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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Punch and Judy

Punch and Judy are characters in a traditional English puppet show, performed in a striped canvas booth at fairgrounds and at the seaside.

A traditional Punch and Judy booth, at Swanage, Dorset, England

The character of Mr Punch was developed from Pulcinella, a stock character of Commedia dell'arte. He shared the hooked nose and humped back of his Italian counterpart, but quickly became associated with a peculiarly English type of buffoon.

The figure who later became Mr. Punch made his first recorded appearance in England on May 9, 1662 at Covent Garden, London. It was performed by Italian puppet showman Pietro Gimonde, a.k.a. "Signor Bologna." May 9 is traditionally reckoned as Punch's UK birthday.

The diarist Samuel Pepys observed this May 9th marionette show featuring an early version of the Punch character in Covent Garden in London. He wrote: "Thence to see an Italian puppet play."

Plaque By Jack1956 - Self-photographed,  Wikipedia

Political satire was part of the "Punch and Judy" puppet shows of the seventeenth century in England. For the most part, puppetry was not an entertainment vehicle for children until recent years.

In the early 18th century, the marionette theatre starring Punch was at its height, with showman Martin Powell attracting sizable crowds at his Punch's Theatre at Covent Garden. Powell has been credited with being "largely responsible for the form taken by the drama of Punch and Judy."

By the end of the 18th century, Punch was also playing in Britain's American colonies, where even George Washington bought tickets for a show.

Marionette productions were expensive and cumbersome to mount and transport and in the latter half of the 18th century, they began to give way to glove-puppet shows, performed from within a narrow, lightweight booth by one puppeteer. These productions might travel through country towns or move from corner to corner along busy London streets, giving many performances in a single day. The character of Punch adapted to the new format, becoming an aggressive glove-puppet who could do outrageous—and often violent—things to the other characters. About this time, Punch's wife's name changed from "Joan" to "Judy."

A satirical British magazine called Punch was launched in 1841. It was named for the mischievous title character of the puppet show.

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