Page Number: CHAPTER 7

August 17th, 2004

PAGE FOOTNOTES:  Historians generally accept that the star of Punch And Judy, the irrepressible Mr. Punch, is descended from the Italian clown Pulcinella who was a character in the Commedia Dell' Arte tradition of the 15th Century. Puppet plays featuring the character subsequently toured Europe and one troupe - led by a 'Signor Bologna' - was seen in Covent Garden by Samuel Pepys on May 9th 1662 during the festivities surrounding the wedding of Charles II following his Restoration to the throne. This date is today considered 'Punch's Birthday'. London crowds transformed the puppets name to the more pronounceable Punchinello before shortening it to Mr. Punch. This new irreverent wooden star (at this time a marionette, worked by pulling strings) was taken up by British puppeteers and he traveled the country for the next century. By 1800, however, he had (for reasons historians argue about) become a hand puppet in the little street corner stage we still know today. He had acquired a wife called Judy and once again taken to using his clown's slapstick. (Marionettes can't wield slapsticks as their real-life actor counterparts had done - but it's what hand puppets do best.) This colourful knockabout 'Punch and Judy Show' enjoyed a huge following which - as the century wore on - took him to the seaside as crowds flocked there on the newfangled railway excursions. He even spread to Australia and America - where he can still be found. Familiarity gradually saw him transform into a children entertainer in which role he saw out the end of the 19th Century and the entire 20th Century. He's now still going strong 342 years after Samuel Pepys first saw him. His European odyssey saw him become Polichinelle in France and Petrushka in Russia. Historian's trace his pre-Commedia roots to the farce players of Ancient Greece and to the archetypal 'Trickster' figure from world folklore. He is an aspect of the Lord of Misrule - which is why he appeals to those for whom there are just too many rules and too many authority figures.

The basic jist of Punch And Judy is that the character of Punch has a very bad day, and after a trigger event, usually being bitten by a dog, he goes postal and sequentually beats to death every frustration and annoyance in life, and then in the afterlife, where he beats first the devil to death, and then god as well, finally reigning supreme. Subsequent scripts gradually remove his conquest of god, then of the devil, and sometimes remove his violence altogether. These choices not only castrate Punch, they remove the true heart of the entire story; the taking of existential power by an archetypal Everyman.

I personally believe that there are too many simularities between the old, god-slaying Punch and Son Goku, the heaven-defying Monkey King of Chinese tradition to be coincidence.

Mankind needs its superheroes.

By Jennifer Diane Reitz

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