Graphic Arts / Contextual Studies Essay: 'Punch and Judy' hand puppet

Essay by starraider April 2004

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The object I have chosen for this essay is a 'Punch' style hand puppet which I found at the Museum of Liverpool Life at the Albert Dock.

Probably the most famous form of puppets in the world, Punch, Judy and a host of other hand puppet characters have been enjoyed by children across the globe for centuries.

My aim is to consider the history behind the design and aesthetic qualities of this particular object while exploring the use of this form of entertainment and reflecting on this characters place within modern culture.

The dress of the puppet is recognisable as traditional clothing of renaissance Italy. This can be explained looking into the history of this form of puppet. Punch and Judy originated in Italy during the 14th centuries and only later spread to France and other neighbouring countries. The 'Commedia dell'arte' was an improvised popular comedy in Italian theatres of the 16th to 18th century.

It was frequently banned and was often performed on the streets. The characters Harlequin, Columbine and Pulcinella originated here. In the French language Pulcinella became Polichinelle, in Russian Petroushka, and in English Punch. (Byrom, Michael 1972) The shows were imported from France to England where they received widespread popularity. Punch and Judy first appeared in England during the 17th century. Cromwell's Commonwealth looked on entertainment as sinful and closed the theaters. With the return of the Stuarts and Charles II, entertainments of all sorts returned in fashion to the great pleasure of the people. [College] An early reference to Punch and Judy shows in England was an entry in Samuel Pepys celebrated diary. The first such entry was on May 9, 1662. He wrote that he was 'mighty pleased' by an Italian puppet show near St. Paul's Church in London's Covent Garden. Punch and...