"Let The Punishment Fit The Crime"

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Last Updated on August 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 176

Context: The Mikado of Japan has been displeased that Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner of Titipu, has never executed anyone, and he decrees that unless someone is beheaded within a month, he will abolish the office of Executioner and reduce Titipu to the status of a village. Ko-Ko is disconcerted, partly because he himself is under sentence of death for flirting and, therefore, will probably have to execute himself. The Mikado, a rigidly moral ruler, is trying to impose his own austere code upon his people; yet, as he explains upon his entrance, he is also a most compassionate sovereign, and always endeavors to decree punishment appropriate to the crime: social bores who talk interminably are forced to listen to the endless sermons of German mystical theologians, and advertisers of worthless patent medicines are sentenced to have their teeth extracted by amateur dentists.

My object all sublime
I shall achieve in time–
To let the punishment fit the crime–
The punishment fit the crime;
And make each prisoner pent
Unwillingly represent
A source of innocent merriment!
Of innocent merriment!

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