This play, one of many Danshichi mono (plays about Danshichi, 團七物), was written by Namiki Shôzô I (並木正三 1730-1773 also used the name Izumiya Shôzô, 泉屋正三) in 1767. Indeed, the playwritght appears within the drama as an author surrogate. The story features "Homeless" or Yadonashi Danshichi Mohei, the hot-tempered swordsman and wrestler son of the Minatogawa samurai Utagawa Jingoemon. Danshichi has become a fishmonger in Sakai after he lost a precious sword, named "Niji Kunimitsu" (or Niji Yoshimitsu), that was entrusted to him — a blunder that caused the ruin of his master's household. He is patronized by Daimonji Jihei, known as Daiji. His acquaintance, Jisuke, owner of the Iwai bathhouse, in whose care the worried Daiji has placed Danshichi, has recovered the sword, but lacks the authentication. That certificate is with Danshichi's love rival, Takabashi (or Watanabe) Kazuemon, who plots with an accomplice to ransom Danshichi's geisha mistress (or prostitute), Tomi. Jisuke borrows 100 ryô from the playwright Namiki and ransoms the girl, after which Jisuke and Danshichi go to Osaka.
Wishing to travel to Kyoto, Danshichi goes to Namiki's home to borrow travel money from the dramatist, but he arrives just when the actors Arashi Sangorô and Sawamura Kunitarô are discussing a new play for the Otsuma Hachirôbei Theater and he overhears the plot about a woman who gets killed by her lover. One of the actors notes that you are not a man if you cannot kill a woman (i.e., if you can't kill a woman, you have no giri or "sense of duty"). The words rouse Danshichi's anger and he resolves to turn murderer. Back at the baths, he demands of Jisuke that he be allowed to see Tomi, but is refused. Trying to slay Tomi, he mistakenly kills Jisuke, who was trying to defend Tomi. Danshichi then murders his rival Kazuemon. When Danshichi, now in possession of the certificate, learns that Jisuke had persuaded Tomi to sacrifice herself to Kazuemon for the sake of Danshichi's clan, he kills himself.
In Hirosada's imaginative and dramatic triptych, Danshichi is about to strike Tomi (kneeling at the left) when a crowd appears, led by the author, Namiki, who tries to calm Danshichi, but even the author fails to control Danshichi's temper! Although Danshichi spares Tomi, he goes on a rampage, killing Jisuke and several innocent people before taking his own life.
Our impression is in excellent condition and is an early impression off the blocks. The author portrays himself standing on the far-right sheet as he holds a lantern inscribed with his family name "Namiki" (並木). The atmospheric shading and range of expressive postures rendered by Hirosada are notable, which is why this triptych is considered one of the artist's best full-length figure designs and one of his finest night scenes.
For more about the artist, see Hirosada Biography.
References: IKBYS-IV, p. 79, no. 370 (ike-36595); HOP, pp. 54 and 117, no. 50; NKE, p. 691