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The Mikado

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The Mikado

by W.S. Gilbert

Genre: Comedy, Operetta
Format of Original Source: Plot summary
Recommended Adaptation Length: Two Hours

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising


Nanki-Poo, the Mikado’s son, is in love with Yum-Yum, the ward of the tailor Ko-Ko, who is also Lord High Executioner, and to whom she is betrothed, as Nanki-Poo is informed by Pooh-Bah, when he comes to Titipu in quest of her. Pooh-Bah, who accepted all the offices of the Ministers of State after their resignations when Ko-Ko was made Lord High Executioner, is also “the retailer of state secrets at a low figure,” and furnishes much of the delightful comedy of the opera. Nanki-Poo nevertheless manages to secure an interview with Yum-Yum, confesses to her he is the Mikado’s son, and that he is in disguise to escape punishment for not marrying the elderly Katisha. Ko-Ko’s matrimonial arrangements are interfered with by a message from the Mikado, that unless some one is beheaded in Titipu within a month he will be degraded. Nanki-Poo consents to be beheaded if he is allowed to marry Yum-Yum and live with her for the month. This being satisfactory, the arrangements for the nuptials are made.


If you’re considering adapting this plot, you’ll want to consider that at its heart is a law which states that when a married man is beheaded, his wife must be burned alive.  So either you take that seriously and wind up with a rather dark retelling, or you take it in its original spirit of silliness.  If the latter, however, you might need to question why you’re adapting the original.  What in it is speaking to you, besides the recognizability of the title?  What would you be spoofing, and why?  (Again — COULD it be serious?)


A word of caution: This plot summary was written by 19th-century literary critic George Upton, who often mixes personal opinion with summation. You would be advised to consult the original source material, if the general plot appeals to you.


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