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In the 5th century BCE Greek plays staged for the common people used puppets instead of actors. Early Christians used marionettes ("Mary dolls") and other puppets to stage morlity plays, but eventually comedy was introduced into the performances, leading the Catholic church to ban puppetry. Puppeteers responded by setting up stages outside cathedrals and became even more ribald and slapstick. The Neapoltan "commedia dell'arte," using human actors portraying stock characters developed from the popular puppet shows, and somtmes puppets were used in this form of theater as well. In the 17th century, one of the most popular figures was the crafty Pulecenella, from the diminutive of "pulcino" (chick) named in honor of his long beaklike nose. He was always dressed in white with a black mask. From the commedia dell'arte he became a stock character in Neapolitan puppetry as well. Both types of theater soon became popular in Franc as well. In 1797 dentist Laurent Mourguet began setting up puppet shows in from of his barber's chair in order to attract patients. His first shows featured Polichinelle, and by 1804 he gave up dentistry altogether and became a professional puppeteer; rather than performing for the aristocratic audiences that most marionette shows played to, he created his own scenarios drawing on the concerns of his working-class audience and improvising references to the news of the day. (In 1808 he created Guignol, the main figure in French puppet shows.)
The character has already been popular in England; in 1662 Samuel Pepys observed a marionette show featuring an early version of the Punch character in Covent Garden in London, performed by Pietro Gimonde, ("Signor Bologna"). Pulecenella became Punchinello, which became just Punch, and the character evolved from being a marionette to a sock puppet. In the early 18th century, Martin Powell's marionette shows at Punch's Theatre at Covent Garden shaped the basic English tradition. However, marionette productions, presented in empty halls, the back rooms of taverns, or in large tents at yearly agricultural events such as the Bartholomew Fair and Mayfair, were expensive and cumbersome to mount and transport. In the latter half of the 18th century, marionette companies began to give way to glove-puppet shows, performed from within a narrow, lightweight booth by one puppeteer (the "professor" or "punchman") who had an assistant ("bottler") to gather a crowd and collect money; sometimes the bottler might also engage in back chat with the puppets, sometimes repeating lines that may have been difficult for the audience to understand, or play accompanying music or sound effects on a drum or guitar or pan pipes. These shows traveled through rural towns or from corner to corner in the cities. The booth was covered in checked bed ticking or whatever inexpensive cloth might come to hand, but in the 20th centuy red-and-white-striped cloth became standard. Punch himself also adapted to the new format, going from a stringed comedian who said outrageous things to a more aggressive glove-puppet who did outrageous—and often violent—things to the other characters. About this time, Punch's wife's name changed from "Joan" to "Judy." Punch became a hunchback in brightly colored jester's motley and a tasselled sugarloaf hat; he carries a slapstick as large as himself, which he freely uses upon most of the other characters in the show, especially Judy. His hooked nose almost meets his curved, jutting chin, and he speaks in a distinctive squawking voice, produced by a swazzle (or swatchel) in the puppeteer's mouth (just as Pulecenella did). The performance consists of a sequence of short scenes, including Punch's mishandling of Judy's baby, the arrival of an officious Constable who becomes abused by Punch, gleeful run-ins with a variety of other figures, each of whom Punch dispatches while squeaking the punchline, "That's the way to do it!," and a hangman (Jack Ketch), the Devil, a crocodile, or a ghost finally giving Punch his comeuppance or, more likely, becoming his last victim. Today, the audience is also encouraged to participate, calling out to the characters on the stage to warn them of danger or clue them in to what is going on behind their backs.
Thanks for the comprehensive backstory , I superficially knew a bit about Punch and commedia in general but this fills in the gaps.
Thank you for reading it and commenting. I look forward to your next picture!
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