Braggart and bully, the immortal Punch has delighted audiences for centuries. On street corners and at country fairs, crowds of English children cheer for this paragon of unrepentant wickedness, shouting encouragement and applauding his gleeful buffoonery. Punch struts and boasts, cracking jokes and heads, while the casualties mount: Judy, his shrieking wife; the interfering policeman; the hoodwinked hangman; and the devil himself, beaten to death. Scholarly yet entertaining, this chronicle traces the origins of puppetry's famous duo from Punch's birth in Italy to his travels across medieval Europe. Equally favored by commoners and nobility, Punch's horseplay proved as popular in France, Germany, and England as in his native country. In addition to examining the puppet show's moral and cultural significance, this book takes a look at the people behind the curtain. Thirty engaging illustrations by the great Victorian artist George Cruikshank — Dickens' illustrator of choice — complement the extensive excerpts of authentic Punch and Judy dialogue.