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Puppetry Day

"🎶 Mr. Punch is one jolly good fellow,
His dress is all scarlet and yellow,
And if now and then he gets mellow,
It's only among his good friends.
His money most freely he spends;
To laugh and grow fat he intends,
With the girls he's s rogue and a rover;
He lives, while he can, upon clover;
When he dies-its only all over;
And there Punch's comedy ends."

~ The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Punch and Judy, 1832, Illustrated Collier and Cruikshank, 1832, prepared by Christopher van Der Craats

Puppetry, including hand puppets, rod puppets, shadow puppets, finger puppets, ventriloquist's dummies, or marionettes, have a history going back to ancient Greece! Punch and Judy are some of the most popular and well known of the hand puppet variety. The show is typically performed by a single puppeteer inside the booth, known since Victorian times as a "professor" or "punchman", and assisted sometimes by a "bottler" who corrals the audience outside the booth, introduces the performance, and collects the money. Mr. Punch first recorded appearance was in England on 9 May 1662, which is traditionally reckoned as Punch's UK birthday! Along with Punch and Judy, the cast of characters usually includes their baby, a hungry crocodile, a clown, an officious policeman, and a prop string of sausages. The devil and the hangman Jack Ketch also may make an appearances but Punch always get the better of them. Today's Punch and Judy shows are generally modernized. However, in the original story line, Punch not only eventually beats his wife, but also his infant child, a policeman, a doctor, a lawyer and the Devil himself! Punch is so self-satisfied with his deeds, that he constantly praises himself: “That’s the way to do it!” His glee in his awful deeds is what led to the coining of the phrase (in the early 1800s) of being “pleased as Punch.” Yikes! 🎭

World Puppet day was endorsed by the UNIMA (Union Internationale de la Marionnette - International Puppetry Association) in 2003.

This tartan was recreated from a threadcount taken from a puppet's clothing in the Castle Museum, York.

Puppetry is an ancient art form, thought to have originated about 3000 years ago. Puppets have been used since the earliest times, possibly predating actors in theatre, to animate and communicate ideas, stories,  and the human condition.  


As early as 2000 BC  string-operated figures of wood were manipulated to perform the action of kneading bread in Egypt.  Wire controlled, articulated puppets made of clay and ivory have also been found in Egyptian tombs.  Hieroglyphs also describe "walking statues" used in Ancient Egyptian religious dramas. 

The early 16th and 17th centuries show evidence of puppet shows in written records in the Britain and Scotland. 

Italian performers travelled fairly extensively in Scotland at this time, and along with gypsy performers, are believed to have used puppets at market places, fairs, and races.

The traditional British Punch and Judy puppetry traces its roots to the 16th century to the Italian commedia dell'arte. The character of "Punch" derives from the character Pulcinella, which was Anglicized to Punchinello.  Punch's wife was originally "Joan", but later became "Judy".   During the nineteenth century, the "Punch" puppet became very popular in glove puppet form, though marionettes continued to be very widely used.  

For more about Punch and Judy, click the puppet theater.

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