Sicilian puppet theater

Cavallo, Jo Ann

The Sicilian Opera dei pupi is a form of prose theater that dramatizes primarily chivalric narratives using large wooden puppets with full armor, swords, and shields. Puppet theater can be found throughout the world from Northern Europe to Indonesia and is attested to in Sicily since the fourth century B.C.E. (Xenophon, Symposium). The concrete origins of the Opera dei pupi tradition,however, are a matter of speculation due to scanty documentation prior to the early nineteenth century. Whether or not the Italian Opera dei pupi came from Spain (or from Naples, as some sources indicate), it is documented on the island in the early 1800s. Although it was also successful elsewhere, in particular Rome, Naples, and Modena, the Opera dei pupi achieved its greatest popularity in Sicily during the course of the nineteenth century. The eminent Sicilian folklorist Giuseppe Pitré (1841-1916) counted twenty-five puppet theaters in Sicily in 1884, with nine in Palermo, three in Catania, and the rest spread out throughout the island.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Sicilian_puppet_theater_by_Jo_Ann_Cavallo_from_the_Literary_Encyclopedia_16-01-2012.pdf Sicilian_puppet_theater_by_Jo_Ann_Cavallo_from_the_Literary_Encyclopedia_16-01-2012.pdf application/pdf 142 KB Download File

Also Published In

Literary Encyclopedia

More About This Work

Academic Units
Published Here
March 24, 2015