Internet Shakespeare Editions


Puppet shows

Three women watch a puppet show. Based on a manuscript in the Bodleian Library.

In the Middle Ages, puppets were used to perform liturgical dramas developed from Christmas nativity plays. During the later Middle Ages, when regular miracle-plays were becoming old-fashioned, more elaborate marionettes, handed down through the minstrels from Roman times, began to appear.

Shakespeare's knowledge of puppet shows

"O excellent motion*! O exceeding puppet! Now will he interpret to her."
(Speed in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, 2. 1. 96-97)

Hamlet to Ophelia: "I could interpret between you and your love, if I could see the puppets dallying" (3. 2. 250-251).

In The Winter's Tale, Autolycus "compassed a motion of the Prodigal Son" (4. 3. 96-97).


  1. A glossary

    A puppet show.