On these web pages I present a course of study on the history and development of the Punch and Judy Show. It is designed both for people who intend to perform, to provide them with a sense of history, and for those who want to know more about this aspect of theatrical history.

A study of Punch is not simply about a puppet show. Punch and Judy is a street performance and in order for it to be fully understood it is imperative to know something about the street and the people who would stop to watch the show. Punch is very much a timeless character, but also very much of his time. History and culture is made up of the details of what humans do; not just wars, but how they amuse themselves too.

 

 

The histories.
These are the key texts that have been published on this subject. To gain some sort of overview of the show it is essential to read at least one of these. Most of the information on this web pages is simply an elaboration of what is in these books. These works are the result of some excellent scholarship and hours spent in libraries and winding through microfiche. Here I am harnessing the convenience of the internet to provide much the same information, but let's first consider and acknowledge the work of giants on whose shoulders we will attempt to stand.

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The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy
The English Punch tradition is defined and to an extent homogenous because of one extraordinary publication. For anyone wanting to know anything about this subject this is the place to start.
There are three elements to this topic:

  1. The introduction written by John Payne Collier.
  2. The script that, although it may not be exactly as it would have been performed, does give an indication of what this show may have been like.
  3. And the undeniably brilliant illustrations by George Cruikshank. These depictions of the puppets have a proven accuracy that brings this show to perpetually to life.

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Punch or May Day
This is a close look at the painting by Benjamin Robert Haydon and Punch in the 1820's.
This is a truly heroic depiction of a Punch and Judy show. It was painted at a time when this puppet show was being celebrated by royalty, intellectuals and the people on the street. While most people will see this as just a Georgian London street scene, the Punch scholar knows this to be a portrait of the renown performer Thomas Pike's puppet show.

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London Labour and the London Poor
When Henry Mayhew did a cultural survey in 1850 he interviewed a Punch Showman. This anonymous person gave Mayhew a detailed account of the experience of a performer at that time. He gave the Punch scholar an invaluable source of information that needs to read thoroughly.

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Videos of shows
One of the truly advantageous resources the internet offers is that we can now study the show by watching it. When you read the history books the authors struggle to evoke the performance and the scripts never quite succeed in giving an accurate record, but now it is different.
Here is a selection of videos that show different aspects of the performance from 1901 to recent times. Watch
these shows carefully.

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Further reading.


 

Comments can be sent to Chris@speckinspace.com.
This web site was produced in December 2018. Content is intended for educational purposes only.