Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 494

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The Mikado of Japan

The Mikado of Japan, a humane monarch who desires to let the punishment fit the crime. To steady the young men of his kingdom, he has made flirting a capital crime. Without being in the least angry, he can calmly order a lawbreaker to be boiled in oil. All cheerfully bow to his will except Katisha, his daughter-in-law elect.


Nanki-Poo, the son of the Mikado. Loving Yum-Yum, he flees the court disguised as a second trombone to escape from his elderly fiancée, Katisha. He is willing to sacrifice his life for a month of marriage with Yum-Yum but unhesitatingly gives her up when he finds that she will have to be buried alive after his execution. After being declared dead by affidavit—a death that imperils the lives of the executioner and his accomplices—he refuses to return to life unless Ko-Ko marries Katisha. After she is safely married, he returns to life, receives his father’s blessing, and faces a life of married bliss with Yum-Yum.


Ko-Ko, the chicken-hearted Lord High Executioner of Titipu. Appointed to his position by his fellow townsmen because he could not execute anybody else until he had executed himself, he is troubled by a command from the Mikado that an execution take place immediately. Loving himself with a tenderer passion than he loves Yum-Yum, his ward and affianced bride, he consents to let Nanki-Poo marry her for a month if he will allow himself to be executed at the end of that time. Unable to bring himself to kill anybody, he decides that an affidavit of Nanki-Poo’s death will be as good as an execution. Faced with a choice of boiling in oil for encompassing the death of the heir apparent or of marrying Katisha, he reluctantly chooses the latter and saves his life.


Pooh-Bah, the self-important Lord High Everything Else. An extremely haughty individual of pre-Adamite ancestry, he humiliates himself by accepting the salaries of all the offices he holds and by taking bribes, which he styles “insults.”


Katisha, an elderly lady of appalling aspect. Being an acquired taste, appealing only to connoisseurs, she has worked hard to teach Nanki-Poo to love her. Enraged at his desertion, she seeks revenge. When she thinks Nanki-Poo is dead, she marries Ko-Ko. On learning of his deception, she gives way to frightful fury but finally decides to make the best of her bargain.


Yum-Yum, Ko-Ko’s ward, engaged to him. A child of nature, she takes after her mother and rejoices in her loveliness. She loves Nanki-Poo but is unwilling to pay for a month of marital bliss with her life. She becomes the emperor’s daughter-in-law elect.


Pitti-Sing, Yum-Yum’s sister. She testifies to Nanki-Poo’s fictional death.


Peep-Bo, Yum-Yum’s other sister, the third of the three maids from school.


Pish-Tush, a noble lord. With Pooh-Bah, he attempts to persuade Ko-Ko to execute himself.




Critical Essays