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A puppet is any controlled character, whether formed by a shadow, strings, by the use of a glove, by direct mechanical contrivance (for example a cable-controlled figure for film or TV) or electronic guidance (such as a radio or infra-red remote controller). The last method is also called animatronics. Digital animated figures, with this description, may also be described as puppets, particularly since they are often supplanted by physical puppets for closeups. However, drawn cartoons are not puppets.

Puppets are also known as marionettes from the French medieval passion-play figure attributed to Marion or the young Mary, mother of Jesus.

A general distinction between a puppet and an automaton is the former is mostly operated live and the latter is mostly programmed (for example a coin-operated automata-show or piano-roll sideshow figure). The puppet can interact with other puppets, live performers, and the audience; automatons are animated props.

Table of contents
1 History of Puppetry
2 Kinds of puppets
3 See also
4 Other Uses of word Puppet

History of Puppetry

The use of puppets dates back thousands of years. The first may have been shadow-puppets, which are mentioned in Greek philosophy.

The ancients, especially the Greeks, were very fond of theatrical representations; but, as Magnin has remarked in his Origines du Thť‚tre Moderne, public representations were very expensive, and for that very reason very rare. Moreover, those who were not in a condition of freedom were excluded from them; and, finally, all cities could not have a large theater, and provide for the expenses that it carried with it. It became necessary, then, for every day needs, for all conditions and for all places, that there should be comedians of an inferior order, charged with the duty of offering continuously and inexpensively the emotions of the drama to all classes of inhabitants.

At the time menageries, puppet shows, fortune tellers, jugglers, and performers of tricks of all kinds wandered from village to village. These prestidigitators even obtained at times such celebrity that history has preserved their names for us -- at least of two of them, Euclides and Theodosius, to whom statues were erected by their contemporaries. One of these was put up at Athens in the Theater of Bacchus, alongside of that of the great writer of tragedy, ∆schylus, and the other at the Theater of the Istiaians, holding in the hand a small ball. The grammarian Athenśus, who reports these facts in his "Banquet of the Sages," profits by the occasion to deplore the taste of the Athenians, who preferred the inventions of mechanics to the culture of mind and histrions to philosophers. He adds with vexation that Diophites of Locris passed down to posterity simply because he came one day to Thebes wearing around his body bladders filled with wine and milk, and so arranged that he could spurt at will one of these liquids in apparently drawing it from his mouth.

Philo of Byzantium, and Heron of Alexandria both composed treatises on puppet shows. That of Philo is lost, but Heron's treatise has been preserved to us.

According to Heron, a Greek engineer, there were several kinds of puppet shows. The oldest and simplest consisted of a small stationary case, isolated on every side, in which the stage was closed by doors that opened automatically several times to exhibit the different tableaux.

The programme of the representation was generally as follows: The first tableau showed a head, painted on the back of the stage, which moved its eyes, and lowered and raised them alternately. The door having been closed, and then opened again, there was seen, instead of the head, a group of persons. Finally, the stage opened a third time to show a new group, and this finished the representation. There were, then, only three movements to be made, that of the doors, that of the eyes, and that of the change of background.

As such representations were often given on the stages of large theaters, a method was devised later on of causing the case to start from the scenes behind which it was bidden from the spectators, and of moving automatically to the front of the stage, where it exhibited in succession the different tableaux; after which it returned automatically behind the scenes. Here is one of the scenes indicated by Heron, entitled the "Triumph of Bacchus":

The movable case shows, at its upper part, a platform from which arises a cylindrical temple, the roof of which, supported by six columns, is conical and surmounted by a figure of Victory with spread wings and holding a crown in her right hand. In the center of the temple Bacchus is seen standing, holding a thyrsus in his left hand, and a cup in his right. At his feet lies a panther. In front of and behind the god, on the platform of the stage, are two altars provided with combustible material. Very near the columns, but external to them, there are bacchantes placed in any posture that may be desired. All being thus prepared, says Heron, the automatic apparatus is set in motion. The theater then moves of itself to the spot selected, and there stops. Then the altar in front of Jupiter becomes lighted, and, at the same time, milk and water spurt from his thyrsus, while his cup pours wine over the panther. The four faces of the base become encircled with crowns, and, to the noise of drums and cymbals, the bacchantes dance round about the temple. Soon, the noise having ceased, Victory on the top of the temple, and Bacchus within it, face about. The altar that was behind the god is now in front of him, and becomes lighted in its turn. Then occurs another outflow from the thyrsus and cup, and another round of the bacchantes to the sound of drums and cymbals. The dance being finished, the theater returns to its former station. Thus ends the apotheosis.

Kinds of puppets

See also

Other Uses of word Puppet

Figure of Speech

As a
figure of speech puppet also refers to a political leader installed, supported and controlled by more powerful forces, with no democratic mandate.

Likewise, puppet government or puppet regime is a derogatory term for a government in charge of a region or country, but only through being installed, supported and controlled by a more powerful government.


A puppet is also a dog younger than a adult dog.