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Analysis of The Character Masako in Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa

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Throughout the film Rashomon, directed by Akira Kurosawa, as the story of the testimony of an incident unfolds, the audience begins to see the full picture more and more. However, as the film progresses the truth of the matter grows even more vague as audience learns that the characters’ accounts are not completely trustworthy. In the end, viewers are ultimately left to decipher the truth of the matter for themselves. Although vague at first glance, upon further inspection and analysis, it becomes clear that every character wrapped up in the incident both in the past and the present is acting upon some personal motive. Among those characters acting upon hidden ends is Masako, the wife of the now deceased samurai, and a rape victim of the notorious bandit Tajōmaru. As the character who seemingly lost the most due to this whole incident it is easy to cast her aside as solely a victim as she portrays herself in court, but seeing the event through the eyes of Tajōmaru, the Husband through the medium, and the woodcutter, her more sinister motivations come to light. Masako’s Original intent was to end her relationship with her husband through any means which eventually lead to her attempt to sate her guilt by having the court validate her point of view.

Masako was in a clearly unhappy relationship with her husband since before their meeting with the infamous bandit Tajōmaru. In reference to their marriage in the woodcutter’s second version of events she states: “I was sick of this tiresome daily farce.” Although little is stated directly of the couple before the incident, when her reactions to her husband in alternate versions of the event are pieced together, her true feelings are revealed. From the bandit’s story, one can see that when confronted with a bound husband and an armed bandit, her first action was to attack the bandit to try and protect herself, and not to untie her husband who could have fended off Tajōmaru when she couldn’t. This action hints at her goal at that moment in time which might have been to escape alone. In The husband’s testimony Tajōmaru intends to convince her to be his wife at which point she decides to go with him saying “Wherever. Take me wherever you want.” before requesting that the bandit kill her husband. In the final version told by the woodcutter, she snaps after her husband insults her for having been with two men and she entices them to fight with their swords as real men for her sake. She even mentioned how she was hoping that Tajōmaru would save her from her relationship with her husband, but she eventually became fed up with the pettiness of both men. Though one could argue that in the priest’s short testimony the couple seemed happy, with the samurai even smiling at Masako, even the priest’s account is tainted by his motives. Throughout the film he tries to continue believing in the good side of humanity. As a person who tries to see the good in others, its possible that the portrayal of the couple as somewhat happy is part of his own mentality masking the truth even to himself.

Masako was desperate to get rid of her husband and was willing to sever their relationship through any means. Masako simply decided to take advantage of this unforeseen circumstance to accomplish her goal. In the bandit’s story she is seduced by Tajōmaru and tells him “One of you must die… …I will go with the survivor” Here she shows no preference to her husband over the bandit who had just raped her. Her attachment to Tajōmaru is amplified in the other versions. In the samurai’s account she very clearly takes his side and directly asks him to kill her husband. One could argue that the husband’s testimony in this case is unreliable due to being too emotionally charged in this situation leading him to vilify her further, and this assertion would be true, although each story has its grains of truth. This view is further corroborated by the more impartial and emotionally detached woodcutter in his second version outside of court. There she not only states that she hoped she could leave her husband by going with Tajōmaru, but she very fiercely insults and cajoles the two men into fighting each other when they originally had no desire whatsoever to do so. This led directly to the death of the samurai at the hands of Tajōmaru, caused, however indirectly, also by Masako. Although she may have not stabbed him herself, as she hints at in her testimony, she was willing to get rid of her husband and utilized the situation forming around her to that end and did so successfully.

Masako’s testimony to the court only covered the part that was important to her. The part that she primarily intended to belabor to the court: That she was the true victim of this case. She also pushed to demonize her husband in the eyes of the court. In Masako’s court testimony she entirely leaves out the things that should have made her suffer the most: the rape, as well as her husband’s death. Her account solely covers how her husband was judging her through his eyes full of hatred, and her stunned recoils which left her crying in a pitiful state. Both in court and in her version, her ‘fierceness’ is entirely hidden. Tajōmaru even mentioned himself that he found her to be fierce and they fought as well. The most important departure to her frail graceful appearance is in the woodcutter’s story, a snapping point for Masako where she sheds her graceful façade entirely revealing maniacal laughter, harsh insults, and hatred. At that point both men are visibly shocked at her reaction, especially Tajōmaru who had just previously been practically begging for her to become his wife. Masako showed her husband as a terrible, judgmental man who wouldn’t even speak to her while she always presented herself as a frail sobbing victim crying in despair not understanding the cruel reaction of the husband she loved. Masako must have felt some remnant of guilt in her as she insinuated with her testimony to the court that she may have even killed her husband with her own hands, though she ‘does not remember’. When Masako tried to boil the event down into only the emotions between herself and her husband, her intent was to feel validation from the court and feel as if she were justified in her motivations for wanting to kill her husband, whether it was done with her hands directly or not.

Masako attempted to justify to herself, via the court, her involvement in the murder of her husband, the samurai, who she had intended to get rid of from the beginning. Beneath the façade that Masako puts up for the court lies a desperate woman longing to leave her painful day to day with a husband she apparently had no feelings for. Masako likely never intended to have her husband be the victim of a murder, but she was cunning enough to push for any chance she saw to end their relationship. However, for as much as she may have hated him even if only for his judgmental reactions to her after the rape, it is apparent that she felt guilt and needed validation to believe that what she did was right. Though she probably believed she was justified in her actions, in all likelihood Masako went on having to live with that guilt never truly receiving the validation she so desired to have. As the commoner states in the film: “It’s human to lie. Most of the time we can’t even be honest with ourselves.”

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Analysis Of The Character Masako In Rashomon By Akira Kurosawa. (2020, October 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 1, 2023, from
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