Punch’s Birthday: May 9th

Punch and Judy is a popular British puppet show (with its origins in Italian and British puppetry traditions), performed for audiences from small puppet booths, in various locations throughout its history, such as fairs, fairgrounds, city streets, and beside the seaside. The first recorded appearance of Mr Punch in England was on May 9th, 1662, at Covent Garden in London, as recorded by the famous diarist Samuel Pepys, and therefore Punch’s birthday is celebrated on May 9th.

Punch is often described as an anarchic character, as the traditional show is irreverent, and full of slapstick and violence. Themes and characters have evolved over time, and vary from show to show; some central characters include Punch, his wife Judy, the baby, the policeman, the devil, the crocodile, and Toby the dog (occasionally played by a live dog in the past). In North Wales, you can see Punch and Judy performed at the entrance to Llandudno Pier by Professor Codman's Wooden Headed Follies.

To find out more about Punch and Judy, see:


1. Wikipedia. Page last modified 8th May 2012. Punch and Judy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punch_and_Judy.

2. Masters, Tim. 3rd May 2012. Mr Punch celebrates 350 years of puppet anarchy. BBC news website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-17895716.  

3. Palmer, James. 1st May 2012. Llandudno: a resort that packs a punch. The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/uk/llandudno-a-resort-that-packs-a-punch-1973748.html


1. Leach, Robert. 1985. The Punch & Judy show: history, tradition and meaning. London: Batsford. Book, Main Library (Richards Room): PN1979.P9L4.
“What is suggested is that Puck, Loki, Pan and Punch all have the same ritualistic function, that of mischief makers, tricksters, malignant antiheroes, whose stories are specifically inspired by the social structures and social concerns of their particular societies, and whose satire is personally regenerative.” (p.174).

2. Speaight, George. 1970 (Rev. ed.). Punch and Judy: A history. London: Studio Vista. Book, Main Library (Richards Room): PN1979.P9S6.

3. Speaight, George. The origin of Punch and Judy: a new clue? Theatre Research International20. 3 (1995): 200-206. E-journal article, online at:
“The question is, was this Punch and Judy show imported by a travelling Italian showman (perhaps Piccini)? or did it develop in the English fairs before it was moved to the London streets, where several English showmen (as well as the Italian Piccini, who may have been an immigrant puppeteer) developed it into the show we know today?” (p.201).

4. Leach, Robert. 1983. Punch and Judy and oral tradition. Folklore, 94 (i), pp.75-85. Printed journal article, Main Library (Stack).
“Joe Green has never looked at a printed script of the show. He learned it from being with and watching his father as a child…He is almost the only Punch and Judy man now working regularly with a live dog Toby…” (p.76).

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