Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/29144
An incident that occurred in the early 1700’s in Japan quickly became an immensely popular tale amongst the public. The feudal lord Asano Naganori attacked another, Kira Yoshinaka, within the shogun’s palace where drawing weapons was forbidden. Asano failed to kill Kira and received the punishment of death by seppuku so his retainers took it upon themselves to avenge their master and launched an attack on Kira’s household and slew him, for which they also received the punishment of an honourable death by seppuku.
These retainers are venerated as great heroes who exemplify samurai loyalty and honour despite the fact that their actions went against the law and the shogun’s orders. This event is known as the Ako Incident, or chuushingura, and is still discussed today and new fictional adaptations made despite over 300 years having passed since the event took place. The matter of the ronin’s punishment was hotly debated due to the Japanese feudal period belief that a samurai’s loyalty to his lord was everything and so many argued that the ronin had performed something others did not believe existed: the moral crime.
This thesis discusses the popularisation and heroification of the 47 ronin’s illegal actions by examining the historical facts and the ronin’s standing as samurai warriors in feudal Japan and whether they could have gone about their vendetta in a legal manner. It also looks at the many fictional adaptations made of the incident, the public’s reception of said adaptations and what it means when the public so glorifies the actions of criminals. Lastly it looks at the opinions of the scholars of the time and their arguments for and against the ronin’s actions and subsequent punishment, as well as the punishment’s part in the appeal of the ronin’s story.
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