The month of September is featuring “Puppets” so I thought I would do a bit of research on one of the oldest puppet shows know – Punch and Judy.


I went online and was amazed at how many sites are devoted to “Punch and Judy” so if you want it there is an a lot of detailed sites…I will warn you now if you try to just go to you-tube and watch a show instead of reading articles (as I tried) you have to sit through a lot of puppeteers chatting up audiences of children…quite boring! So here is like a Punch and Judy Cliff Note version (remember them ?-before internet)

It is believed that originally show was done with actors and to cut costs marionettes were used. The show as we know it today has its origins traceable to the Commedia dell Arte street theatre of 16th Century Italy and most probably goes back even further than this. Later in the 17th century actors were replaced with marionettes.

The earliest recorded evidence we have of Punch in England is from the 17th Century Diarist Samuel Pepys. Who, while on a visit to Covent Garden, on 9th May 1662. This show has been a favorite at Covent Gardens since. In the British Punch and Judy show, Punch wears a brightly coloured jester’s motley and sugarloaf hat with a tassel. He is a hunchback whose hooked nose almost meets his curved, jutting chin. He carries a stick (called a slapstick) as large as himself, which he freely uses upon most of the other characters in the show. Rather scary…someone you would not want to meet in a dark alley at night! 

Marionette productions presented 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.

Originally intended for adults, the show evolved into primarily a children’s entertainment in the late Victorian era. Some of the characters were dropped as not deemed suitable for children… there are cute Punch puppets but far more scary are in google images!


I first thought I would start with a simple script of show but after reading several articles and you-tube shows found the story is a conceptual entity, not a set text: the means of telling it, therefore, are always variable. The story was intentionally episodic so that passers by on the street could easily join the audience during a performance.

As performed in a typical performance in the UK now:

  • arrival of Mr. Punch followed by the introduction of Judy

  • kiss and dance before Judy requests Mr. Punch to look after the baby

  • Punch fails at babysitting- old days would hit, drop etc then into a sausage machine now baby just goes into sausage machine….personally think being made into a sausage is more violent than hitting but that is a personal opinion.Sausages cjmagiccat

  • Judy will return, will be outraged, will fetch a stick and the knockabout will commence

  • Many characters can pop in at this point depending on the audience and their participation some favorites are a clown, crocodile, Hangman and devil
  • Finally the show will often end with the Devil arriving for Mr. Punch Punch — in his final gleefully triumphant moment — will win his fight with the Devil and bring the show to a rousing conclusion and earn a round of applause.

Though there have been scripts printed, each printed script reflects the era in which it was performed and the circumstances under which it was printed.

I made a set of characters in college as a gift for my brother who used them in shows throughout the Bay Area… need to get to work and make a new set for the show that is days away! More puppet news to follow!

For more info check out :The History of Punch and Judy