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Puppetry

No description of Korean drama could be complete without a word about puppet shows. Several references on the subject in Chinese classical books reveal that they were performed from the outset of the Three Kingdoms era. Apparently, the repertoire of the dramas was quite extensive, but only three plays have survived.

Of the three, two cannot be called dramas in the true sense of the term because they consist of nothing more than simple manipulation of dolls with musical accompaniment and lack both script and story line. The third, the Kkoktugakshi, is a drama in every sense of the word. It has a scenario which can be followed clearly, with a definite cast of characters. It has inevitably declined with the great changes in modern taste but it is still played occasionally in village marketplaces. It is a typical example of the ridicule to which the leading classes of ancient Korea were subjected by Korean performers.

The Kkoktugakshi was presented by itinerant troupes of six or seven members, three of them usually musicians. The dramatis personae consisted of Pak Ch'om-ji, the hero; his wife, Kkoktugakshi; his concubine; his younger brother; two young shaman women; a nephew; four Buddhist monks; the governor of P'yong-an-do province; the governor's butler; a hunter, and a serf. The musicians were included in the cast as villagers. It had eight acts, each more or less independent of the others, giving the whole play a distinct character.

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