The famous incident of the “Forty-Seven Ronin_” of 1702… A minor daimyo, humiliated by a shogunate official, drew his sword within the Edo castle, for which offense he was forced to commit suicide and his domain was confiscated. His retainers, now made “masterless samurai,” disarmed official suspicion by two years of dissolute living but then fulfilled the medieval code of ethics by assassinating the Edo official in vengeance for their lord. The public was thrilled, and the event became Japan's favorite dramatic theme, but the authorities coldly forced the forty-seven to commit suicide. Law and order triumphed over loyalty._

From Japan: Tradition and Transformation.