Enya, about whom very little is known outside of his fictionalized account in the Taiheiki, is meant to be read and understood as Asano Naganori, who, in the spring of 1701, attacked and wounded Kira Yoshinaka in the shogun's palace in Edo. For the crimes of unsheathing his sword in the shogun's palace and disrupting the reception of the imperial delegation from Kyoto, Asano was ordered to commit seppuku.
As an official in charge of receiving one of the imperial delegates, Asano was expected to seek the council of Kira, the master of ceremonies, and receive instruction on the proper etiquette for such a task. Although the exact reason for his attack is unknown, one of the prevalent theories, largely inspired by the diary of Kajikawa Yosob? Toriteru (Kajikawa hikki), is that Kira had verbally provoked Asano for not offering a 'gift' of suitable value in exchange for his teaching expertise. Asano, a young and hot-blooded daimy? that respected the older samurai traditions, or so it is generally assumed, was incapable of leaving such insults unanswered and lashed out with his sword. There is very little historical evidence concerning the motivations of Asano; this fact, however, has not stopped individuals from touting him as a paragon of samurai virtue that was unjustly sent to his death by the evil and greedy Kira.
In the winter of 1703, a group of Asano's retainers, lead by ?ishi Kuranosuke, avenged their lord's death by killing Kira and presenting his head at Asano's grave.
In the Taiheiki, Enya is the recipient of relatively little narrative attention. What attention he does receive, however, is favorable, as his actions are virtuous and his men display loyalty in both life and death.
Due to his wife's renowned beauty, which catches the eye of the lascivious Moronao, Enya is forced to flee the capital in the wake of Mor?nao's slander. Eventually, during his flight to safety, Enya learns that his wife and children are dead and, rather than dying ignobly at the hands of the enemy, decides to kill himself. Before committing seppuku, he declares that he will be reincarnated seven times as the enemy of Moronao. Many of Enya's retainers commit junshi, following their lord in death.
The character Enya that appears in Kanadehon Ch?shingura is Asano only thinly disguised as Enya from the Taiheiki. In much the same way, although Ch?shingura is superficially an adaptation of the Enya-Moronao story in the Taiheiki, very few aspects of this older text were included within the Ak? incident narrative. The only major alteration is the addition of Enya's wife and all of the trouble for which she serves as a conduit.
The r?nin are the objects of focus within the play, consequently, Enya is given little narrative attention and is never developed a great deal as a character, despite the fact that he is motivation for all of the action that occurs. This very fact, however, is perhaps Enya's most intriguing attribute. Never in Ch?shingura is the reader given the reasons behind the retainer's fierce loyalty towards their lord - such explanations are of no importance in the text. As told through Enya's character, or lack of it as the case may be, loyalty is not contingent upon a virtuous lord or a strong master-vassal relationship; it is, rather, an ideal to strive for regardless of time, place or situation.