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MR AND MRS PUNCH IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 November 2006

ROSALIND CRONE
Affiliation:
St John's College, Cambridge

Abstract

This article examines the changes and continuities in the depiction of the violent relationship between the popular glove-puppets, Punch and Judy, over the course of the nineteenth century. While the puppet show emerged as a low-brow street entertainment during the first decades of the nineteenth century, by 1850 it had been hijacked by the middle and upper classes, and began to appear with increasing frequency in fashionable drawing rooms. At the same time, the relationship between the two central characters, Punch and Judy, was substantially modified. On the streets, during the first half of the century, the Punches’ marriage had both reflected the continuing popularity of the early modern theme of the ‘struggle for the breeches’ and encapsulated familial tensions that resulted from the pressures of industrialization and urbanization. However, from 1850 the middle classes attempted to reshape the relationship into a moral tale in order to teach their children valuable lessons about marital behaviour. Yet, at the same time, the maintenance of violence in the portrayal of the Punches’ conjugal life exposed crucial patterns of continuity in attitudes towards marriage, masculinity, and femininity in Victorian England.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2006 Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

I would like to thank Peter Mandler, Vic Gatrell, Margot Finn, Elizabeth Foyster, Simon Devereaux, Ben Griffin, participants of the Modern Cultural History Seminar in Cambridge, and the two anonymous referees for their tremendously helpful comments and advice on the preparation of this article.

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