The Mikado is an operetta that was written by William Schwenck Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. Gilberts text is a masterpiece of comic writing and Sullivan’s ever tuneful music is perfectly adapted, serving in a remarkable manner to set off the amusing character of the words. The two have made a script that is familiar to English audiences. From common English humor to the harsh brutality of the English, Gilbert and Sullivan were able to blend English characters into a Japanese setting. Obviously, doing so would make a good comedy but because of false dilemmas, circular reasoning and illogic facts, it added to the humor of the story.
The scene takes place in the city of Titipu, in an old-fashioned Japanese period. A seemingly simple story of a man who falls in love with a girl becomes highly complicated and confusing. The story is filled with illogic rules and laws that the Japanese supposedly practiced. Dilemmas and confusion also causes the story to have a funny twist.
Nanki-Poo is the son and rightful heir to the Mikado, emperor of Japan. He flees his city not wanting to marry Katisha, the older woman he is supposed to marry. In another city, he falls in love with a girl named Yum-Yum who is supposed to wed an official, Ko-Ko. However, because being with her is impossible, he leaves the city and only returns when he has heard that Ko-Ko has been condemned to death for flirting. The irony is that when he returned, hoping to finally be with his love, he finds out that not only is Ko-Ko still alive, but has been pardoned and promoted to Lord High Executioner of Titipu. Here lies the first problem for Nanki-Poo. As for Ko-Ko, he now is required to find someone that deserves to be executed for the Mikado has been strucked by the fact that no one has been executed in Titipu for a year. He threatens to abolish the office of Lord High Executioner if one is not done within a month. Devastated by the fact that he cannot wed his love, Nanki-Poo contemplates suicide but is slyly persuaded by Ko-Ko to perish at a later date, under the authority of the Executioner himself. The catch is that Nanki-Poo will have a chance to marry Yum-Yum but has to be executed within a month of the marriage. It is indeed humorous that at such a time, some of the other characters start singing Long life to you when it is obvious then that he has to die soon. It is later discovered that under the Mikados law, the widow of a beheaded man would have to be buried alive. Here is a dilemma for the characters. If Yum-Yum marries Nanki-Poo, he will eventually have to be executed and she perish a horrible death. However, if she doesnt marry Nanki-Poo, he would probably commit suicide, and hence there wouldnt be a person to execute. The logic here is faulty and is transformed to humor because it is obvious that no one needs to die in this situation. Fleeing to another city is a choice that none of the characters see. They indulge themselves with meaningless and useless way outs that would only box themselves later on.
Hearing that the Mikado is approaching the city to see if his orders have been carried out, Ko-Ko and Nanki-Poo become nervous. They plot a fake execution and Ko-Ko tells Nanki-Poo to take Yum-Yum and flee the city, for he cannot bear to execute anyone. It is at this time that the Mikado arrives with his entourage and his daughter-in-law elect. The Mikado relates to Ko-Ko about his lost son and asks Ko-Ko if he is in the city. Ko-Ko amusingly replies that he has fled to Knightsbridge, a Japanese exhibition village that opened in England. More trouble occurs when Katisha discovers that on the false death certificate lies the name of her love, Nanki-Poo. Another dilemma occurs here. Katisha claims Nanki-Poo in marriage, but he cant wed her because he has already married Yum-Yum. Consequently, if he returns with Yum-Yum, Katisha would insist on his execution, and in turn Yum-Yum would be buried alive.
The story ends with Ko-Ko marrying Katisha. However, his proposal was based on a more complicated theory than that of pure love. Once Katisha accepts Ko-Ko in marriage, Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum would come back and explain everything. The end of act 2 shows the cast rejoicing and celebrating after a very close call.