Special Sub-Topic: "Mikado" in Translation
|The Mikado was the Emperor of Japan. Just what does "Mikado" mean anyway?|
the gate. In Japan, it is an important tradition never to address members of nobility with their given names. Titles then are used as appropriate salutations. "Mikado" was a reference to the great gate at the Imperial Palace in Kyoto.
|"The Mikado" takes place in Titipu, Japan. What is Titipu most noted for in modern day Japan?|
a limestone quarry. Titipu is the Anglicization of "Chichibu", a locale in the Saitama region of Japan noted mainly for limestone and concrete production. The town was put on the world map in 1884 by a popular revolution that was ruthlessly quelled by Imperial forces. This, no doubt, provided the backdrop for W.S. Gilbert's tale of Love conquering Absolutism.
|Among the main characters in the operetta are Nanki-poo, Pooh-bah, Pish-tush and Ko-Ko (the only genuine Japanese name). What does "Ko-Ko" mean?|
all of these (pickles, grammar school, navigation). The meaning of the word changes with the context and the stress given the two syllables.
|Nanki-poo describes his father, the Mikado, as "the Lucius Junius Brutus of his race". Why did his father deserve such a comparison?|
He threatened his son with execution.. Nanki-poo explains: "Some years ago I had the misfortune to captivate Katisha, an elderly lady of my father's Court. She misconstrued my customary affability into expressions of affection, and claimed me in marriage, under my father's law. My father, the Lucius Junius Brutus of his race, ordered me to marry her within a week, or perish ignominiously on the scaffold. That night I fled his Court, and, assuming the disguise of a Second Trombone..." Lucius Junius Brutus was First Consul of Rome. He condemned his own sons to death for their part in a treasonous conspiracy.
Thanks to player by MrKnowsItAll, who pointed out the following additional information: More importantly, Lucius Junius Brutus disarmed his foes, and ascended to the throne by playing the fool. (L. Brutus - Fool)
If the Mikado is read, keeping this in mind (i.e. that the Mikado pretends to be a fool) many of his lines and actions make more sense.
|Yum Yum protests to Nanki-poo: "But as I'm engaged to Ko-Ko, To embrace you thus, con fuoco, Would distinctly be no giuoco, And for yam I should get toko..." What sentence would best describe her plight?|
No joke! Our fiery embrace will get me in trouble, as I'm engaged to Ko-Ko!. Yum-Yum combines two Italian phrases - "con fuoco" (with fire) and "no giuoco" (no joke) with a Hindi word "toco", which was slang at the time denoting "trouble". Lyricist W.S. Gilbert was always inserting foreign words and phrases in his libretti to achieve really clever rhymes.
|Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum sing loudly in Japanese "O ni! bikkuri shakkuri to!" What are they saying to Katisha?|
Demon, you surprise and shock us!. The long jilted Katisha, ever one to ruin the party, sings: "The hour of gladness is dead and gone;/in silent sadness I live alone!/ The hope I cherished, all lifeless lies,/ save love, which never dies!/ Oh, faithless one, this insult you shall rue!/ In vain for mercy on your knees you'll sue./ I'll tear the mask from your disguising!/ Prepare yourselves for news surprising!/ No minstrel he, despite bravado!/ He is the son of your..." well... see the show if you really want to know the secret.
|In the madrigal, Yum-Yum, Pitti-Sing, Nanki-Poo, and Pish-Tush all sing that the tocsin will soon sound. What noise will it make?|
ding dong. "Though the tocsin sound, ere long, Ding dong! Ding dong! Yet until the shadows fall over one and over all, sing a happy madrigal." A tocsin is a warning bell. The other sounds would suggest traditional Japanese instruments - a shamisen (stringed), a horagai (seashell horn) or a taiko (large ceremonial drum).
|The Mikado enters the great gate of Titipu to the stirring martial tune of "Miya sama, miya sama on n'm-ma no mayť ni..." This was an original piece written by Sir Arthur Sullivan emulating the Asian style.|
f. "Miya Sama" was a marching song of the Japanese Imperial Army which was popular at the time of the Meiji Government, which was busy with social and political change in the 1870s. Lyricist W.S. Gilbert was the one who incorporated it into "The Mikado".
|The Mikado claims to sentence certain criminals to "ride on a buffer in Parliamentary trains". What "heinous" crime deserves this punishment?|
scribbling on window panes. "The idiot who, in railway carriages,/ scribbles on window-panes,/ we only suffer to ride on a buffer/ in Parliamentary trains." To ride a buffer on a Parliamentary train is to ride, standing, in the noisy section between the carriages of a train. "Parliamentary trains" were trains mandated by legislation since 1844 to make a stop at least once a day at every single station or whistle-stop along a train line. The effect of the proscribed punishment, then, would be a very long and uncomfortable time of torment.
|In describing a certain event to the Mikado, Ko-Ko claims that he used his "snickersee". What object did Ko-Ko find so useful?|
a dagger. "Snickersee" is a Dutch long knife. Ko-Ko describes the action thus: "The criminal cried, as he dropped him down,/ In a state of wild alarm--/ With a frightful, frantic, fearful frown,/ I bared my big right arm./ I seized him by his little pig-tail,/ And on his knees fell he,/ As he squirmed and struggled,/ And gurgled and guggled,/ I drew my snickersnee!/ Oh, never shall I/ Forget the cry,/ Or the shriek that shrieked he,/ As I gnashed my teeth,/ When from its sheath/ I drew my snickersnee!" Scary stuff indeed, this crime and punishment!
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