“Now is the Time”: Shakespeare’s Medieval Temporalities in Akira Kurosawa’s Ran

  • Jocelyn Keller
  • Wolfram R. Keller
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The decision that sets the tragedy of Akira Kurosawa’s Ran (Japan: Toho, 1985) in motion is prefaced by the main protagonist’s announcement: “Now is the time!” In its immediate context, the “now” marks the moment when the old Lord Hidetora Ichimonji transfers his power to his oldest son, Taro, making the latter the “head of the House of Ichimonji, the lord of the land.” Hidetora himself plans to keep only a few retainers and “the title and forms of lordship,” leaving to his other sons the (smaller) castles he once obtained from his neighbors by brutal conquest (p. 13).1 Hidetora’s decision results in the eponymous chaos of Kurosawa’s film. Hidetora’s “now,” however, has much wider implications, highlighting how time, how temporalities are constructed. More precisely, the film reflects on the politics of constructing temporalities and attendant representational, aesthetic concerns. Adapting William Shakespeare’s King Lear, a play crucially concerned with the transition from the medieval to the modern, Kurosawa’s medieval Japanese setting transfers Shakespeare’s engagement with temporalities into a different cultural framework, multiplying and transforming further Shakespeare’s already multiple temporalities.


Japanese History Literary Authorship Boar Hunt Comic Relief Medieval World 
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Copyright information

© Andrew James Johnston, Margitta Rouse, and Philipp Hinz 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jocelyn Keller
  • Wolfram R. Keller

There are no affiliations available

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