The Tale of Genji

The Emperor Character Analysis

The Emperor is Genji's father and is the first emperor of the novel. It's unclear how old he is. The Emperor is a man who is more than willing to give himself over to emotion and love, as evidenced by his relationship with Genji's mother, the Lady of the Paulownia Court. He doesn't care that she doesn't have powerful relatives; he loves her anyway and wants to name Genji crown prince. However, after her death, the Emperor does decide to follow court customs and make decisions to keep other powerful women, namely Kokiden, happy: he names her son, Suzaku, crown prince, and decides to make Genji a commoner. The Emperor spends a great deal of time tutoring Genji and makes sure that all of his ceremonies are carried out with more pomp and circumstance than those of any of his other children. Though Genji is the Emperor's favorite and is often able to get away with all manner of shenanigans, however, the Emperor does take Genji to task for not pleasing his in-laws and for making women angry with him. This shows that the Emperor truly acts as a voice of reason for young Genji. Later, after the Emperor's sudden death, the Emperor is so upset with the way things are going at court that his spirit returns to the world to tell Genji to return to court and to tell Suzaku (now emperor himself) to bring Genji back.

The Emperor Quotes in The Tale of Genji

The The Tale of Genji quotes below are all either spoken by The Emperor or refer to The Emperor. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Tale of Genji published in 1976.
The Paulownia Court Quotes

In a certain reign there was a lady not of the first rank whom the emperor loved more than any of the others. The grand ladies with high ambitions thought her a presumptuous upstart, and lesser ladies were still more resentful.

Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
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Once more there was malicious talk; but the prince himself, as he grew up, was so superior of mien and disposition that few could find it in themselves to dislike him.

Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
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Because she was of such high birth (it may have been that people were imagining things) she seemed even more graceful and delicate than the other. No one could despise her for her inferior rank, and the emperor need not feel shy about showing his love for her.

Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
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Lavender Quotes

She did not seek to hide her distress, and her efforts to turn him away delighted him even as they put him to shame. There was no one else quite like her. In that fact was his undoing: he would be less a prey to longing if he could find in her even a trace of the ordinary.

Related Characters: Genji, Fujitsubo, The Emperor, Omyōbu
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
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An Autumn Excursion Quotes

Fujitsubo was tormented by feelings of guilt and apprehension. Surely everyone who saw the child would guess the awful truth and damn her for it. People were always happy to seek out the smallest and most trivial of misdeeds.

Related Characters: Genji, Fujitsubo, Reizei, The Emperor
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:
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Naishi, though much discommoded, did not protest with great vehemence. There are those who do not dislike wrong rumors if they are about the right men.

Related Characters: Genji, The Emperor, Naishi
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:
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In the Seventh Month, Fujitsubo was made empress [...] Making plans for his abdication, the emperor wanted to name Fujitsubo's son crown prince. The child had no strong backing, however [...] The emperor therefore wanted Fujitsubo in an unassailable position from which to promote her son's career.

Related Characters: Genji, Fujitsubo, Suzaku, Reizei, The Emperor
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
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Heartvine Quotes

Memories had dimmed over the years, but now the astonishing resemblance did a little dispel his gloom. The dignity that quite put one to shame also reminded him of Murasaki. He could hardly think of them as two persons, and yet, perhaps because Fujitsubo had been so much in his thoughts over the years, there did after all seem to be a difference.

Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Sacred Tree Quotes

She was quite aware of Kokiden's feelings and knew that a world at the service of the other lady would be difficult to live in.

Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:
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Suma Quotes

They lived precarious lives, completely dependent on Genji. So lonely indeed was their mansion that he could imagine the desolation awaiting it once he himself was gone...

Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Emperor Character Timeline in The Tale of Genji

The timeline below shows where the character The Emperor appears in The Tale of Genji. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Paulownia Court
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Emperor's high-ranking ladies are upset when they discover that he favors a woman known as the... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...of the Paulownia Court soon has a son (Genji) who is a magnificent infant. The Emperor brings Genji to court the first chance he gets, and it's clear that the baby... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Though the Lady of the Paulownia Court remains the Emperor's favorite, other women torment her constantly. This is made worse by the fact that her... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
When Genji turns three, the Emperor makes sure that the ceremony that gives Genji his first pair of pants is extremely... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...as she begins to arrange the funeral. To attempt to make her feel better, the Emperor raises the Lady of the Paulownia Court's rank posthumously, which some people still resent. Kokiden... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...weeds. The Paulownia Lady's mother is barely able to greet Myōbu, who explains that the Emperor lives as though he's in a nightmare. He asks that she come to court with... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...to go to court, even though she didn't have appropriate support. Myōbu explains that the Emperor believes their relationship may have been fated to be brief, and he's almost constantly in... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Myōbu finds the Emperor waiting up for her in a beautiful garden. She tells him about her time with... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
...Genji returns to live at the palace. In the spring, when it's time for the Emperor to name a crown prince, he desperately wants to name Genji but fears that the... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
When an embassy arrives from Korea, the Emperor disguises Genji as the son of the grand moderator and sends him to visit them.... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
As the years pass, the Emperor struggles to forget the Lady of the Paulownia Court. He begins to summon women, but... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Because Genji sees the Emperor so often, it's difficult for Fujitsubo to keep herself hidden from him. He doesn't remember... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
When Genji turns twelve, he goes through the initiation ceremonies to become an adult. The Emperor again makes sure that the festivities are equal to or better than those that Suzaku... (full context)
Evening Faces
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Genji spends the next three days sick in bed. The Emperor orders continuous prayers in various shrines and temples and fears that Genji might not live... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...by not sharing his name. Genji insists he couldn't tell her his name or the Emperor would find out and reprimand him for seeing her. Eventually, Ukon shares that the lady... (full context)
Lavender
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...happy and firm in their decision. In the morning, Genji receives a summons from the Emperor and eats breakfast with the bishop. He promises in parting to send his friends up... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Immediately upon reaching the palace, Genji looks in on the Emperor. The Emperor vows to promote the sage for his good work. The Minister of the... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
...and goes home to spend time with her family. Genji feels bad momentarily for the Emperor, but he soon starts planning how he can see Fujitsubo. He spends his days alone... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...months, it becomes clear that she's pregnant. Her attendants find her unwillingness to inform the Emperor strange. Omyōbu allows the Emperor to believe that a spirit is possessing Fujitsubo, but this... (full context)
An Autumn Excursion
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
In the middle of October, the Emperor plans to make an excursion to the Suzaku Palace. This will include dancing and because... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
...letter. Several days later, Genji and the other courtiers leave for the Suzaku palace. The Emperor chooses virtuosos to play the flute, and again Genji's dance "Waves of the Blue Ocean"... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...Reizei is finally brought to the palace. He looks amazingly like Genji, which thrills the Emperor. He dotes on the baby and names him crown prince, regretting that he couldn't do... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...see her, though by now they have discovered that Murasaki is a child. Later, the Emperor reprimands Genji for not pleasing his in-laws, but feels bad that Genji isn't happy with... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The narrator notes that the Emperor still keeps pretty women around and Genji smiles and jokes with most of them. One... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
...tries to shake her off, but she cries and accuses him of neglecting her. The Emperor walks in and is very amused by what he finds. Naishi doesn't correct the Emperor... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
In the summer, the Emperor names Fujitsubo empress. This, of course, sends Kokiden into a rage. Rumors fly that the... (full context)
The Festival of the Cherry Blossoms
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Near the end of February, the Emperor holds the festival of the cherry blossoms. He seats Fujitsubo and Reizei on one side... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
The Emperor arranges a concert as well. Genji performs part of "Spring Warbler," and Tō no Chūjō... (full context)
Heartvine
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Around this time, the Emperor abdicates and Suzaku takes the throne. With this, Genji finds that he has to be... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...of Akikonomu's youth, the Rokujō lady decides to go to Ise with her daughter. The Emperor is very upset about this, especially when he learns that Genji neglected the lady. He... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
The Emperor's words do little to make matters better; in fact, they instigate a number of rumors... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...blame for the spirit. The exorcists think not. When the Rokujō Lady learns that the Emperor is calling for religious services for Aoi, she becomes even more jealous. (full context)
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...to the Minister of the Left in person. The Minister asks Genji to tell the Emperor that he's still too sad visit, and Genji agrees. The Minister then says that he... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Genji visits the Emperor at the palace and then calls on Fujitsubo. She sends out condolences through Omyōbu. Genji... (full context)
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
On New Year's Day, Genji visits the Emperor and then goes to see the Minister of the Left. He's thrilled to see Yugiri.... (full context)
The Sacred Tree
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
Beginning in October, the court begins to fear for the Emperor's health. He begs Suzaku to be good to Genji and to ask Genji for advice.... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
With the Emperor gone, Kokiden sets about making Genji's life miserable, as she and the Minister of the... (full context)
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Fujitsubo continues to worry about Reizei. Though she's happy that the Emperor never found out about Reizei's paternity, she's still afraid of what might happen if the... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...He replies that he's sad too and intends to return. On the anniversary of the Emperor's death, Fujitsubo prepares to read the Lotus Sutra for him. She and Genji exchange notes... (full context)
The Orange Blossoms
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
After the Emperor's death, one of his ladies, Reikeiden, had been forgotten by everyone but Genji. One evening... (full context)
Suma
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
The night before Genji leaves, he visits the Emperor's grave and but stops in first to see Fujitsubo. They discuss their worries about Reizei... (full context)
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...days feeling upset. The Minister of the Right attempts to help her and the Suzaku Emperor forgives her for her offense in sleeping with Genji. They begin to see each other... (full context)
Akashi
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
Nature, Poetry, and Beauty Theme Icon
...scared fishermen, and Genji feels utterly alone. Exhausted, he dozes off. In a dream, the Emperor comes to him and tells him to leave Suma. Genji is overjoyed, even after his... (full context)
Heian Court Culture Theme Icon
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...exile much longer. Meanwhile, back when the storm had ravaged the Suma coast, the Suzaku Emperor had a disturbing dream in which the Emperor yelled at him about Genji. Kokiden didn't... (full context)
Channel Buoys
The Parent-Child Relationship Theme Icon
...she hasn't crushed Genji yet. Suzaku feels as though he's paying for going against the Emperor's wishes. His health is better now that Genji is back and the two become fast... (full context)
A Picture Contest
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
...better at their craft, but that's not true for art. He cries drunkenly that the Emperor doted on Genji, and they ask for instruments. Hotaru, Genji, and Tō no Chūjō play... (full context)