Top Girls

by

Caryl Churchill

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Lady Nijo Character Analysis

Lady Nijo is a real-life, thirteenth-century concubine-turned-Buddhist-nun. Lady Nijo was raised from birth to live a life of sexual service to the Emperor—her own father gave her over to the Emperor, and instructed Nijo to become a nun if she ever fell out of favor at court. Over the years, Nijo faced sexual and psychological abuse, and had any female children she bore the Emperor ripped from her arms and taken away to be raised so that they could one day be sent to court as a concubine, just as Nijo herself was. When she did eventually fall from favor at court, she followed her father’s advice and became a nun, roaming the countryside and at last experiencing life for herself. Nijo’s tales of horrific treatment at the hands of the nobility reveal Churchill’s skepticism towards the upper classes; moreover, Nijo’s life, dictated at every turn by the wills and desires of patriarchal figures, is laid bare within the play in order to demonstrate the harmful effects of life under patriarchy.

Lady Nijo Quotes in Top Girls

The Top Girls quotes below are all either spoken by Lady Nijo or refer to Lady Nijo. 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:
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bloomsbury edition of Top Girls published in 1982.
Act One, Scene One Quotes

MARLENE: Magnificent all of you. We need some more wine, please, two bottles I think, Griselda isn’t even here yet, and I want to drink a toast to you all.

ISABELLA: To yourself surely, we’re here to celebrate your success.

NIJO: Yes, Marlene.

JOAN: Yes, what is it exactly, Marlene?

MARLENE: Well it’s not Pope but it is managing director.

JOAN: And you find work for people.

MARLENE: Yes, an employment agency.

NIJO: Over all the women you work with. And the men.

ISABELLA: And very well deserved too. I’m sure it’s just the beginning of something extraordinary.

MARLENE: Well it’s worth a party.

ISABELLA: To Marlene.

MARLENE: And all of us.

JOAN: Marlene.

NIJO: Marlene.

GRET: Marlene.

MARLENE: We’ve all come a long way. To our courage and the way we changed our lives and our extraordinary achievements. (They laugh and drink a toast.)

Related Characters: Marlene (speaker), Isabella Bird (speaker), Lady Nijo (speaker), Dull Gret (speaker), Pope Joan (speaker), Patient Griselda
Related Symbols: Top Girls Employment Agency
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Top Girls LitChart as a printable PDF.
Top Girls PDF

Lady Nijo Character Timeline in Top Girls

The timeline below shows where the character Lady Nijo appears in Top Girls. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One, Scene One
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Marlene’s second guest, Lady Nijo, arrives at the party. Lady Nijo was a thirteenth-century concubine who eventually became a Buddhist... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
As Nijo tells her story, Marlene and Isabella interject with their own opinions. Isabella recalls once meeting... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
...he was a clergyman. She adds that she did not marry until she was fifty. Nijo replies that her own father was religious, too; before he died, he advised Nijo to... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Dull Gret arrives at the party. Marlene introduces Gret to Nijo, while Isabella greets Gret as if they already know one another. The waitress has brought... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Nijo interjects that she herself comes from a line of eight generations of poets. Isabella states... (full context)
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The conversation turns to death, as Isabella recalls her father’s death, and Nijo recalls her father’s, too. Joan states that “death is the return of all creatures to... (full context)
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...food arrives, and Marlene seems to hope the conversation will turn away from religion, but Nijo presses on. She says that when she fell out of favor at court, she had... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
...on a cruise to Australia for her health. She looked and felt miserable and suicidal. Nijo commiserates, saying she felt the same way when she began dressing as a nun. Marlene... (full context)
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
...learned that the day of her vision had been the day of his death. Lady Nijo tells the women that one of her lovers died, too—he was a priest named Ariake.... (full context)
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Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Nijo begins telling Isabella the story of Ariake—she met him when she was still at court.... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
...tenderly devoted to Hennie throughout her illness. For this reason, she decided to marry him. Nijo says that she thought the Emperor had a sweet character, as well, as he was... (full context)
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
...fell ill and died. She herself was afflicted with gout, and fell into a depression. Nijo reflects on how, without the Emperor’s favor, she felt she had “nothing” in her life.... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
...she has been made managing director of her firm, an employment agency called Top Girls. Nijo admires Marlene for being promoted “over all the women [at the firm,] and the men... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
...it hadn’t been for the baby, Joan says, she would’ve ruled to an old age. Nijo asks Joan to tell them what happened to her baby; she says that she herself... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Nijo begins talking about her own pregnancies. Her first child was the Emperor’s and it died... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Joan tells Nijo that she wasn’t used to having a woman’s body—she had all but forgotten that she... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Nijo continues talking about her own children—her third child was the son of Ariake, the priest,... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
...women how her first child, a girl, was taken away at only six weeks old. Nijo commiserates about how awful it is to have a child taken away. Though Griselda feared... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
...old, the Marquis took that child away, too. Griselda allowed him to do so again. Nijo asks if the second time was easier or harder—Griselda replies that “it was always easy... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
...returned to her life with him, where she was dressed again in cloth of gold. Nijo begins crying, and says that nobody ever gave her back her children. (full context)
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Joan comforts Nijo, telling her not to cry. Nijo talks about the deaths of her father and the... (full context)
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Nijo, now on a tear, begins talking about a time when she was eighteen years old,... (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
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...her children. Isabella asks everyone why she should be made to live as a lady. Nijo reflects on hitting the Emperor, over and over, with a stick. (full context)
Life Under the Patriarchy Theme Icon
Women’s Stories Theme Icon
Power, Success, and Individualism Theme Icon
...her chanting. Isabella describes returning to Morocco on one last journey, in her old age. Nijo begins laughing and crying simultaneously; Joan vomits, and Griselda comforts her. Isabella proudly declares that... (full context)