Chūshingura (忠臣蔵 - 47 rōnin) (genre 1701 – 1703)

47 Rōnin



Chūshingura: The Storehouse of the Loyal Retainers (Kanadehon Chūshingura, 1748)

Chūshingura: The Storehouse of the Loyal Retainers was first performed in Osaka as a puppet play in 1748. It was and continues to be the most popular drama in the theatrical tradition, with later versions on film and television. It quickly became a staple in the kabuki theaters in Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo, where it remains the most frequently performed work in the repertory. Chūshingura was written as a collaboration by the same three authors — Takeda Izumo II, Namiki Sōsuke, and Miyoshi Shōraku — who had composed Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy. There is some thought that it was Namiki Sōsuke who wrote act 6... but there is no direct evidence for this.

The attack by forty-seven former samurai of the Akō Domain on the Edo residence of Kira Yoshinaka in the Twelfth Month of 1702 to avenge the humiliation of their late lord, Asano Naganori, startled the military government and the public. More than a year and a half earlier, Asano had suddenly attacked Kira, a high bakufu official, in the palace of the fifth shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (r. 1680-1709), during an important ceremony for representatives from the Kyoto Imperial Court. Although Kira was only wounded, Asano was ordered by the furious Tsunayoshi to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) immediately. The band of forty-seven thus were avenging what they saw as the wrong done to their lord, as they believed that Kira, too, should have been punished. The vendetta group went to the Asano family grave in Sengaku-ji temple to await judgment. After a period of deliberation by the government, they were condemned to commit seppuku, considered an honorable form of execution. The forty-seven loyal samurai instantly became popular heroes, but because the vendetta could be interpreted as an affront to the bakufu, the plays based on the event were immediately banned. Soon after Tsunayoshi's death in 1709, however, a new administration began to change those bakufu policies deemed to be unpopular and publicly restored the Asano family's position. Then starting late in 1710, perhaps sensing a change in the official attitude toward popular tragic heroes, playwrights and fiction writers began to produce a string of plays and novels (ukiyo-zōshi) on the theme of the forty-seven rōnin but set the tale in the late-fourteenth-century world of the historical chronicle Record of Great Peace (Taiheiki), with actual or slightly altered names."

The above section is quoted from: Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology 1600-1900 edited by Haruo Shirane, pp. 392-393. [More information will be added later.]