The Mikado

The Mikado

by William Schwenck Gilbert

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A lighthearted burlesque of Victorian English culture and the vagaries of love, The Mikado offers an ideal matching of William Schwenck Gilbert's elegant comedic gifts with Arthur Sullivan's agile and refined musicianship. The tale unfolds amid a fanciful version of Japanese society, in which a wandering minstrel has the misfortune to fall in love with the beautiful ward of the Lord High Executioner of Titipu.
The sparkling lyrics and witty dialogue of this comic masterpiece are as much a delight to read as they are to hear with musical accompaniment. The complete libretto is reprinted in this edition from the standard performance text of The Mikado, complete with nine charming illustrations drawn by W. S. Gilbert himself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486159164
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 07/06/2015
Series: Dover Thrift Editions
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 64
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 14 Years

About the Author

English playwright, librettist, and poet William Schwenck Gilbert (1836–1911) is chiefly remembered for the comic operas he created in collaboration with Sir Arthur Sullivan. Their best known works include The Pirates of Penzance and H.M.S. Pinafore.

Read an Excerpt

The Mikado

By William Schwenck Gilbert, Philip Smith

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1992 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-15916-4


Act I

Scene. — Courtyard of KOKO'S Palace in Titipu. Japanese nobles discovered standing and sitting in attitudes suggested by native drawings.


If you want to know who we are,
We are gentlemen of Japan;
On many a vase and jar — On many a screen and fan,
We figure in lively paint:
Our attitude's queer and quaint —
You're wrong if you think it ain't, oh!

If you think we are worked by strings,
Like a Japanese marionette,
You don't understand these things:
It is simply Court etiquette.
Perhaps you suppose this throng
Can't keep it up all day long?
If that's your idea, you're wrong, oh!

Enter NANKI-POO in great excitement. He carries a native guitar on his back and a bundle of ballads in his hand.


Gentlemen, I pray you tell me
Where a gentle maiden dwelleth,
Named Yum-Yum, the ward of Ko-Ko?
In pity speak — oh, speak, I pray you!

A NOBLE. Why, who are you who ask this question?

NANK. Come gather round me, and I'll tell you.


A wandering minstrel I —
A thing of shreds and patches,
Of ballads, songs and snatches,
And dreamy lullaby!

My catalogue is long,
Through every passion ranging,
And to your humours changing
I tune my supple song!

Are you in sentimental mood?
I'll sigh with you,
Oh, sorrow, sorrow!
On maiden's coldness do you brood?
I'll do so, too —
Oh, sorrow, sorrow!
I'll charm your willing ears
With songs of lovers' fears,
While sympathetic tears
My cheeks bedew —
Oh, sorrow, sorrow!

But if patriotic sentiment is wanted,
I've patriotic ballads cut and dried;
For where'er our country's banner may be planted,
All other local banners are defied!
Our warriors, in serried ranks assembled,
Never quail — or they conceal it if they do —
And I shouldn't be surprised if nations trembled
Before the mighty troops of Titipu!

CHORUS. We shouldn't be surprised, etc.

NANK. And if you call for a song of the sea,
We'll heave the capstan round,
With a yeo heave ho, for the wind is free,
Her anchors a-trip and her helms a-lee,
Hurrah for the homeward bound!

CHORUS. Yeo-ho — heave ho —
Hurrah for the homeward bound!

To lay aloft in a howling breeze
May tickle a landsman's taste,
But the happiest hour a sailor sees
Is when he's down
At an inland town,
With his Nancy on his knees, yeo ho!
And his arm around her waist!

CHORUS. Then man the capstan — off we go,
As the fiddler swings us round,
With a yeo heave ho,
And a rumbelow,
Hurrah for the homeward bound!

A wandering minstrel I, etc.


PISH. And what may be your business with Yum-Yum?

NANK. I'll tell you. A year ago I was a member of the Titipu town band. It was my duty to take the cap round for contributions. While discharging this delicate office, I saw Yum-Yum. We loved each other at once, but she was betrothed to her guardian Ko-Ko, a cheap tailor, and I saw that my suit was hopeless. Overwhelmed with despair, I quitted the town. Judge of my delight when I heard, a month ago, that Ko-Ko had been condemned to death for flirting! I hurried back at once, in the hope of finding Yum-Yum at liberty to listen to my protestations.

PISH. It is true that Ko-Ko was condemned to death for flirting, but he was reprieved at the last moment, and raised to the exalted rank of Lord High Executioner under the following remarkable circumstances:


Our great Mikado, virtuous man,
When he to rule our land began,
Resolved to try
A plan whereby
Young men might best be steadied.
So he decreed, in words succinct,
That all who flirted, leered or winked
(Unless connubially linked),
Should forthwith be beheaded.

And I expect you'll all agree
That he was right to so decree.
And I am right,
And you are right,
And all is right as right can be!

CHORUS. And you are right,
And we are right, etc.

This stern decree, you'll understand,
Caused great dismay throughout the land!
For young and old
And shy and bold
Were equally affected.
The youth who winked a roving eye,
Or breathed a non-connubial sigh,
Was thereupon condemned to die —
He usually objected.

And you'll allow, as I expect,
That he was right to so object.
And I am right,
And you are right,
And everything is quite correct!

CHORUS. And you are right,
And we are right, etc.

And so we straight let out on bail,
A convict from the county jail,
Whose head was next
On some pretext
Condemnëd to be mown off,
And made him Headsman, for we said,
"Who's next to be decapited
Cannot cut off another's head
Until he's cut his own off."

And we are right, I think you'll say,
To argue in this kind of way;
And I am right,
And you are right,
And all is right — too-looral-lay!

CHORUS. And you are right,
And we are right, etc.

[Exeunt CHORUS.


NANK. Ko-Ko, the cheap tailor, Lord High Executioner of Titipu! Why, that's the highest rank a citizen can attain!

POOH. It is. Our logical Mikado, seeing no moral difference between the dignified judge who condemns a criminal to die, and the industrious mechanic who carries out the sentence, has rolled the two offices into one, and every judge is now his own executioner.

NANK. But how good of you (for I see that you are a nobleman of the highest rank) to condescend to tell all this to me, a mere strolling minstrel!

POOH. Don't mention it. I am, in point of fact, a particularly haughty and exclusive person, of pre-Adamite ancestral descent. You will understand this when I tell you that I can trace my ancestry back to a protoplasmal primordial atomic globule. Consequently, my family pride is something inconceivable. I can't help it. I was born sneering. But I struggle hard to overcome this defect. I mortify my pride continually. When all the great officers of State resigned in a body, because they were too proud to serve under an ex-tailor, did I not unhesitatingly accept all their posts at once?

PISH. And the salaries attached to them? You did.

POOH. It is consequently my degrading duty to serve this upstart as First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chief Justice, Commander-in-Chief, Lord High Admiral, Master of the Buckhounds, Groom of the Back Stairs, Archbishop of Titipu, and Lord Mayor, both acting and elect, all rolled into one. And at a salary! A Pooh-Bah paid for his services! I a salaried minion! But I do it! It revolts me, but I do it!

NANK. And it does you credit.

POOH. But I don't stop at that. I go and dine with middle-class people on reasonable terms. I dance at cheap suburban parties for a moderate fee. I accept refreshment at any hands, however lowly. I also retail State secrets at a very low figure. For instance, any further information about Yum-Yum would come under the head of a State secret, (NANKI-POO takes the hint, and gives him money.) (Aside.) Another insult, and, I think, a light one!


Young man, despair,
Likewise go to,
Yum-Yum the fair
You must not woo.
It will not do:
I'm sorry for you,
You very imperfect ablutioner!
This very day
From school Yum-Yum
Will wend her way,
And homeward come,
With beat of drum
And a rum-tum-tum,
To wed the Lord High Executioner!
And the brass will crash,
And the trumpets bray,
And they'll cut a dash
On their wedding day.
She'll toddle away, as all aver,
With the Lord High Executioner!

NANK and POOH. Its a hopeless case,
As you may see,
And in your place
Away I'd flee;
But don't blame me —
I'm sorry to be
Of your pleasure a diminutioner.
They'll vow their pact
Extremely soon,
In point of fact
This afternoon.
Her honeymoon
With that buffoon
At seven commences, so you shun her!

ALL. And the brass will crash, etc.



NANK. And I have journeyed for a month, or nearly,
To learn that Yum-Yum, whom I love so dearly,
This day to Ko-Ko is to be united!

POOh. The fact appears to be as you've recited:
But here he comes, equipped as suits his station;
He'll give you any further information.



Behold the Lord High Executioner
A personage of noble rank and title —
A dignified and potent officer,
Whose functions are particularly vital!
Defer, defer,
To the Lord High Executioner!

Enter KO-KO attended


Taken from the county jail
By a set of curious chances;
Liberated then on bail,
On my own recognizances;
Wafted by a favouring gale
As one sometimes is in trances,
To a height that few can scale,
Save by long and weary dances;
Surely, never had a male
Under such like circumstances
So adventurous a tale
Which may rank with most romances.

CHORUS. Defer, defer,
To the Lord High Executioner, etc.

KO. Gentlemen, I'm much troubled by this reception. I can only trust that by strict attention to duty I shall ensure a continuance of those favours which it will ever be my study to deserve. If I should ever called upon to act professionally, I am happy to think that there will no difficulty in finding plenty of people whose loss will be a distinct gain to society at large.


As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
I've got a little list — Ive got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed — who never would be missed!
There's the pestilential nuisances who write for autographs —
All people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs —
All children who are up in dates, and floor you with 'em flat —
All persons who in shaking hands, shake hands with you like that
And all third persons who on spoiling tête-à-têtes insist —
They'd none of 'em be missed — they'd none of 'em be missed!

CHORUS. He's got 'em on the list — he's got 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed — they'll none of 'em be

There's the banjo serenader, and the others of his race,
And the piano-organist — I've got him on the list!
And the people who eat peppermint and puff it in your face,
They never would be missed — they never would be missed!
Then the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this, and every country but his own;
And the lady from the provinces, who dresses like a guy,
And who "doesn't think she waltzes, but would rather like to try";
And that singular anomaly, the lady novelist —
I don't think she'd be missed — I'm sure she'd not be missed!

CHORUS. He's got her on the list—he's got her on the list;
And I don't think she'll be missed — I'm sure she'll not be

And that Nisi Prius nuisance, who just now is rather rife,
The Judicial humorist — I've got him on the list!
All funny fellows, comic men, and clowns of private life —
They'd none of 'em be missed — they'd none of 'em be missed.
And apologetic statesmen of a compromising kind,
Such as — What d'ye call him — Thing'em-bob, and likewise — Nevermind,
And 'St — 'st — 'st — and What's-his-name, and also You-know-who —
The task of filling up the blanks I'd rather leave to you.
But it really doesn't matter whom you put upon the list,
For they'd none of 'em be missed — they'd none of 'em be missed!

CHORUS. You may put 'em on the list — you may put 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed — they'll none of 'em be

Enter pooh-bah

KO. Pooh-Bah, it seems that the festivities in connection with my approaching marriage must last a week. I should like to do it handsomely, and I want to consult you as to the amount I ought to spend upon them.

POOH. Certainly. In which of my capacities? As First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chamberlain, Attorney-General, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Privy Purse, or Private Secretary?

KO. Suppose we say as Private Secretary.

POOH. Speaking as your Private Secretary, I should say that, as the city will have to pay for it, don't stint yourself, do it well.

KO. Exactly — as the city will have to pay for it. That is your advice.

POOH. As Private Secretary. Of course you will understand that, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am bound to see that due economy is observed.

KO. Oh! But you said just now "Don't stint yourself, do it well."

POOH. As Private Secretary.

KO. And now you say that due economy must be observed.

POOH. As Chancellor of the Exchequer.

KO. I see. Come over here, where the Chancellor can't hear us. (They cross the stage.) Now, as my Solicitor, how do you advise me to deal with this difficulty?

POOH. Oh, as your Solicitor, I should have no hesitation in saying "Chance it — —"

KO. Thank you. (Shaking his hand.) I will.

POOH. If it were not that, as Lord Chief Justice, I am bound to see that the law isn't violated.

KO. I see. Come over here where the Chief Justice can't hear us. (They cross the stage.) Now, then, as First Lord of the Treasury?

POOH. Of course, as First Lord of the Treasury, I could propose a special vote that would cover all expenses, if it were not that, as Leader of the Opposition, it would be my duty to resist it, tooth and nail. Or, as Paymaster-General, I could so cook the accounts that, as Lord High Auditor, I should never discover the fraud. But then, as Archbishop of Titipu, it would be my duty to denounce my dishonesty and give myself into my own custody as First Commissioner of Police.

KO. That's extremely awkward.

POOH. I don't say that all these distinguished people couldn't be squared; but it is right to tell you that they wouldn't be sufficiently degraded in their own estimation unless they were insulted with a very considerable bribe.

KO. The matter shall have my careful consideration. But my bride and her sisters approach, and any little compliment on your part, such as an abject grovel in a characteristic Japanese attitude, would be esteemed a favour.

[Exeunt together.

Enter procession of YUM-YUM'S schoolfellows, heralding YUM-YUM, PEEP-BO, and PITTI-SING


Comes a train of little ladies
From scholastic trammels free,
Each a little bit afraid is,
Wondering what the world can be!

Is it but a world of trouble —
Sadness set to song?
Is its beauty but a bubble
Bound to break ere long?

Are its palaces and pleasures
Fantasies that fade?
And the glory of its treasures
Shadow of a shade?

Schoolgirls we, eighteen and under,
From scholastic trammels free,
And we wonder — how we wonder! —
What on earth the world can be!



THE THREE. Three little maids from school are we,
Pert as a school-girl well can be,
Filled to the brim with girlish glee,
Three little maids from school!

YUM-YUM. Everything is a source of fun. (Chuckle.)

PEEP-BO. Nobody's safe, for we care for none! (Chuckle.)


Excerpted from The Mikado by William Schwenck Gilbert, Philip Smith. Copyright © 1992 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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