CHIKAMATSU: FIVE LATE PLAYS, translated and annotated by C. Andrew Gerstle. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001, 234 pp., 60 line drawings, maps and photographs. $39.50.

Though the playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1724) has been inaptly called “The Shakespeare of Japan,” he remains the single local dramatist of eminence. His accomplishment was to be, as Charles Dunn has said, the first to create “characters of realistic complexity and show the tragedy and pathos of their entrapment by circumstance.”

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