Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Titipu. Medieval court and government of the emperor of Japan. Titipu represents a microcosm of Japan. Its officials and functionaries are myriad and coexist in a Byzantine complexity of rules and regulations; this milieu is meant to satirize the Victorian bureaucracy of Great Britain during the era in which the play was first produced. The settings are stereotyped to resemble the many Japanese decorative objects being imported into Britain at that time. Examples of high Japanese art were also on display in London museums and had created a craze for Japanese things in the moneyed middle and upper classes. The two scenes set in Titipu reflect these Japanese influences, both paying homage to and satirizing them as the temporary passions of the wealthy.

Ko-Ko’s palace

Ko-Ko’s palace. The palace courtyard, appearing in the opening act of the play, is magnificent, as befits the Lord High Executioner of Titipu. It thus satirizes the needless largesse expended on government functionaries in the Victorian era.

Ko-Ko’s garden

Ko-Ko’s garden. The garden scene of act 2 provides the backdrop for the heroine Yum-Yum’s preparation for her wedding to the wandering minstrel Nanki-Poo, who is really the Mikado’s son in disguise. The garden is also the scene of the Mikado’s magnificent entrance, which paves the way for a happy marriage. The wedding occurs after Nanki-Poo is threatened with execution and Ko-Ko is married to the odious Katisha, who wanted to marry Nanki-Poo herself. All ends happily in a setting straight from a book of Japanese fairy tales.

The Mikado Bibliography

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Ayre, Leslie. The Gilbert and Sullivan Companion. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1972. A reference book for Gilbert and Sullivan fans, containing anecdotes, details about each opera, and a listing of famous artists who have played leading roles. Foreword by famed D’Oyly Carte star Martyn Green.

Baily, Leslie. Gilbert and Sullivan: Their Lives and Times. New York: Viking Press, 1973. Lively biography that puts the two collaborators and their operas in the context of Victorian times. Contains many illustrations and photographs.

Fischler, Alan. Modified Rapture: Comedy in W. S. Gilbert’s Savoy Operas. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991. Brief but informative analysis of Gilbert’s comedic techniques and their appeal to the “bourgeois prejudices” of Victorian audiences.

Sullivan, Arthur. The Complete Plays of Gilbert and Sullivan. Illustrated by W. S. Gilbert. New York: W. W. Norton, 1976. All of Gilbert’s libretti as well as more than seventy amusing illustrations that he drew to illustrate his songs. Contains a brief chronology of Gilbert and Sullivan’s career.

Sutton, Max Keith. W. S. Gilbert. Boston: Twayne, 1975. Good single-volume introduction to Gilbert’s life and works. Sees The Mikado as a “ritual” drama, with its emphasis on human sacrifice and absolute law.

Wilson, Robin, and Frederick Lloyd. Gilbert and Sullivan: The Official D’Oyly Carte Picture History. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984. One-hundred-year history of the D’Oyly Carte company, with dozens of color illustrations, photographs, drawings, reproductions of paintings, posters, cartoons, and memorabilia.