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In March of 1701, Asano, a young provincial lord invited to attend formal ceremonies at the Shogun’s castle, receives special instructions in etiquette for the occasion, but neglects to pay the customary gratuity to his instructor, Kira. Kira insults Asano publicly for the slight, prompting the outraged Asano to draw his sward against the older man within the castle, a capital offense. Asano is then forced to commit seppuku and his fief is confiscated, his retainers dispersed. Twenty-one months later, after making elaborate plans, forty-seven of Asano’s loyal retainers attack Kira’s mansion on a snowy night and take their revenge. Though their vendetta was criminal, the forty-seven attract the sympathies of the public and government alike and are allowed the privilege of dying honourably at their own hands.
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