The plot of Keisei shina sadame (Courtesan: Comparing the merits: けいせい品評林) is not yet known to us, but it can be counted among various kabuki dramatizations regarding the love between the courtesan Katsuragi and the playboy Nagoya Sanza (see other prints related to this play or tale at HKE36 and HSD40). The roles were based on the real-life Izumo no Okuni (出雲の阿国 c. 1572 - ?), said to be the founder of kabuki at the start of the seventeenth century. Sanza's rival for Katsuragi's affections in the play is Fuwa no Banzaemon. Sanza's character appears in some respects related to the actual Nagoya Sanzaburô (名古屋山三郎, died 1603), whose real name was Nagoe Sanzaburô (later Kuemon), son of a samurai in the Nagoe clan and a mother who was a niece of the warlord Oda Nobunga (織田 信長, 1534–1582). Doubts remain, however, regarding this connection with Okuni.
This print pays homage to Kitsusaburô II's illustrious predecessor, Kichisaburô II (Kitsusaburô I). The poem, by the actor signing "Rikaku" (his haigô or literary name: 俳号), translates: Katawara ni / iro hazukashi ya / yabutsubaki (Standing alongside / ashamed of its color / wild camelia).* "Ashamed of its color" expresses the Kitsusaburô II's humble feelings in the shadow of the earlier master actor.
References: KHO, p. 265, no. 248 (British Museum impression) *Translation by Drew Gerstle