The puppet in the West

Puppets are special. The puppet

The puppet in the West

The story of the puppets and the
Western world begins in Greece and continues in Rome and then moves to
Europe and the rest of the world.
In Greece the
puppets with the theater of actors, but relegated to a minor art. The
Greece's first known reference dates back to 422 BC Xenophon
explains the visit of a puppeteer from Syracuse to the house of the rich Athenian
Callias. The characteristic of the puppet theater of the time is that
was made by itinerant puppeteers and was mostly used for
entertaining select circles of citizens, though they did too
performances in public squares. The first puppeteer known to the
his name was Photino and he used wire puppets.
The Romans with theirs
The manipulated figures were taken to the peninsula
italics. In Rome, puppets were street fun, which they weren't
they could always be at peace with the censorship and repression of the empire. too
Roman priests used religious figures with mechanisms and
tubes to speak through them in the village. When the Roman Empire fell
in the 5th century AD, Christianity was the official religion. The
puppeteers performed in the streets and squares, and al
not being able to master these little figures, the church used them
for your benefit. At first the image of Christ was a lamb,
but about the seventh century, he began to represent himself as a person. I
this is where the first religious articulated figures appear, in the
churches of the Middle Ages.
There are two examples that have
survived to our day: The Christ of the town of Limpias (Santander),
which moves the eyelids, lips, eyes and changes the expression of the
face, and the Christ of Burgos, with movable head and arms and a skin
elastic as that of a person.There is also the reference in France of the
articulated images of the Virgin Mary, the Little Marys, hence the name
of a puppet.
In the Middle Ages they were used
the wire puppets and the iron puppets, which were tied to the
knees and moved with their legs. Later the
glove puppets, and the functions were performed in theaters in the form of
castle, hence the derivation of castellet.
Also from the 14th century
they began to have importance in Europe, the automata or theaters
mechanics, almost always related to Christmas festivities. This one
technique emerged in antiquity, took a great time at this time
perfection. We cannot stop talking about the ventriloquism that is of origin
antic. Traces of Egyptian art and Hebrew archeology are found.
Eurycles of Athens managed to be the most famous and, therefore, the
Greek ventriloquists were called eurycleids, and also
engastrímanteis, that is, prophets of the belly. In France, the first
ventriloquist known as such was Louis Brabant, raised by the king
Francisco I, in century XVI. In the first half of the seventeenth century, the
King Henry and King Charles I had a counselor, the Whisperer
(= whisperer). The technique was perfected in the 18th century. Also the
ventriloquism was known and practiced in India and China. In Europe i
in the United States, ventriloquism takes its place in the United States
popular entertainment. 
From the seventeenth century they were
puppets arose that by their popularity managed to be fixed
forever within the history of universal culture. We have the Punch
and Judy English, French Guinyol, Italian Pulcinella, Puppet
  • Pulcinella
The masks
Italian are many: we could find a hundred. But the most famous
is that of Pulcinella of the Commedia dell'Arte, a characteristic mask of
Naples. This mask does not designate any particular artistic character.
but a collection of characters, united by a name, by a mask
black, a white T-shirt and a pointed cap.
Pulcinella, is therefore the man
of the people who live their lives on the proscenium of a theater. A man
but that he always enjoys an inexhaustible load of irony towards himself
himself and towards others.
Vagabond who doesn't like the
fatigue and prefers to go live with his personal instinct
buffoonish, we find him initially acting as a buffoon, first in the square and
then on stage; and that's when he entered the world of theater, between the
Commedia masks, in the late 16th and early 16th centuries
XVII. And then he entered the puppet theater, in principle of thread and
later glove. With this form that has spread around the world, exported,
it can be said, to hundreds of castles of the puppet theater.
One of the first images of the
We have a puppet in a 16th century drawing: it still doesn't work
in the castle they are in the hands of the puppeteer to draw attention to a
product you want to sell or to tell a story.
In the puppet theater there
canes play a big role. When Pulcinella senses that someone will
makes a bad pass acts directly. But his violence in the
our puppet theater, (in which it threatens and beats people for
any nonsense), is just to make the viewers who watch it laugh
with the tenderness he feels for a capricious child. 

            • Pupis Sicilians
The Opera dei Pupi is the theater
traditional Sicilian puppet show. Puppies differ from each other
puppets for the plot, the mechanics, the figurative style, the
stage organization and declamation. Most of the arguments are
long narratives taken from booklets from literature
epic-chivalrous, in particular that of the Carolingian cycle. The repertoire
it includes lives of bandits, saints, historical events and arguments
shakespearians. The metal armor that becomes splendid and
noisy puppets and mechanics suitable for representing fights with
sword are peculiar to the work of puppets.
The manipulators move the
puppets, they make them talk and sometimes they build them too; pinten
decorations and posters.
The duels take place in a
theatrical, disproportionate to the size of the puppet, and between two puppets, one
Christian placed to the right of the puppeteer and a Saracen to the left of the
Two people is enough
to bring a not too ambitious show. When a character does not
he walks, during the fights he can be hung by a rope or a
Chain. They are all driven by two strong stems, one on the head and the other
on the right hand, and by some auxiliary thread, at least to move the
left arm. Its structure is made of wood. The puppets of Palermo have
a size between 80 cm. and 1 m. and weigh about 8 pounds. The puppets of
Catania have a size of between 1'10 m. and 1'30 m. and weigh about 25
The show is cyclical to chain the audience and bring them back the next day.
Regular viewers are
they get to know each other, discuss adventures during intermissions and
perhaps, at the end, they are expected to ask the puppeteer for explanations
or to criticize any aspect of the performance. 
The duration of the cycle is months
and is one of the most interesting features of the theater of
Sicilian puppets, along with the fact that it contributes to produce a
very intense relationship with loved or hated characters.
  • Punch and Judy
Since the time
There has been a medieval puppetry tradition in England and there are many
references to puppets in the Elizabethan era.
During the Commonwealth, the
From 1642 to 1660, the Puritan government closed all but one of the theaters
puppets managed to survive and preserve part of the
popular tradition.
When the
monarchy in 1660, the theaters opened their doors to the public
and foreign artists crossed the Channel.
Pietro Gimonde, puppeteer of
Bologna, marched to England. In 1662 he performed at Covent Garden in
London. It was named after its main character Polichinello,
Punchinella and finally Punch. An inscription on the wall of the church
of St. Paul Covent Garden, reports on the first performance of the
Punch puppet.
In the late seventeenth century, Punch
played the same role in English puppet theater as Polichinelle did
in French; that is to say he was the local clown of many shows of the
native repertoire.
At that time the puppet of
thread or puppet was the most abundant puppet class. It was controlled
from above with threads and a stem on the head. To disguise the threads in the
none of the puppets, covered the proscenium with a network of thin wires.
Later they evolved into
glove puppet. The characters Punch, spoke in a loud voice and
shrill. The manipulator used a tongue to make it work.
In all performances Punch, often accompanied by his wife Joana (Judy), played the lead role.
The puppets of the puppets of
gloves were mounted on the outside of the wire puppet theaters or
puppets as a claim to what could be seen inside
by paying a ticket. With the disappearance of theaters, the
manipulators took the castles through the streets.
The reason for taking Punch through the streets was, originally, solely economic.
The plot of the show
glove should be very simple because in addition to appearing in front of a
always different, casual audience, has to struggle with all the noises of the
Street; any subtlety in incidents is lost; the action of the
representation must be agile, it must attract the attention of pedestrians and it must
to use the natural movements of a glove puppet, which are the
natural movements of the human hand.
The traditional scheme of the work was as follows:
Punch and Judy dance together. Judy
leaves the child to Punch to watch over him; Punch plays with the boy, though
he keeps crying and finally Punch throws him out the window;
Judy comes back, asks where the boy is (the audience tells him) and grabs a cane for
use it against Punch, he takes it, sticks it and kills it, one
police show up to catch Punch, and also kill him; another
character appears and also kills him. Punch and his friend the clown Joey
(who never receives) are entertained to count the dead. Sometimes the
Judy's ghost appears to scare Punch. Finally Punch is
caught and taken to be hanged, he shows that he does not understand what he has to do and
he asks the executioner to show him, he puts his head inside the noose
do a demo and Punch pulls the rope and hangs it; the devil comes out
but Punch also wins the demon and the show ends.
It sounds amazing but this show is greeted with great laughter.
Why are we laughing? We do not know. Is
a mystery of the human soul. Punch fills some deep instinct of the
human nature and that his little drama has always acted as an agent
revulsive about society. George Speaight.
We also relate Punch to other European characters.
Guinyol in France. Kasperl a
Germany. Jan Klaasen to Holland. Mester Jekel in Denmark. Hänneschen a
Colony (stem puppets). Los Robertos to Portugal. Petrushka in Russia.
He also arrived in Brazil in the 19th century, under the name Joao Minhoca.
  •  El Guinyol Lionès
Hunger forces Laurent
Mourguet to manipulate the puppets. After the revolution of 1789 there
there is little work for the silk workers of Lyons. Mourguet leaves,
sell needles, perfumes, miraculous remedies…
Towards 1797, it stabilizes,
it will be a toothpick. In Paris, on the Pont-Neuf, he settled in the seat of the
dentist a castle to calm customers (as it did not exist
anesthesia, this was already a tradition), and represents Polichinelle. These
representations surpass in quality the work of dentist and in 1804 es
he becomes a professional puppeteer.
It begins to represent the
Italian repertoire and to attract pedestrians accepts a companion Lambert
Grègoire Ladré. This character is famous in Lyon and its region. Is
he stands in front of the castle, plays the violin, draws the public 's attention and
dialogue with the puppets.
But this fellow has one
defect, likes to drink and often disappears. Mourguet decides
replace it with a puppet modeled on his image: Gnafron. That's how
the first authentic Lyon puppet is born.
Later he creates another
character replacing Polichinelle: Guinyol. This protagonist
triumphs immediately. It is a faithful reflection of themselves and theirs
problems. The scripts revolve around demanding owners
charge and are beaten, by magistrates who do their job and are
Without being a pure theater
claim, the Guinyol Theater of 1852 is a theater of protest.
Napoleon III realizes this and forces all puppeteers to pass theirs
texts by censorship. For the first time in the Guinyol theater they are written



  • The Catalan Puppet. Catalonia
Punch's Catalan nephew is in "Puppet".
He is a young Catalan farmer, with
that mixture of ingenuity and common sense, common to the heroes of
puppets from all countries. His candor, happy and content, leads him to
all sorts of calamities from which one comes out cunningly, guessing
the ploys of his enemies or turning their trout.His
dress consists of white shirt of Catalan farmers under a vest
unbuttoned, black velvet panties, red belt and most importantly
red hat.
Cristeta is the protagonist
female. Tòfol is the gallant short of prawns. There is the Devil and Him
Guàrdia Urbà, the only one who speaks Spanish.
The Catalan glove puppet, by
its construction has different characteristics from those of the
others, which is why it is called the “Catalan type”.
The dress below, which is called
"Soul," he added to his chest and hands. Hence the puppet
you can change your wardrobe. One of the hands can be unscrewed and so on
put sticks or other utensils on it. 
According to Joan Amades
after a strong persecution of the puppet theater in Barcelona, the year
1844, years later a great acceptance of this theater arose
linking with popular tradition. Serious works were performed and
comics. Many pieces were written by the puppeteers themselves and them
they themselves staged them. The puppet works of the s. XIX, are
written in Catalan, although many of them can be found bilingual,
sometimes one of the characters spoke in such a way that
he made the dialogues Spanish. There were several places in Catalonia
dedicated to puppet theater. The custom of
make representations in the middle of a park or in public squares, where they attended
parents with their children.
In the Catalan Countries we have the Tirisitis of Alicante and the Teresetes of the Balearic Islands
We can also find glove puppets in Spain: Barriga Verde in Galicia; Don Cristóbal in Castile and Aunt Norica in Andalusia. 
Around the 16th century, the first automata appeared in Spain. 



The transhumant nature of puppeteers and theirs
constant passage from one country to another, within the same European continent or
crossing the sea, contributed to the expansion of various forms of
puppets, which, picking up the idiosyncrasies of each village, were adapted to the
their culture.

The favorable position achieved by the puppets
in the 18th century, it transferred its influence to the 19th century. In
this century puppet theater, though a marginal art, goes
continue to interest intellectuals and artists around the world, and the
its proliferation was so great that it began to be one as well
entertainment for children. Aside from the already established figures, they go
new manifestations of the art of puppets arose or developed
which over time left a tradition established, such as
the Sicilian puppets.
This century marked three lines in the
puppet development: The popular line, this slope came
of the traditional puppet theater and the companies performed for the
squares and had the support of the general public. The intellectual line
in which new trends in dramaturgy and in
the aesthetics of the puppets and the spectacular line in which the function
one of the puppeteers was to surprise and amaze the audience, so the trick
that was all. These companies did not develop the art of puppetry
if not that they brought the mechanics to a high degree of perfection, trying
as long as the mechanism of the tricks remained hidden from competitors and
the public. (a skeleton that was dismembered, the Great Turk that is
turned into six small children, a fat lady who transformed into
a balloon…). These shows were presented in cabarets and


At the end of the 19th century, when the
employers saw that the public was not going to the functions of the days
At Christmas, they invented shows with a lot of intrigue and effects
based on well-known traditional tales, able to attract the
children and their parents. This was the first antecedent of theater
children, and so the art of puppets was an alternative to theater
children in front of the adult theater.
In the twentieth century, it resurfaced
like a truly artistic puppet theater. Grains were created
companies. Puppets were introduced in the media
mass, -cinema, television-. In these media is where it started
use the animatronics, puppets directed by commands to
On the other hand, from
the first decades saw the possibility of incorporating puppets
in the educational process, and even use them as a vehicle for
communication in modern sciences such as psychology and sociology. The
puppets joined the growing development of the century.





  • Puppets: history, theory and tradition. Freddy Artiles. Ed. Booksellers. 1998
  • The great popular traditions: shadows and puppets. Theater Monographs n.7. Barcelona Theater Institute. Ed. 62 - 1977
  • The Shadow Theater around the world. Les
    great traditions. Theater Monographs n.14. Theater Institute of
    Barcelona. Ed. 62 - 1984
  • The puppet collection of the Instituto del Teatro de Barcelona. Anna Vázquez Estévez. Revista Galega de Teatro.1997. n.17

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