5 Key Events That Made Puppetry What It Is Today

For as long as Beautiful Hand Puppets such as those that we are proud to offer here at Puppets By Post exist, the art of puppetry will live on. But how much do you know about the glorious past of all things puppets?

We thought we’d look back at five of the historical moments that served to shape and define the world of puppetry as it is today.

422 BC: puppets are first mentioned in writing

Of course, we can’t make this claim definitively, as it merely refers to the date from which the earliest known written evidence of puppetry originates. As a matter of fact, puppets are believed to be rooted in ancient cultures dating back more than 3,000 years.

13th century: puppet shows are performed by minstrels in France

Unfortunately, we can’t say for sure when puppet shows were first performed in Britain. However, the fact that minstrels were performing them over the Channel as early as the 13th century indicates that they would have entertained with puppets on journeys to England at around this time as well.

Sure enough, the word ‘puppet’ had become a familiar part of the English language by the following century, with Chaucer using it twice. A 14th-century manuscript, the ‘Romance of Alexander’, even has illustrations of glove puppet shows in booths reminiscent of today’s Punch and Judy shows.

1662: Mr Punch is first recorded in England

The mid-17th century had seen a flourishing of puppet plays – despite, or perhaps partly because of, stage plays being forbidden amid the closure of theatres.

A few years after Charles II was restored to the English throne, the famous diarist Samuel Pepys recorded his experience of seeing Mr Punch as a marionette, operated in Covent Garden by the Italian puppet showman Signor Bologna.

1710: Martin Powell ushers in the era of fashionable puppet theatre

Powell’s puppets from Dublin opening at a theatre in St Martin’s Lane quickly led to the establishment of other marionette theatres and the rise of puppet theatre to the status of fashionable adult entertainment. His theatre boasted footlights, backcloths and scenery, and he was even unafraid to lampoon famous people of his age.

1984: Satirical puppetry makes a comeback with Spitting Image

Peter Fluck and Roger Law created the puppets that effectively revived the 18th-century art of satirical puppetry for the television age, roasting such well-known figures as British Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major and US President Ronald Reagan. It was during this period that many innovative touring puppet companies were also being set up in Britain.

The journey that puppets have undergone down the centuries has been a remarkable one. Purchase from our extensive selection of beautiful hand puppets in the Puppets By Post online store today, and you can do your bit to further this immensely and rightly celebrated tradition. 

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