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puppet, human or animal figure, generally of a small size and performing on a miniature stage, manipulated by an unseen operator who usually speaks the dialogue. A distinction is made between marionettes, moved by strings or wires from above, and hand puppets, in which the hand of the operator is concealed in the costume of the doll. Popular forms of the puppet show include the Punch and Judy shows of England and the Guignol in France. Puppet theaters have been established in the Americas; old epic dramas, often based on the Chanson de Roland and other medieval and modern pieces, have drawn crowded houses. The Greeks of the 5th cent. B.C. were familiar with it; in Java, China, and Japan it is almost immemorial; in the Europe of the Middle Ages it was the most popular form of entertainment for the masses; and it is a constituent in many folk cultures.

From the end of the 16th cent. to the end of the 18th, puppet or marionette shows, sometimes called motions, reached the summit of their vogue on the Continent and in England. During Puritan times in England they flourished after the theaters were prohibited. On the Continent great writers such as Goethe and major composers including Mozart and Haydn wrote for them. Avant-garde theater, such as Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi (1896), used puppets in reaction against naturalistic conventions; Manuel de Falla composed a puppet opera, El Retablo de Maese Pedro (1926). In 18th-century Japan the most celebrated dramatists, most notably Chikamatsu, wrote plays for the bunraku, or puppet theater. Nonetheless, puppets have primarily been used in popular entertainment.

Puppets have enjoyed something of a renaissance in America since the late 20th cent. For instance, during the 1950s in the United States, Burr Tilstrom's hand-puppet show Kukla, Fran, and Ollie was a popular television series. In the 1960s, Jim Henson created a group of madcap educational and entertaining puppets, known as Muppets, that appeared in the television series Sesame Street and their own feature films. During the Vietnam War and after, the Bread and Puppet Theatre utilized larger-than-life puppets in their political theater pieces. At the end of the 20th cent. and the beginning of the 21st a new generation of creative puppeteers, including Roman Paska, Julie Taymor, and Basil Twist, were producing a variety of innovative new works and updated classics.

The art of ventriloquism (making the voice appear to come from a source other than the speaker) has also been associated with the puppet. The manipulator, in full view, converses with the “dummy,” a large doll usually held in the lap of the manipulator. The dummy's words appear to issue from its own mouth. Skillful ventriloquists are able to speak the doll's words without moving their lips and to “throw” their voices so that their dummies appears to speak.


See S. Bemegal, Puppet Theatre around the World (1961); P. Fraser, Puppets and Puppetry (1972); G. Speaight, The History of the Puppet Theatre (2d ed. 1990); E. Blumenthal, Puppetry: A World History (2005).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about ventriloquism?

For the dreamer to throw his or her voice could indicate a part of themselves that they may not be revealing. This dream may also indicate that the dreamer feels beside themselves about a relationship or some other issue.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


, ventriloquy
the art of producing vocal sounds that appear to come from another source
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Perhaps they will recoil in horror at the sight of McCamus sticking his hand in surgical incisions to use other characters as ventriloquial dummies.
(4) These views are usually housed in Blake's own strenuous admonitions about "the bounding line" (E550) and "Minute Discrimination" (E643), (5) and despite the fact that his verbal practice is nearly always ventriloquial or parodic and his illustrations often emulate the manners of caricature, his own idealization of his technical practice has traditionally led to a fudging of the difference in Blake between (virtually platonic) mimesis and a mimicry more relevant to eighteenth-century satire than to romantic elevation of imagination.
It was provided by such socialists as Mussolini and Lenin who adopted the principle of the Praetorian Guard: a tightly knit vanguard party, which could use the masses as ventriloquial dummies and seek power on its own terms.
All in all, this book manages, intriguingly and compellingly, to reveal a Louise Labe who is both urgently a self and a cluster of personae, whose ability to speak herself depends heavily on her ventriloquial gifts.
Hunter writes that "a pride of lions on the hunt communicate with each other by deep grunts that have a strangely ventriloquial quality.
Having thus reassigned tropic conformatio to the category of metaphor and ventriloquial "personification" to the genre of fable and apologue, I shall tidy the remaining material into two general categories: prosopopoeia effected by incarnation on the one hand and by rarefaction on the other.
But this ventriloquial function extends also to the generation of characters who speak for the silent.
Cunningham is brilliant, but ventriloquial. Sometimes he sounds like John Carey, sometimes like Kevin Hart.
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Similarly, a brief examination of 'Ventriloquial' raises the issues of representation which inform the entire collection, from the apocalyptic warning about Nuclear Winter which the narrator of 'Ponies' (also in Closing the File) creates from travel narratives of Antarctic explorers, to the metafictional 'The Days of Sail' and 'Some Questions I Am Frequently Asked', which underscore the problematic relation between an author and his or her creation.
Like the "English Pierrots" Elouise and her recitation become incorporated within a Caribbean celebration subversive of an imperial ventriloquial disembodiment:
Anyone familiar with Nabokov's linguistic mastery, however, cannot fail to detect his ventriloquial genius.