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(1) A character of the French puppet theater, one of the hand puppets. The Guignol mask was created by L. Mourguet, who opened his own theater in Lyon in 1804 and staged his plays with Guignol as a character. The plays, whose main character was a cheerful, clever, and cynical Lyon craftsman, were full of satire on politics and daily life and were especially successful during the July Revolution of 1830. Guignol became as popular in France as were Petrushka in Russia, Hanswurst in Germany, and Punch in England.
REFERENCEDucret, E. Le Théâtre de Guignol. Paris, 1914.
(2) The name for plays, productions, and individual stage devices based on the depiction of crimes, villainy, beatings, and tortures. It comes from the Théâtre Grand Guignol, which opened in Paris in 1899. Guignol was brought to bourgeois audiences, who were looking for strong sensations, through the works of O. Méténier, M. Maurey, and A. de Lordé and adaptations of the works of E. Poe. Theaters like the Grand Guignol were opened in Italy and Germany in the 1920’s. The Grand Guignol repertoire included entertaining farces and “cruel” melodramas with an amoral and antihumanistic bent.
In Russia a Guignol-type play (The Suicide Club, in translation) was staged in 1908 by the director V. R. Gardin at a construction fair in St. Petersburg.
REFERENCESAntona-Traversi, C. Histoire du Grand-Guignol. Paris, 1933.
Boiadzhiev, G. Teatral’nyi Parizh segodnia. [Moscow] 1960. Pages 15-20.