Katsukawa Shunshō, 1726-92
Ichikawa Yaozō II in the Shibaraku Role, 1774
Color woodblock print (nishiki-e)
Bequest of Richard P. Gale 74.1.106
Cat. no. 59

The Shibaraku role was first performed in 1697 by Ichikawa Danj├▒rō at the Nakamura Theater in the play Sankai Nagoya. In one scene, a villain and his henchmen are harassing a group of innocent people when suddenly the hero, played by Danjñrō, shouts “Shibaraku!” or “Wait a moment!” in a fierce voice before he defeats the ruffians. The scene’s popularity led many playwrights to embed a similar sequence in their plays, including the famous line “Shibaraku!” Nevertheless, Shibaraku roles have traditionally been reserved for actors of the Ichikawa lineage. Ichikawa Yaozō II (1735–77), whom Shunshō portrayed here, was renowned for his ability to play both a brave hero and a gentle lover, and he became especially popular among female Kabuki enthusiasts. According to one story, when he accidentally stepped into a barrel of water (kept near the stage in case of fire), a starstruck female fan drew off some of the water and took it home to drink.