakespeare was Venus and Adonis, from which he learned “passion” as a literary motif. He called it shin’en (which means wild horses and passions and flighty monkeys of desires), and used it in his poems over and over again. This motif can be found in his poems such as Yosaku no uma, Natsukusa, Tenma, Genkyo, and his short story Wara zori as well. Hamlet was Tōson’s second exposure to Shakespeare. He pursued the contradictions existing in himself and society by regarding his consciousness of suffering as Hamlet’s. The hero’s look of melancholy, ennui, and sorrow which Tōson depicted in Hakai, Haru,and Sakura no mi no jukusuru toki reflects Hamlet’s internal world.
Further, when Tōson began to write novels, he dealt with Shakespeare again. There are striking differences in Tōson’s influence from Shakespeare in his earlier period as a poet and in his later period as a novelist. Tōson was faced with a great turning point in his literary life with the disclosure of his wife’s love affair and the moral decadence of his lineage. Therefore, Tōson’s dealing with Shakespeare in his novels again shows how great an impact Shakespeare had on his development and the motifs of his literature.
Therefore, the primary purpose of this thesis is to examine what Tōson learned from Shakespeare and how it is related to Tōson’s imagination and literature. This paper also will establish the hypothesis that Tōson pursued the meaning of “the modern self” through the influence of Shakespeare.