Venezia header: Piazza San Marco - Riva degli Schiavoni


(Charlatans and Puppet Show)

Puppet shows and story-telling have always been very popular in all Italy along the centuries, and in Venice in particular during the Carnival.

The charlatan is covered with a sheet and moves the puppets. Every day of the week shows are made in the S.Marco Square, in different spots, but also the puppet show is taken around during the festivities in the smaller towns (no TV, back then!).

This peculiar show was supposed to be made mostly for attracting the crowds, put them together and at ease, and then starting to propose the sale of a "special balsam", or a "long life elixir", to suckers that might believe in these things.
I remember selling encyclopedias in the cinemas in the ‘70s, and it worked, oh it did.

"Col far balar da un Omo i buratini,
E col mostrar sto privilegio antigo
El mio balsamo vendo ai babuini."

The Charlatan:
"By making a puppet show
and showing this ancient entertainment
I sell my ointment to the suckers."

The puppets were sometimes called Pulcinella, Arlichino, Zampicone, Turco (the mean enemy of those times), Soldaro (soldier, the good guy), Padrona (the rich lady, the one that orders around), Marcolfa (the female servant) and Francischina.

A possible replica, with puppets, of the Commedia dell’Arte shows, I would say.

Engraving by Gaetano Zompini: "Zaratan" - 1785
Gaetano Zompini: "Zaratan" - engraving (1785)

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