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Established 15,000 B.C.

Volume30 , circa 1662.

Punch & Judy Hit
The Stage And
Each Other

The ancestor to whom Punch's lineage can be traced with absolute certainty is Pulcinella of the Renaissance Commedia dell'arte. A continuous link over the centuries with the Atellan farce has been propounded and refuted by scholars of the theatre and it is nice to think that Punch may have been with us two thousand five hundred years. One thing is certain, the Punch-like type of person has been a stock figure of the Theatre since the earliest days of the Greek mime as ancient bronzes and terracottas have proved.

Although tenuous and speculative the history of the character may be, however, the history of Punch as a puppet is even more so. Nobody knows when Punch first appeared on the puppet stage. Puppet shows were known in Ancient India and China since the stock comic figure of a man with hook-nose and hump-back has persisted through the ages, who is to say a character very close to Punch was not known? It is quite likely, in fact, that any character with a nose suggestive of amorous propensities and a deformity suggestive of the aggressiveness which often arises out of an inferiority complex, should have Punch's characteristic stage-manner.

In Ancient Greece puppets were not only well known but very well performed according to the writers of the day. String puppets seemed to be singled out for mention since, obviously a more articulate and life-like figure than a glove puppet would be the more to be marvelled at, but Punch who is supposed to have arrived in England in the mid 17th century, came first as a puppet worked by strings, so why should not a similar character - a hunchback clown - have entertained Xenophon in the fifth century B.C.?

And if Punch did not arrive in England till the 17th century what predecessor of his appears in the miniature by Jehan de Grise, in a manuscript C1340 and now in the Bodleian Library? Here we see a puppet booth very akin to a modern booth and on stage two figures, one male, one female, the man being in Punch's traditional place, i.e. to the left of the stage as seen by the audience, wearing what looks like a pointed cap and wielding a club or stick, Mr. Punch's traditional weapon? How very like a Punch and Judy show this looks but we cannot be sure.
We are sure though, that Mr. Punch we know today is a puppet version of Pulcinella of the Commedia dell'arte. A water-colour drawing by Lichery of 1688 shows a Pulcinella almost identical with modern Punch and leaves us in no doubt what ever.

Who was Pulcinella - or as he is sometimes called Pollicinella or Pulicinella? His role was primarily that of a servant, as indeed was that of Harlequin, and he was obviously a comedian. He wore an artificial nose, pot-belly and hump -all calculated to make the audience laugh, and he was the mixture of jollity and cruelty, wit and stupidity just as Punch is today. J. Callot in the early 17th century executed a series of etchings of the characters in the commedia dell'arte and it is curious to note that his Pulcinella - or "Pulliciniello" as he calls him - is nothing like Punch, looking more like an elderly Pierrot, but he does illustrate a character called "Cucurucu" who is very like Punch but has cock's feathers on his head. This Cucurucu seems very akin to Cirirrus of the Atellan comedy, so like, in fact, that the connection must be acknowledged -another link between Punch and the theatre of Ancient Greece. Let us not forget either, the comic squeaking of the Atellan comedians and the probability that the raucous voice of Punch may be the tradition of many centuries.

The name Pulcinella is derived from pulcino, a chicken, perhaps on account of the character's beak like nose and his bird like voice. The obvious close link with Cucucus - the very sound of whose name is like a clucking bird -and the cock-feathers characteristic of this character, all add credibility to this theory of derivation.

In England the name "Punch" is obviously an abbreviation of Punchinello, a name synonymous with Pulcinella, Polichinello, Pollicinella and Polichinelle. Pepys mentions several different variations of the name in his diary, between 1666 and 1668, including the name Punch, which apparently became a nickname for anything thick and short.

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