Setting: Namwom – the area or province Seoul – seat of government, location of King Modern day auditorium Summary


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Master Mongryang Lee – the governor’s son

Chunhyang – daughter of a courtesan, a courtesan herself

Pangja – servant of Master Lee

Chunhyang’s mother – former courtesan

New, corrupt Governor – replaces Lee’s father

Narrator in modern times

Namwom – the area or province

Seoul – seat of government, location of King

Modern day auditorium


Modern Day: Begins with a performer singing a narrative, accompanied by a drum and using a fan. *Note that when the story begins, the main character also uses the fan.* He is performing to an audience in an auditorium in modern times. When the visual switches to the characters in the story, the singing continues.

Action: Master Lee is a student studying for the state exam. He visits Kwangharu, a palace near the Juksung Mountain. On his way there with Pangja, he passes through a peach blossom festival. *Note that the festival includes wrestling and sacrifices. Blossoms important, too.*
Narrative: A bridge near the palace is connected with the legend of two lovers (Jiknya and some other name I didn’t catch). *Note that the main characters in the current story relive this legend. These lovers are equivalent to heroes in Greek society and are worshiped by the Koreans.*
Action: Chunhyang appears at the festival. The narrator calls her a goddess. Master Lee sends Pangja to bring the girl back to him. (A long sequence about Pangja’s journey to see the girl – perhaps considered a micronarrative?) Chunhyang does not want to meet Master Lee.

Modern Day: We see the performer on stage. The audience audibly responds to his song.

Action: Lee goes to Chunhyang’s house to pursue her. He asks her mother for her daughter’s hand in marriage. (Here there is a micronarrative of Chunhyang’s childhood, as told by her mother.) Chunhyang agrees to marry him if he pledges his unending love to her. He writes his pledge on her skirt.
Narrative: The mother looks sad as the narrator sings about their marriage night. *Note parallels with Sappho’s laments.* Then the couple is shown in many happy scenes.
Action: Master Lee’s father has been appointed minister to Seoul, so Lee must go away. He cannot reveal his marriage to Chunhyang or else he will be disowned and forbidden to take the state exam.

Narrative: Chunhyang’s lament. The performer is singing, but Chunhyang’s voice can be heard underneath, sometimes simultaneously and other times as an echo. The narrator even has sounds of crying and moaning in his song.

Action: Over three years pass and Master Lee does not return for his wife. In the meantime, a new governor has been appointed to the Namwom region. (Micronarrative of the governor’s past travels.) He wishes to see all of the courtesans. When Chunhyang does not appear, he sends soldiers to get her. She refuses to serve as his courtesan because she is married.
Narrative: Chunhyang’s punishment. The song begins again as she is beaten. She yells with the narrator in many places, again either simultaneously or as an echo.

Modern Day: We see the narrator as he sings of her punishment. He himself appears to be in pain as he imitates Chunhyang’s actions, sounds of crying, and screaming. The audience is visibly moved by his performance.

Action: After Chunhyang’s beating, one of the courtesan’s surrounding her begins to sing about past courtesan’s that have died and are now honored. *Note the emphasis on honor and death.*

Action in Seoul: Lee takes the exam, receives top honors, and is given a high government position.
Modern Day: The audience claps to the song as the narrator tells of Lee’s travels as a government official. *Note that the song has in a way become a chorus. More importantly, when we return to the story, the song is sung by a chorus of voices.*

Action: Lee searches for Chunhyang. He speaks with some village men and mentions that she is a courtesan to the governor to get information. When the men hear this, they begin to fight with Lee because he is dishonoring Chunhyang. *Again, note the emphasis on honor.* Lee meets Pangja, who has a note for him from Chunhyang. In the note she says that she is going to be executed at the governor’s birthday feast. *Note that a sacrifice will be the climax of the feast.* He goes to Chunhyang’s house, where he sees her mother praying for help. *Note that the mother prays to Chunhyang as if she were already dead and immortalized as a hero.* When the mother finds out that Lee is a beggar, she is angry. *Note the disguise.* They go to see Chunhyang in prison. She requests that Lee give her a proper burial with his ancestors after she dies. *Note the emphasis on burial and ceremony.* At the feast, Lee intrudes upon the feast and bothers the governor. After writing the poem about starvation and the poor, he gives a sign with his fan and guards come from everywhere. He is really a high government official in disguise, who is arresting everyone for the corrupt actions of the governor. He takes the thrown and brings Chunhyang before him. At first she does not realize it is her husband, but when she finds out she is angry because he did not tell her the night before that he would rescue her. When the mother learns that Lee really is important, she begins to boast that she is Chunhyang’s mother. *Note that this is even a song.*

Narrative: The province is saved. Chunhyang and her mother are brought to Seoul. Chunhyang is honored for saving her people.

Other notes:

Key events happen at ceremonies.

Chunhyang in Korean means “spring fragrance or aroma”

The narrator exchanges roles with the main characters.

Subjectivized narration – he gets sucked into their emotions.

Eye contact of Chunhyang with those who rank higher above her is against social norms.

Writing is important reinforcement of verbal sayings in Korean culture

Lee’s examination:

“The past spring of the garden is the same as the present spring of the garden.”

His answer is the story. His answer is Chunhyang.

Chunhyang’s requested epitaph: Drink the drink I pour for you.

This is how heroes are worshiped in Korean society.


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