69 pages


| 1837 | Germany
Genre (as defined by the author)
Ein dramatisches Feen-Märchen für kleine und grosse artige Kinder
Polichinell, Rosa, Der König von Trapezunt, Prinzess Miauline, Andreas Graf von Gewalt, Popanz, Herr von Neid, Bosheit, Unart, Herr von Schadenfroh, Habakuk Schnipfer, Jean Menteur, Ein Stallmeister, Gerichtsdiener, Genien, Türk, Hector, Der Galgen, Der Teufel, Ein Nachtwächter
Number of acts

This small volume, published by Johann Peter Lyser, is presented as a “dramatic fairy tale for good girls and boys of all ages” (ein dramatisches Feen-Märchen für kleine und grosse artiste Kinder). The author explains in his afterword that he met the request of the editor, Paul Neff, who wanted to reuse the engravings produced by George Cruikshank for the Punch and Judy of 1828. However, one can guess that he did not quite like the immorality of the English text and that he asked Lyser to write a more acceptable version for his readers.

Lyser’s text follows the key moments of the Punch and Judy story as drawn by Cruikshank, while borrowing the protagonist's name from the French Pochinelle as well as a few other details (the dog is named Türk, as in the Penhöets version, published in 1836) and integrating them into a larger plot. Lyser also turns the hero into a positive character, who is fundamentally good and kills his enemies only to destroy the embodiments of evil. The author states that he here follows the fairies' model of Austrian dramatist Ferdinand Raymund (1790-1836), in which the characters have this same allegorical function.

Plot summary

The protagonist prevails over all forces of evil

Polichinell enters singing, reveling in spring. He stops in a forest for a snack break. A starving dog comes, and he gives it a piece of bread. The dog undergoes a metamorphosis: it actually is Fairy Rosa (Fée Rosa), who was the prisoner of a spell and who is now free of it thanks to Polichinell’s generosity. She wants to reward him, but Polichinell refuses because he wants to stay poor. He meets Herr von Neid (Desire) and accepts to be his servant. The Devil, who wishes for Polichinell’s downfall, rejoices to have brought them together. Neid and his wife Bosheit (Wickedness) overwhelm him with work, but Polichinell manages to complete the work straight away. Bosheit entrusts Polichinell with her little daughter Unart (Bad habit), who will not stop crying, and who accidentally falls out of the window. Bosheit comes back, learns of Unart’s fall, and beats him with a stick. Polichinell fights back, knocks her out, and does the same to Neid. Fairy Rosa advises Polichinell, who has now become rich thanks to Herr von Neil’s assets, to carry on with his good behavior.

In Polichinell’s new house, Habakuk, his servant, leaves him after stealing some of his wealth. Türk the dog bites Polichinell’s nose and Hector the horse kicks him before biting him. After many failed attempts, Polichinell manages to climb on Hector’s back, but the horse makes him fall and flees. Herr von Schadenfroh (The One who rejoices from the misfortune of others), who pretends to be Polichinell’s friend, bursts out of laughter after hearing his misadventures. They fight, and Herr von Shadenfroh is killed by Polichinell. Princess Miauline asks Polichinell to deliver her father, the King of Trapezunt, who is the prisoner of the Magician Gewalt (Violence).

The Devil unsuccessfully warns Gewalt of Polichinell’s arrival: Gewalt is convinced that his constable Popanz (Straw) will defend him. Polichinell, thanks to an enchanted chime gifted by Fairy Rosa, makes the castle’s guards fall asleep and frees the King of Trapezunt. At the entrance of the palace, he meets Habakuk, who has become Gewalt’s servant and who refuses to let him in. Polichinell beats Habakuk, enchants Gewalt with the chime, fights, and kills him. Habakuk comes back and has Polichinell arrested and brought before Gewalt. After a mock-trial, Polichinell is sentenced to death by hanging. Polichinell is imprisoned and robbed of the talisman which the fairy had given him, and which served as a protection. Habakuk is in charge of Polichinell’s hanging, but Polichinell manages to hang him instead and then kills Popanz and his guards. Polichinell calls the Devil, fights with him, and kills him. The Fairy makes her appearance again and officiates Polichnell and Miauline’s wedding.

Related works
The Tragical Comedy, or Comical Tragedy, of Punch and Judy, Giovanni Piccini, John Payne Collier1827
Composition date

Publications and translations


Johann Peter Lyser, Polichinell. Stuttgart: Paul Neff, 1837.

Literary tones
Fantasy, Comical
Young audiences
Public domain


Theatrical techniques


Written by

Didier Plassard