October 9, 2012 / Local Interest
Rome, Lazio

Here it is… in all its traditional quirkiness and (somewhat unsettling) peculiarity. Pulcinella, known elsewhere as Punch, is one of the favorite characters of the Italian Commedia dell’Arte, a 16th century Neapolitan form of improvised drama that has roots going back to antiquity. In puppet shows such as this one in Piazza Garibaldi on the Gianicolo hill, Pulcinella traditionally loses the pitiable, helpless characteristics for which he is known on stage and takes on those of the underdog and eternal Trickster from mythology.

All this to say that part way through the show you will wonder whether it was a good idea for the kids to be seeing this at all! Take a look around and the adults are shuffling a touch uneasily as Pulcinella tricks a Magistrate character to imprison the innocent by-standing puppet instead. The children too, although thoroughly enjoying the puppet aspect of the show, have that somewhat puzzled look on their face that says, “Huh, this is new. I don’t seem to recall my other cartoon characters ever beating up a policeman.”

Somewhat strange admittedly, but one 15 minute Pulcinella show does not a future hooligan make, and paired with the cannon firing at noon not 100 feet away, this Pulcinella show makes for a great pre-lunch outing with kids on a weekend.


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

6 Responses to “Pulcinella”

  1. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Punch & Judy shows were always part of my childhood visits to the beach in England & Mr. Punch’s villainous doings haven’t quite been eradicated by p.c. culture yet! Great to see Pulcinella on good form in Rome. Thanks GB.

  2. What memories of squealing children and laughter! Thanks, GB, for bringing back happy thoughts.

  3. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    It is so good to witness the human connection of Italy . The family having good times to remember. Thank you

  4. francesco costa

    ah, pulcinella… quel mix inimitable di furbizia e di amarezza, di rassegnazione e di voglia di ribellarsi. è l’anima stessa della mia città natale, napoli, e se ne trova ancora traccia nei suoi vicoli. grazie, caro gb, per avermelo riportato alla mente…

  5. Anne Robichaud

    ah, that Pulcinella!
    So dear to those naploletani, especially (che bello to see him in their Christmas crib scenes..)… beloved, I think, because he is so “scansafatiche” ma furbo anche!
    Grazie, GB, for another good one!


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